The Atlas of the United States Printed for the Use of the Blind was published in 1837 for children at the New England Institute for the Education of the Blind in Boston. Without a drop of ink in the book, the text and maps in this extraordinary atlas were embossed heavy paper with letters, lines, and symbols. This is the first atlas produced for the blind to read without the assistance of a sighted person that I have been able to find. Braille was invented by 1825, but was not widely used until much later. It represents letters well, but could not represent shapes and cartographic features.

Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-1876) was the founder and president of the New England Institute the Education of the Blind (later known as the Perkins Institute) and produced the atlas. Previous maps for the blind had been made, but as Howe wrote with frustration in the introduction to his atlas, they all required a sighted person to help the blind reader. Fifty copies of his atlas were made and five survive today, including this one. The atlas includes twenty-four state maps with a page of text describing each state and the symbols used on the maps. The picture shown here is of Maine, with dotted lines for the borders with Canada and New Hampshire.

Map Cartography & (Legendary) Lands

Map cartography is the study and practice of making maps. 

Here Be Dragons

The phrase refers to dangerous or unexplored territories, referring to the Medieval practice of putting dragons, sea serpents, and other mythological creatures in uncharted areas of maps.

The latin phrase “HC SVNT DRACONES” is also used. The term appeared on the Lenox Globe around the east coast of Asia, and might be related to the Komodo dragons in the Indonesian islands; this suggests that the term may have supposedly been used quite literally at times. 

Isle of Demons

It is a legendary land that was believed to exist on Quirpon island, Newfoundland in Canada. It was generally shown as two islands. It began appearing on maps in the beginning of the 16th century, and disappeared in the mid-17th century.

It was believed to have been populated by demons and wild beasts. The demons and wild beasts would torment and attack any ships that passed or anyone that was foolish enough to wander onto the island. 

A legend tells of a sea captain’s niece who became pregnant while having an affair with one of the sailors and was left on the island, along with her lover, where they were tormented by demons and evil spirits.

The Isle of Demons first appeared on the map of Johannes Rysch in 1508. It may be a variation of the older legend of the legendary island named Satanazes, meaning “devils” in Portugese; it was normally depicted in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, north of Antillia. 


In Classical European literature and maps, it is a region in the far north. The term “ultima Thule” in medieval geographies also denotes any distant place located beyond the “borders of the known world”

the most northerly of the Britannic Islands, is farthest north, and that there the circle of the summer tropic is the same as the Arctic Circle.

The inhabitants or people of Thule are described by Strabo in his Geographica, along with eye witness accounts of Pytheas during the 4th century BC:

…the people (of Thule) live on millet and other herbs, and on fruits and roots; and where there are grain and honey, the people get their beverage, also, from them. As for the grain, he says, since they have no pure sunshine, they pound it out in large storehouses, after first gathering in the ears thither; for the threshing floors become useless because of this lack of sunshine and because of the rains.

Ilha da Queimada Grande

Also known as Snake Island, it is a real island off the coast of the state of São Paulo, Brazil. It is home to one of the most venomous snakes in the world, with a reputed “1-5 snakes per square metre”; and the island is 4.6 million square feet in size. Access to the island has been banned by the Brazilian government.

It is home to the Golden Lancehead Viper, with a venom so strong it can kill its prey almost instantly. It is said to be able to melt human flesh

There are known deaths caused by the snakes of the island. One tale tells of a fisherman who, although unaware of consequences, enters the island to pick bananas. However, he gets bitten by (one of) the snakes. Although he manages to travel back to his boat, he dies due to the snakes’ venom. He was later found in a great pool of blood on the boat deck.

This tutorial covers my entire process for how to draw a map - from start to finish. Here I’m illustrating a town map, but the steps apply to any map.

Interesting read and examination of this artist’s process for map-making. Reading it has taught me a lot about how I do my own maps!

- Mo


Larissa Fassler - Kotti, 2008 and Kotti Revisted, 2010/2014

Materials: grey cardboard and glue
Approximate scale: 1 footstep = 3 cm cardboard
Dimensions: 300 x 300 x 135 cm

Here the publicly accessible areas of the Neue Kreuzberger Zentrum housing estate in Berlin are reconstructed. Private spaces and the roads themselves are left as empty shafts. 

“This over-scaled, monolithic concrete structure, an amphitheatre-like space, held such a clash of people― punks, dogs, addicts, tourists, street-drinkers, commuters, shoppers, Turkish business owners, charity-workers, beggars, buskers, families and artists. It was a place of noise and chaos, of forced-tolerance, of misunderstanding and clashes all pressed together in an array of derelict passageways, plazas, stairwells, tunnels, platforms and aboveground walkways.

"Rather than constructing a model based on the positive masses of the buildings, I wanted to built and define the public space – the negative volumes – in the tunnels and between façades, following the surfaces of sidewalks and plazas, and leaving the rest as empty voids. By creating an inversion of the classic planning model I wanted to make visible the in-between, uncertain and transient spaces that delineate public life.”

via Failed Archicture, with a great interview with the artist