September 23, 1806: Lewis and Clark return from their trip to the Pacific.

While looking through the collection for a map to celebrate the return of the Lewis and Clark expedition, I came across two maps that I wanted to share. The first is the original map of the expedition as put together by Lewis. The second is an educational map from the Oregon Historical Society. It was fun for me to contrast the two styles and I hope you enjoy.


1) Lewis, S. A map of Lewis and Clark’s track across the western portion of North America, from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean: by order of the executive of the United States in 1804, 5 & 6. London, England: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, & Brown, Paternoster Row, c1814.

2) Oregon Historical Society. The trail of Lewis and Clark, 1804-1806. Portland, Oregon: >Oregon Historical Society Press, [1986]

Post by Kassie M.

Mapping Perspective

Via Al Jazeera:

Why do maps always show the north as up? For those who don’t just take it for granted, the common answer is that Europeans made the maps and they wanted to be on top. But there’s really no good reason for the north to claim top-notch cartographic real estate over any other bearing, as an examination of old maps from different places and periods can confirm…

…There is nothing inevitable or intrinsically correct — not in geographic, cartographic or even philosophical terms — about the north being represented as up, because up on a map is a human construction, not a natural one. Some of the very earliest Egyptian maps show the south as up, presumably equating the Nile’s northward flow with the force of gravity. And there was a long stretch in the medieval era when most European maps were drawn with the east on the top. If there was any doubt about this move’s religious significance, they eliminated it with their maps’ pious illustrations, whether of Adam and Eve or Christ enthroned. In the same period, Arab map makers often drew maps with the south facing up, possibly because this was how the Chinese did it.

Things changed with the age of exploration. Like the Renaissance, this era didn’t start in Northern Europe. It began in the Mediterranean, somewhere between Europe and the Arab world. In the 14th and 15th centuries, increasingly precise navigational maps of the Mediterranean Sea and its many ports called Portolan charts appeared. They were designed for use by mariners navigating the sea’s trade routes with the help of a recently adopted technology, the compass. These maps had no real up or down — pictures and words faced in all sorts of directions, generally pointing inward from the edge of the map — but they all included a compass rose with north clearly distinguished from the other directions.

Image: A perfectly good map. Select to embiggen.

An interesting article on adjective ordering

It is a lovely warm August day outside, and I am wearing a green loose top. Does the second part of that sentence sound strange to you? Perhaps you think I should have written “loose green top.” You’re not wrong (though not entirely right, because descriptivist linguistics): An intuitive code governs the way English speakers order adjectives. The rules come so naturally to us that we rarely learn about them in school, but over the past few decades language nerds have been monitoring modifiers, grouping them into categories, and straining to find logic in how people instinctively rank those categories. […]

Linguists have broken the adjectival landmass into several regions. They are: general opinion or quality (“exquisite,” “terrible”), specific opinion or quality (“friendly,” “dusty”), size, shape, age, color, origin, and material. Generally, modifiers from the same region can be strung together in any order. Thomas Wolfe, writing in Look Homeward, Angelof “blistered varnished wood” and “fat limp underdone bacon,” could also have said “varnished blistered wood” or “limp fat underdone bacon.” (All five examples count as “specific opinion” words.) […]

These tricky situations—neither pure correlation nor accumulation—generally occur when you cross the border between adjectival regions, such as size and color. When that happens, an invisible code snaps into place, and the eight categories shimmy into one magistral conga line: general opinion then specific opinion then size then shape then age then color then provenance then material.

(Read the rest.)

Also related is this Tom Scott video on adjective ordering. The generalization that adjectives seem to be ordered the same way across a wide variety of languages is the type of data used as evidence for a cartographic approach to linguistics: detailed typological surveys of how aspects of language do or do not vary in very specific ways. 

Cities have often been compared to language: you can read a city, it’s said, as you read a book. But the metaphor can be inverted. The journeys we make during the reading of a book trace out, in some way, the private spaces we inhabit. There are texts that will always be our dead-end streets; fragments that will be bridges; words that will be like the scaffolding that protects fragile constructions. T.S. Eliot: a plant growing in the debris of a ruined building; Salvador Novo: a tree-lined street transformed into an expressway; Tomas Segovia: a boulevard, a breath of air; Roberto Bolano: a rooftop terrace; Isabel Allende: a (magically real) shopping mall; Gilles Deleuze: a summit; and Jacques Derrida: a pothole. Robert Walser: a chink in the wall, for looking through to the other side; Charles Baudelaire: a waiting room; Hannah Arendt: a tower, an Archimedean point; Martin Heidegger: a cul-de-sac; Walter Benjamin: a one-way street walked down against the flow.
—  Valeria Luiselli, “Relingos: The Cartography of Empty Spaces”

Cartographic Assemblages

Maps help us find our way in the world (or make us even more lost), but the concept of a map can also be applied when trying to organize together memories, identity, narrative and materiality.

Artist Lindsey Dunnagan explores the mapping of memories and identity in her series Mapping the Intangible, while in Mapping New Worlds, the artist focuses on manipulating topography, hinting at familiar places, but distorted in a way that the familiar becomes alien.

The materiality of Dunnagan’s work in Mapping the Intangible is significant because the watercolour is mixed with salt, allowing unexpected patterns to form, as if creating city limits, but also transform over time as the salt dries and flakes off. The artist focuses on locations that are familiar and important to her memories and identity, yet unrecognizable to the viewer because the maps juxtapose on one another, creating “false connections”, rather serving, as the artist states, “as an atlas of memory that informs identity”. The same kind of atlas, albeit abstract, can be found in Mapping New Worlds but rather than focusing just on identity and memory, the pieces in this series focus on “concepts of city development, communication, and abstracted” landscape. Familiar images such as cities and roads are obstructed by rivers or clouds, creating an almost mythological narrative of the geography.

Similar to Dunnagan’s work, is that of Scott W. Bradford’s, but rather than mapping out specific locations which focus on geography, Bradford pieces together various elements which map out a narrative through materiality. The artist states that he links “the materiality of the surface to the drawing itself, either metaphorically or in terms of the narrative” in order to emphasize that it is constructed; his maps are fiction. In both his series’ Blueshift and Journey to Nowhere, stories are being told.

Each piece maps out its own narrative, but when the series is presented as a whole, the works become a collection of stories, mapping out an overall narrative of materiality.

-Anna Paluch

The geography-cartography-topography of the planet Mars (which took me ageeeees to complete)! You can see the whole project here.

I wanted to show the striking dichotomy of the Marsian surface (the two hemispheres differ in elevation by 1 to 3 km). While the northern one-third is relatively flat and lies below the conventional ‘zero elevation’ level (aka the “sea level”, only there’s no ocean to evaluate), the southern hemisphere is mountains and highlands heavily cratered. Plus there are large river valleys and outflow channels cutting through the separation. Our deserts are quite boring in comparison!