Envisioning the City:
Six Studies in Urban Cartography

David Buisseret (editor)

The University of Chicago Press 1998
A book review by Danny Yee © 2000 http://dannyreviews.com/
If you are, as I am, fascinated by maps of cities (from the imaginary ones in fantasy novels to modern street directories), then Envisioning the City should appeal. The six studies it contains are academic papers, but accessible to those without a background in cartography or urban planning. While they go into the details of individual maps, they also provide the background needed to put them in context.

Four of the studies are of early modern Europe. Naomi Miller describes a collection of maps (of leading Italian and Islamic cities) added in the Renaissance to manuscripts of Ptolemy's Geography. She gives a general introduction to Renaissance city plans and their antecedents, followed by descriptions of the nine or ten maps in the collection. In a study of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spain, Richard Kagan distinguishes depictions of the city as urbs (a physical city) and civitas (a community). The latter vision predominated, often associated with religious symbolism and civic pride, while more accurate chorographic representations were mostly produced by outsiders or for military purposes. Martha Pollak writes on the importance of military architecture and cartography in early modern Europe, concluding that "historic urban cartography is indelibly linked with military strategy and planning". And David Buisseret's own "Modelling Cities in Early Modern Europe" surveys the history of relief plans (such as those in the collection in the Musée des Invalides in Paris).

The opening and closing papers in Envisioning the City extend its temporal and geographical reach considerably. In "Mapping the Chinese City: The Image and the Reality", Nancy Steinhardt presents some examples of early Chinese city plans and traces their connections with other aspects of culture, notably with calligraphy and painting. "Mapmaking in premodern China was not a technical exercise striving toward accuracy but an art among elite arts in which service of state and associated lofty purpose of virtue can supersede truth." And Gerald Danzer describes Burnham and Bennett's 1909 Plan of Chicago, sketching the background of its authors and then analysing some aspects of its layout.

April 2000

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%T Envisioning the City
%S Six Studies in Urban Cartography
%E Buisseret, David
%I The University of Chicago Press
%D 1998
%O hardcover, b&w halftones, index
%G ISBN 0226079937
%P xiii,181pp