Posts Tagged ‘maps’
“When a great genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign: that the dunces are all in confederacy against him”*…
Genius follows its own law of gravity. It migrates in ever greater numbers to where it thrives. Hence places like Silicon Valley – and attempts to replicate it elsewhere, like London’s Silicon Roundabout. The phenomenon is older than the microchip, of course…
Watch the centers of creative gravity migrate through Europe, from 1400 to 1950, at “The Geography of Genius.”
* Jonathan Swift (the inspiration for John Kennedy Toole)
As we put on our sailin’ shoes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1853 that Steinway & Sons sold its first piano in the United States. The company had been founded in March of that year by Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg, who’d started making pianos in his native Germany in 1935 (and who didn’t officially change his name to “Steinway” until 1864). Working in a loft on Varrick Street in Manhattan, he called his first U.S. piano “Number 483″ as he’d built 482 pianos before immigrating. It was sold to a New York family for $500. Over the next thirty years, Henry and his sons, C. F. Theodore, Charles, Henry Jr., William, and Albert, developed the modern piano; almost half of the company’s 127 patented inventions were developed during this period.
* Jonathan Swift
In the midst of the intense partisanship we experience today– with Americans polarized into red and blue camps and no convergence in sight– it’s easy to forget that much of the nation’s history was characterized by similarly-intense political rivalry, especially the late nineteenth century.
The map above, created in 1883, was created by Census Superintendent Henry Gannett, and published the massive Scribner’s Statistical Atlas, which included maps of each presidential election. The series ended with this unprecedented attempt to map the returns of the 1880 presidential election not just at the state but the county level.
Such data maps are routine today. But this one stunned nineteenth-century Americans by showing them a nation organized not according to railroads and towns, or mountains and rivers, but Democrats and Republicans. The parties, of course, represented entirely different agendas then, and even their color associations were reversed. On the Scribner map, red denotes Democrats, while blue marks Republicans. Yet the overall portrait is strangely familiar, with red blanketing much of the south while blue spreads across the north. (As to the color scheme reversal, it’s a bit of a mystery. Republicans are now generally represented with red and Democrats with blue, a change that seems to have taken hold sometime after the 2000 election. But other colors were used as well through the twentieth century, as in Paullin and Wright’s Atlas of 1932.)
The 1880 campaign itself was rather routine, with little of substance to differentiate the two parties aside from their positions on tariff policy. Yet the election itself was as much of a nail biter as 1876 had been: nine million Americans turned out, and when it was over Republican James Garfield had outpolled the Democrat by a margin of just 7,000 votes nationwide.
Focus on the outcome by states—the only measure that matters in the Electoral College—and the map shows a nation that seems hopelessly divided along a north-south axis, still fighting the Civil War by other means. Democrats control the former slave states, while Republicans hold an edge in the northeast and Midwest… the map revealed spatial patterns and relationships that might otherwise remain hidden, or only known anecdotally. Perhaps its no coincidence that at the same time the two parties began to launch more coordinated, disciplined, nationwide campaigns, creating a system of two-party rule that we have lived with ever since.
More all-too-familiar-seeming charts and graphs– and an account of the social and political temper of those times– at “The Story Behind the Ancient Map That Invented Red and Blue States.”
* John Adams
As we party on, we might recall that it was on this date in 1858 that the Lincoln-Douglas debates began. It was the first of a series of public encounters on the issue of slavery between Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois and Abraham Lincoln, a Kentucky-born lawyer and one-time U.S. representative from Illinois. The two politicians, the former a Northern Democrat and the latter a Republican, were competing for Douglas’ U.S. Senate seat. In the seven debates–each lasting about three hours–Lincoln argued against the spread of slavery while Douglas maintained that each territory should have the right to decide whether it would become free or slave. Lincoln lost the Senate race, but his campaign brought national attention to the young Republican Party– whose Presidential candidate he became two years later.
In 1813, Isaac Eddy and James Wilson created a “Chronology Delineated,” a history from 4000 BC to 1813 AD in the form of a large, living tree on which each branch representing an empire or state.
* Percy Bysshe Shelley
As we get down with Gibbon, we might note that this, the first day of July, kicks off National Blueberry Month, National Cell Phone Courtesy Month, National Hot Dog Month, National Ice Cream Month– and perhaps most saliently, National Anti-Boredom Month.
* George William Russell (AE)
As we bird-dog Beatrice, we might send sardonic birthday greetings to Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce; he was born on this date in 1842. A journalist, editor, short story writer, fabulist, and satirist, Bierce is probably best remembered for his short-story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (which Kurt Vonnegut considered the greatest American short story, a “work of flawless genius”) and, pace Dante, for his scathingly satirical lexicon The Devil’s Dictionary…
- Advice, n. The smallest current coin…
- Boundary, n. In political geography, an imaginary line between two nations, separating the imaginary rights of one from the imaginary rights of the other…
- Year, n. A period of three hundred and sixty-five disappointments…
We expect maps to tell us the truth. That is their eternal promise. But maps can’t help lying to us. That is their original sin. To be more precise: the map’s lie (or sin) is one of omission. They show us just one version of the truth, carefully edited by the cartographer.
This map does one better: it gives us not one but two versions of reality. Both are contained within the same frame, staged on a single world, denoted by an identical set of shading. All you need to do is tilt the image a quarter turn, and the cartographic form reveals an alternate version of the truth, while remaining entirely commensurate with the first one.
Clever and simple, as most brilliant things are.
The map shows you the world as it is in Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell’s political parable of a dystopian future (he wrote it in 1948) in which the world is dominated by three totalitarian superstates.
The book is set in Airstrip One, “once called England or Britain”, a province of Oceania. This superstate covers North and South America, Australia and New Zealand, southern Africa and large parts of middle and western Africa.
The second superstate is Eurasia, which covers continental Europe, Russia all the way to the Bering Strait, a small sliver of North Africa and a big chunk of the Middle East and Central Asia. The smallest superpower, at least in area, is Eastasia, essentially China, Japan, Korea and the northern half of the Indian subcontinent.
These three superstates are engaged in a war for global dominance. The battle is fought in two contested zones: the Polar Front, covering the North Pole plus northern Greenland and bits northern Canada and Siberia; and the Equatorial Front, a zone stretching from North Africa via the Arabian peninsula and the southern half of the Indian subcontinent all the way to New Guinea.
No single superstate is strong enough to win a victory on its own. So one superstate allies itself with another against the third. But no single superstate is weak enough to be defeated by the other two. With alliances shifting over time according to perceived strategic advantages, this is an eternal war…
Winston Smith, Nineteen Eighty-Four‘s protagonist, works at the Ministry of Truth, where his job is to eradicate newly inconvenient truths from photos, newspaper archives and encyclopaedia entries. All evidence of what was previously self-evident and true must be destroyed by throwing it in the Memory Hole.
This map, by pointing out the before and after simultaneously, would have been tantamount to blasphemy. But, by pointing out the similarities between two opposites, it hints at the frightening ease with which an audience preconditioned to Doublethink can process cognitive dissonance in accordance with the ruling ideology.
Or, as David Kendall, who found this map here on The Visual Telling of Stories, puts it rather more straightforwardly: “You tell me that isn’t the most clever use of shading, orthography, and legend placement to ever grace the printed page.”
Read the whole story at “Orwellian Cartography 101: How to Tell Two Truths with One Map“… and remember: the map is not the territory.
* William Irwin Thompson
As we toe the line, we might spare a thought for Orwell’s critical antagonist, Evelyn Waugh; he died on this date in 1966. A prolific journalist and writer of non-fiction, Waugh is best remembered as a novelist (e.g., Decline and Fall, A Handful of Dust, Brideshead Revisited, and his trilogy of Second World War novels, Sword of Honour. Waugh was a “difficult” man; writer James Lees-Milne judged him “the nastiest-tempered man in England.” Indeed, when asked by Nancy Mitford how he reconciled his often objectionable conduct with being a Christian, he replied that “were he not a Christian he would be even more horrible.” On his passing, long-time acquaintance and photographer-to-the-stars Cecil Beaton reckoned that Waugh “died of snobbery,” observing that “his abiding complex and the source of much of his misery was that he was not a six-foot tall, extremely handsome & rich duke.”
Designer Yanko Tsvetkov is a man of many projects. The maps above are an excerpt (from an excerpt) from his recent book Atlas of Prejudice, Volume 2. See all 20 of his painfully-funny dissections of Europe here; then browse through more of his wonderful work.
As we stuff our backpacks, we might recall that it was on this date in 1963 that Josip Broz Tito was named President-for Life of the newly re-named Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav state had been during World War II; it was a socialist state, a federation made up of six socialist republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia,Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. (Serbia included two autonomous provinces: Vojvodina and Kosovo). Tito had served as Prime Minister of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia from it’s formation; he had become the first President of Yugoslavia when that office was created in 1953.
Initially aligned with Stalin and the East, Yugoslavia declared itself non-aligned in 1948. It refused to participate in the Warsaw Pact, pursuing instead it’s own brand of market socialism, sometimes informally called “Titoism.” Steady increases in economic and political freedoms helped Yugoslavia’s economy grow, and made the country far more humane than other Socialist/Communist regimes. At the same time, in devolving more power/autonomy to the regions– originally separate countries– that made up Yugoslavia, it sewed the seeds of the Balkan conflict that began to kindle on Tito’s death in 1980.
Still, maps hold us in thrall. Consider, for example, this exquisite piece created around 1715 by Johann Baptist Homann, a German mapmaker working in Nuremberg. It measures 2 ¾ inches in diameter.
This particular pocket globe came in four pieces that nest inside each other like matryoshka dolls. The outside case, made of leather and featuring an S-shaped hook that secured the two pieces together, is lined with concave representations of a celestial map, showing constellations as seen from the earth. (Celestial globes were among the earliest globes produced, and were once commonly sold alongside their terrestrial cousins.)
Inside, the terrestrial globe (on which California is depicted as an island, a common misconception of the time) is hollow. Split into two parts, it reveals an armillary sphere: a type of skeleton celestial globe that represents the movement of heavenly bodies through circles. This armillary sphere has a band around it that’s illustrated with zodiacal symbols.
Katie Taylor, of the Whipple Museum of the History of Science in the U.K., writes that pocket globes could have served as “status symbols for wealthy gentlemen,” or functioned as educational tools for children. Homann made no other globes, specializing instead in maps and atlases; he might have sold this pocket version as a trinket…
The globe is featured in Sylvia Sumira’s Globes: 400 Years of Exploration, Navigation, and Power. Read more in “An Itsy-Bitsy Early 18th-Century Pocket Globe” at Rebecca Onion’s essential The Vault.
* Herman Melville
As we plot our courses, we might spare a thought for Samuel Warren Carey; he died on this date in 2002. As a geology graduate student in Australia, he read a translation of Alfred Wegener‘s The Origin of Continents and Oceans, the book largely responsible for introducing the concept of continental drift to the English-speaking world; as a result, he became an early advocate of Wegener’s theory. Carey’s plate tectonics reconstructions led him to develop the Expanding Earth hypothesis– a theory now largely rejected by the scientific community, but one that generated research and debate that helped advance the field of tectonics materially.