Maps and Civilization:
Cartography in Culture and Society

Norman J. W. Thrower

The University of Chicago Press 1996
A book review by Danny Yee © 1996
Maps and Civilization is a history of cartography which begins with examples of maps from "preliterate" peoples, then moves through classical antiquity, medieval Europe and Islam, early Asia, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the nineteenth century to the modern world and the revolution produced by computers. The focus is on the forms of maps rather than on map making, on the development of new projections and new methods for representing relief (contours, hachures) and on the cartographers and geographers who discovered them. The other major focus is on the changing role of maps in areas such as exploration, war, government administration, and science.

Thrower restricts himself to fairly traditional ideas of what constitutes a "map". So he briefly discusses maps of the Moon and Mars and animated maps, but he doesn't cover representations of spatial information without a geographical basis — such things as anatomical sections (Feynman's "map of the cat") or wiring diagrams. He even describes raised globes and terrain models as "hardly classified as maps". Taking this approach in such a short volume is easy to understand, however.

Though the lack of colour hurts a bit, Maps and Civilization is well provided with black and white halftones. The appendices include a table of projections, a list of isograms (would you believe that an isohalaz connects points with equal intensity of hailstorms?), and a general glossary; detailed endnotes provide more technical material and references.

Maps and Civilization is a simple and unpretentious volume, but one that is informative, attractive, and readable. If you are after a quick introduction to the history of cartography, look no further.

June 1996

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%T Maps and Civilization
%S Cartography in Culture and Society
%A Thrower, Norman J. W.
%I The University of Chicago Press
%D 1996
%O paperback, b&w halftones, references, index
%G ISBN 0226799727
%P xiii,326pp