A slow Monday. So I’ll highlight a reference I came across while reading the book Weighing the World, by Edwin Danson. (Danson’s book describes the processes of surveying in illuminating but excruciating detail; what struck me as most interesting was both the variety of individuals involved and the dramatic sweep of the effort, risking life and limb to determine once and for all that, in fact, Earth is not perfectly spherical, for example.)
Anyway, the reference is Antique Maps, by Carl Moreland, but you can read it online at its very own website. Now, the goal of this tome is to introduce prospective buyers to the essentials of map- and print-making, but the information passed along makes it well worth the occasional digressions. For example, Chapter Two, “The Printing of Old Maps,” gives a succinct and worthwhile survey of techniques that formed the foundation of all diagrams and printing techniques from the 16th to the 19th Centuries.
This historical stuff fascinates me, as my previous post about dodo lithographs may suggest. Printing maps made maps worthwhile in a way that drawing maps was not: a printed map could be amended and improved upon, and it could effectively incorporate input from myriad voyagers, surveyors, and sailors. In my opinion, that conceptual transformation has few parallels in the history of human thought.
More on that in posts to come…