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The World of Maps: A Journey throughout History

Posted on October 01 2020

The World of Maps: A Journey throughout History


When it comes to maps, there are plenty of different things we can say about them. We can talk about how we make maps and what they represent. Naturally, we always must consider who made them, the context, which year we were in, among others.


Whereas we all have seen maps as navigation maps; others represent the way people perceived the Earth at that time, and others, as the real size of each country and their density in terms of square meters. There are so many variables of maps and what is the intention the cartographer wants to expose in them that we find ourselves in need of classifying them by type. Why is that? Because even with all the technology we have today, it has been impossible to recreate a map which includes all the different aspects of navigation, size and distance as we know them today.


That brought us to have a wide range of maps, and one of the first, was made by Claudius Ptolemy in 150 AD and it was the official map before the XVI century. He was one of the most significant mapmakers until the year 1569, when the German-Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator, created the most influential map in history, and one of the most used charts in history until these times: The Mercator Map.



It was considered as one of the best navigation maps and still used until these days. It is the map that probably all of us saw at school or during Geography class at the end of the room or when the teacher dropped the curtain to point out political conflicts on the map. Essentially, any of the confrontations which were seen back in those days. 


The Mercator Map, as said before, was created for navigation purposes but also, it is until today one of the most controversial maps that we have ever seen.


Nowadays we can measure the size of countries and continents as well as the differences in scope around the Equator. Unfortunately for Mercator, that led to some discrepancies among scientists and cartographers about how he imagined the Earth 500 years ago. Nevertheless, we still need to remember that it was 1536, a few years after Europe and the rest of the world knew about a continent called America.


Thus, we can say that still to this date; it has been impossible to have a 2-D map which includes all elements of navigation, distances, physical shapes and sizes. Therefore, there are different types of charts for each purpose.


The Mercator Map is until this day one -if not- the most influential map in history. However, there are so many different exciting maps which represent other ideas and concepts at the time which we would like to show you in this post about the most inspiring designs from our collection.


In 1630 Henrick Hondius published an own and original version of the Mercator map, the Mercator-Hondius Map, the Nova Totius Terrarum. A chart which represented the two hemispheres of the Earth and a map including the four elements: air, water, fire and air. But he also included representations of the people who inspired him throughout his life, including Mercator.


Apart from showing all this information and the representation of two hemispheres in a 2-D map, the Mercator-Houndius map was the first to include Australia. Or maybe not the whole country but at least part of it. 



Maps also contributed to controversies among people until this day in topics such as the shape of the Earth. There is a group of people who think that the Earth is flat. They believe we live in a disc, where the North Pole is in the middle, and the South Pole in the outer part of this disc. There is water in the middle, and the sun and the moon are circling this gigantic disc to create day and night.


In 1892, Alexander Gibson created this version of the map. Unfortunately, according to what we can say, he was not a “Flat Earther”, but he just projected another model at the time by J.S Christopher, which could have been possibly a globe. Nowadays, flat earthers take this map as a way of showing the rest how the Earth is shaped -according to them- and they see in this map a representation and confirmation of what they believe.



Even though we have seen ways of projecting the world throughout political, physical and topographic maps, there are other types of them also. Those maps have helped us understand demographics and the way people and the weather behave.


Levy Walter Yaggy is by far one of the most influential artists in this aspect. He created this beautiful poster where he associated different colours to different zones in the world as well as people from other places on Earth. This map helps people understand the way the distribution of people according to races is present on our planet, and it has been a tremendous input towards the study of cultures in today’s times.



Furthermore, we are sure that when you read his name or when you see this map, there is a chance that you think of another chart that you have seen before. You might be thinking about who he is, where have you seen these colours and lines. Well, here at Kuriosis we have a collection of the Geological Posters that have been made by Yaggy, which we recommend you without hesitation to visit in the following link.


As time passed by, we can see how maps have contributed in history to organise better what we intend to represent to make that more global and complete. There is one more last map that we would like to recommend to you. This map is another example of how they have contributed in this aspect is this unique Yelding Food Map poster. 


Around 1856 Aleksander Keith Johnson, a famous Scottish cartographer, created this map which shows the distribution of the most important food plants, fruits and characteristic trees of Western and Central Europe. This map does not only include what we mentioned before but also the most typical places where you can find certain spices, dyes and even materials for beverages like tea.


It is one of our most educational maps and one with important information for you and people you would like to lecture on this topic. Apart from being a perfect addition to your home decor, this map goes perfect also in your kitchen. 



Hence and as we have seen throughout the post, maps have played an essential role in our history. Probably without them, we would not have achieved plenty of things in terms of cartography, navigation, distributions of people, culture, and others. 


Is there any of the maps above your favourite? Are you a classic and traditional 2-D map lover or are you more into the 3-D design as we see it in our phones? Is there any other map that you know which you would like to see in our collection? If you are not sure we have it, we encourage you to see all this world maps collection on our website.


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