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Map, Walter

Map or Mapes, Walter, c.1140–c.1210, English author, b. Wales. A favorite of Henry II, he traveled with the king and became archdeacon of Oxford. The one work indubitably his, De nugis curialium [courtiers' trifles], is a Latin prose collection of legends, tales, gossip, and anecdotes. Shrewd, witty, and satirical, the work shows Map as a wit and a man of the world, familiar with court life and public affairs. That he was the author of one or more extant Arthurian romances and of some surviving Goliardic songs is no longer accepted by scholars.


map, conventionalized representation of spatial phenomena on a plane surface. Unlike photographs, maps are selective and may be prepared to show various quantitative and qualitative facts, including boundaries, physical features, patterns, and distribution. Each point on such a map corresponds to a geographical position in accordance with a definite scale and projection (see map projection). Maps may also represent such comparative data as industrial power, population density, and birth and death rates. The earliest European printed maps (2d half of the 15th cent.) were made from woodcuts; maps are now reproduced by several processes, including photoengraving, wax engraving, and lithography. See also chart.

Ancient Mapmaking

Cartography, or mapmaking, antedates even the art of writing. Diagrams of areas familiar to them were made by Marshall Islanders, Eskimo, Native Americans, and many other preliterate peoples. Maps drawn by ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, and Chinese have been found. The oldest known map, now on exhibition in the Semitic Museum of Harvard, is a Babylonian clay tablet dating from c.2500 B.C. Our present system of cartography was established by the Greeks, who remained unexcelled until the 16th cent. Scientific measurements of earth distances by means of meridians and parallels were first made by Eratosthenes (3d cent. B.C.). Of the ancient scholars, the mathematician and geographer Ptolemy (2d cent. A.D.), expounded on the principles of cartography; his system was followed for many centuries, although his basic error in underestimating the earth's size was not corrected until the age of Mercator. Only the Mediterranean world was represented with any accuracy in early maps. During the Middle Ages, while European cartographers produced artistic, idealized maps, Arabic mapmakers, notably Idrisi (12th cent.), carried on the work of Ptolemy, and the Chinese produced the first printed maps.

Cartography in the Sixteenth through Eighteenth Centuries

Three major events contributed to the spectacular renaissance of cartography in Europe around 1500—the rediscovery and translation into Latin of Ptolemy's Geographia, the invention of printing and engraving, and the great voyages of discovery. This renaissance was manifested by the work of Gerardus Mercator in the first modern world atlas, published in 1570 by Abraham Ortelius, and by the decorative, paintinglike maps of the French Sanson family (17th cent.). Improvements in the methods of surveying and increased emphasis on accuracy led to the noted work in the 18th cent. of the Frenchmen Guillaume Delisle and J. B. B. d'Anville, the founders of modern cartography. After 1750 many European governments undertook the systematic mapping of their countries. The first important national survey was made in France (published 1756), followed by the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain (published 1801) and the topographic survey of Switzerland (organized 1832). In the United States the U.S. Geological Survey (established 1879) has mapped much of the country on varying scales.

During the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

During the 19th cent. the demand for national maps was fulfilled, and famous world atlases were published. But with the advent of the 20th cent. the need arose for an international map of the world on a uniform scale. Accordingly, at several meetings of the International Geographical Congress (1891, 1909, 1913), the German Albrecht Penck presented and perfected plans for a world map on a scale of 1:1,000,000, to consist of about 1,500 sheets, each covering four degrees of latitude and six degrees of longitude in a modified conic projection. Uniformity of lettering and the use of layer tints to indicate relief were agreed upon. However, only part of the work has been completed. The greatest single contribution to the map of the world was made by the American Geographical Society of New York, which completed (1945) its 107-sheet Map of Hispanic America.

During World Wars I and II the science and art of mapping were greatly advanced. Modern technology, using remote sensing by airborne and satellite radar, as well as devices called multispectral scanners, has made it possible to quickly collect and update information for mapmaking. Computerized geographic information systems, first developed in the 1960s, now are used to link information stored in databases to maps, increasing and varying the amount of information a map can display. Such systems are used to produce maps for business use, law enforcement, natural-disaster prediction, and many other purposes. In 1977, Marie Tharp, Bruce Heezen, and the Office of Naval Research published the Comprehensive Map of the World Ocean Floor, produced using soundings to draw the map by hand. In the 21st cent., satellite imaging has been used to produce and update detailed photographic maps that can be used for navigation purposes; unlike highly detailed but secret military images, the resulting maps are widely available on the Internet and through computer and smartphone applications and dedicated navigation devices. In recent years the critical cartography movement, led by a group of British scholars, notably the late J. B. Harley, has studied maps as sociopolitical constructs that interpret reality and reflect the historical power structure as well as their makers' ideas about the world.


See T. W. Birch, Maps: Topographical and Statistical (2d ed. 1964); D. Greenhood, Mapping (rev. ed. 1964); F. J. Monkhouse and H. R. Wilkinson, Maps and Diagrams (1971); N. J. W. Thrower, Maps and Man (1972); G. R. Crone, Maps and Their Makers (5th ed. 1978); L. Bagrow and R. A. Skelton, History of Cartography (enl. 2d ed. 1985, repr. 2010); M. Monmonier, How to Lie with Maps (1991); A. H. Robinson et al., Elements of Cartography (6th ed. 1995); J. Black, Maps and Politics (1997); M. H. Edney, Mapping an Empire (1997); J. B. Harley and D. Woodward, ed., History of Cartography (2 vol., 1987–); J. B. Harley, The New Nature of Maps (2001); J. Black, Maps and Politics (2001); S. Schulten, The Geographical Imagination in America, 1880–1950 (2001); P. Whitfield, The Image of the World (upd. ed. 2010); J. Brotton, A History of the World in 12 Maps (2013).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the science of geographic maps and methods for their compilation and use. This definition of cartography, the most widespread one, reflects its technical aspects. At the same time, the modern view of geographic maps as graphic figurative-symbolic models of space leads to a stricter definition of the subject and method of cartography: the science of the representation and study of the spatial arrangements, combinations, and interrelationships of the phenomena of nature and society (and their changes over time) by means of cartographic pictures, which reproduce particular aspects of reality. This definition includes within cartography maps of celestial bodies and of the heavens, globes, relief maps, and other spatial models that use cartographic symbols. The subject of cartography (the spatial arrangement, combinations, and relationships of phenomena) and the development of topical maps are increasingly allying it with the natural sciences. The term “cartography” is also applied to scientific and industrial cartographic activity and to its results —for example, state cartography. It is in this sense that the term is included in the name of the cartographic and geodetic service of the USSR (the Central Administration for Geodesy and Cartography of the Council of Ministers of the USSR).

Present-day cartography includes the following branches:

(1) The theoretical foundations of the science, including the teaching of the subject and methods of cartography and map theory (or, more completely, the theory of the cartographic representation of reality). The latter includes the theory of cartographic projections and the theory of generalization and methods of representation (the system of symbols). It considers types and kinds of maps and their classification and analysis.

(2) The history of cartographic science and map-making.

(3) The study of cartographic sources (systematic survey and analysis of cartographic sources and relevant questions of scientific information theory).

(4) The theory and technology of drafting and preparing maps.

(5) The theory and methods of using maps.

The problems of cartography arose during various periods of history and are in different stages of development. This has been reflected in the breakdown of cartography into separate disciplines: map studies, mathematical cartography, the compilation and design (or drafting) of maps, and the production of finished maps; cartometry is sometimes treated as a special discipline. In its present state, map studies includes the theoretical foundations of the science, its history, study of sources, and methods of using maps. Mathematical cartography, or the theory of cartographic projections, was the first to be established as a special discipline. Cartometry—the teaching of the use of maps to measure and compute coordinates, distances, lengths, elevations, and areas— has a long history; obviously, it constitutes just one method of using maps, but it is often used independently because of its practical importance and the antiquity and abundance of research. The theory and technology of drafting and making original maps has developed vigorously in the USSR under the name “compilation and design of maps.” The task of map-making includes the study and development of the means of representation in cartography, using data from semiotics, color studies, and engineering psychology, as well as methods of the graphic arts, and taking into account printing requirements.

The uniqueness of particular types of maps—for example, geologic, soil, economic, and other maps based on the data of the corresponding sciences (geology, soil science, economic geography, and so on)—and the particular features of the compilation of such maps led to the development and separation of topical divisions of cartography: geologic cartography, soil cartography, economic cartography, and so on. These borderline disciplines belong to cartography according to method, but according to the content of the maps they belong to other sciences.

Special training for cartographers also includes map publication (study of the development of methods for reproducing and duplicating maps) and the economics and organization of map-making. However, the former, which is based primarily on the physicochemical and technical sciences, belongs to typography, whereas the latter belongs to the economics of various fields of science and engineering.

The oldest surviving cartographic pictures were made in Babylon and Egypt in the third to first millennia b.c.The first scientific foundations of cartography were laid in ancient Greece, where geographic maps were made that took into account the spherical shape of the earth. Ptolemy’s famous Geography (second century a.d.) was essentially a manual for the compilation of geographic maps. It included a map of the world and 16 maps of large subdivisions of the earth.

The development of trade, navigation, and colonization in the age of the Renaissance and great geographic discoveries (15th and 16th centuries) aroused great demand for geographic maps, particularly world maps, which required the development of new cartographic projections and led to a general advancement of cartography. Medieval cartography attained its greatest development in the works of G. Mercator, whose atlas of 1595 is well known.

The establishment of scientific cartography in Russia dates to the 18th century and is related primarily to the activity of the Geography Department of the Academy of Sciences, where the first complete Atlas Rossiiskoi (Russian Atlas) was prepared and published in 1745.

In the 19th century military interests led to the need for detailed maps of terrain. In this period cartography was either considered to be a branch of geodesy or was restricted in its scientific interest to cartographic projections and, partially, to methods of measurement from maps—that is, to specific and relatively narrow mathematical problems. At the same time, the differentiation of sciences and practical needs in the second half of the 19th century brought about the development of many different topical maps (geologic, climatic, soil, and economic). The purely geometric treatment of cartography at this time hindered its development.

New views of cartography took root earliest in the USSR, where the planned economy required multifaceted mapping of the country. As early as the 1930’s cartography came to be understood as the science of the methods and processes of compilation and reproduction of maps, which was a progressive idea in comparison with the previous concept of cartography. However, the study of the essence of maps and developing methods for their use remained in the shadow. The creation of major cartographic works in the USSR (among them the Great Soviet World Atlas) required that this gap be filled and that corresponding areas of cartography be developed. This led to the definition of the science that was cited at the beginning of this article.

Letters written in 1920–21 by V. I. Lenin concerning preparation of the first Soviet geographic atlases, as well as other documents written by Lenin on questions of cartography, were of great value to the development of the ideological and scientific foundations of Soviet cartography. Specifically, they emphasize the importance of a complete, reliable, and graphic representation of phenomena in all their aspects, interrelations, historical development, and contradictions.

Cartography is closely associated with geodesy and the geographic sciences. Geodesy provides exact data on the shape and dimensions of the earth, and topography and aerial photographic topography provide the primary cartographic sources—the large-scale topographical maps that are the initial basis for all geographic maps. The geographic sciences give the cartographer the knowledge necessary for making sound choices of the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of the phenomena being mapped and for their correct depiction, with due regard for regional features. In turn, the maps are an effective tool in geography, as in other sciences, for the study of the spatial arrangement, combinations, and interrelationships of all natural and social phenomena.

The practical importance of cartography is determined by the value and uniqueness of geographic maps as graphic and exact spatial models that are widely used in the national economy, in culture and education, and for defense.

Maps are produced either as the result of field surveys and the processing of data from them or in offices and laboratories by the use and revising of various sources, such as cartographic, geographic, economic, and statistical data.

The methods of field surveying and data processing are the subject of topography and aerial photographic topography. Topical surveying, such as geologic and soil surveying, is a task of the particular kind of cartography (geologic or soil). The office and laboratory methods of drafting and making maps are developed in cartography proper. During office work a preliminary program is outlined on the basis of the purpose of the map being drafted: scale, cartographic projection, content (a list of the elements of the content, their classification, and the completeness and detail with which each element is shown), and methods of representation. Next, the necessary sources are selected and the phenomena being mapped are studied in the sources to determine the typical features and characteristics that should be shown on the map. The final program for the map is prepared by considering the results of this work.

Work on graphic preparation of the original of the map (the compilation processes) follows. These processes include construction of the cartographic grid, complete or selective transfer of the content of the sources to it, generalization, and drawing of the original in the cartographic symbols established by the program. In the compilation of topical maps, the content of the sources is transferred to previously prepared or selected geographic positions.

In the process of preparing a map for publication the base sheet of the map is often used to make (by lining or engraving on plastic) secondary smooth-delineation maps as fair copies to ensure the production of high-quality press plates. Preparation of the map ends with the publishing processes, as a result of which the map is printed in the required number of copies.

In modern cartographic production, a group of specialists with various qualifications usually participates in the production of a map. Therefore, standardized scientific and technical supervision is needed in all stages of preparation of the map, including publication. This supervision is customarily called the editing of the map.

International scientific ties in cartography first formed and developed within the framework of the international geographic congresses. Specifically, it was on their initiative that the Washington conference to select a uniform prime meridian was convened (the 1871 congress in Antwerp) and that the International 1:1,000, 000 Map and the International Bathymetric Map of the Oceans were compiled (the 1891 congress in Bern and the 1899 congress in Berlin, respectively). The formation in 1922 of the International Geographical Union, which, in addition to geographic congresses, organizes international commissions to work on the most important scientific problems, also promoted expanded research on cartography (national and regional comprehensive atlases, population mapping, land use maps, and international geomorphological maps). Finally, the formation in 1961 of the International Cartographic Association ensured systematic study of the problems of cartography based on cooperation among interested countries (convening scientific and technical conferences every two years and regular work by special commissions). The UN cartographic conferences that have met once every three years for the countries of Asia and the Far East (since 1955) and for the countries of Africa (since 1963) are important for the improvement of cartography in the developing countries. A particularly important recent international initiative is the International Map of the World, on a scale of 1:2, 500, 000, which has hypsometric representation of relief and gives a comparable picture of the continents and the world ocean (the map is being prepared by the cartographic and geodetic services of Bulgaria, Hungary, the German Democratic Republic, Poland, Rumania, the USSR, and Czechoslovakia).

The current development of cartography is reflected in the rapid rise in the number of scientific journals and collections of periodicals dealing with cartography.


“Pis’ma V. I. Lenina o kartografii.” Geodeziia i kartografiia, 1969, no. 3.
Salishchev, K. A. Osnovy kartovedeniia, 3rd ed., vol. 2. Moscow, 1962.
Salishchev, K. A. “Predmet i metod kartografii (nekotorye sovremennye vzgliady).” Vestn. MGU: Geografiia, 1970, No. 2.
50 let sovetskoi geodezii i kartografii. Moscow, 1967. (Collection of articles.)
Kostrits, I. B. “V. I. Lenin i razvitie sovetskoi kartografii.” In Itogi nauki: Kartografiia, 1967–1969, issue 4. Moscow, 1970.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(graphic arts)
The making of maps and charts for the purpose of visualizing spatial distributions over various areas of the earth.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


The art and science of expressing graphically, by maps and charts, the known physical and political or administrative features of the earth (or of another celestial body).
An Illustrated Dictionary of Aviation Copyright © 2005 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved


, chartography
the art, technique, or practice of compiling or drawing maps or charts
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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