Maps In History: The Psalter Map

 :: Posted by admin on 10-24-2012

Modern interactive maps can be pretty boring – lines of blue and yellow, with street names, road names, and barely decipherable icons representing “Points of Interest” and tourist spots. However, maps haven’t always been that way. Throughout history, many cartographers have managed to turn their maps into works of art; sometimes of more artistic value than geographical value.
One such example is the Psalter Map – one of the few surviving examples of what is known as a medieval Mappa Mundi. This map is an illustrated map of the known world. It’s very small – barely 10cm across, and it was drawn on animal skin. The map, and the book that it was bound into, is now preserved in the British Library, and has managed to survive for many centuries whilst remaining in incredibly good condition.
The map shows the world as a round disc, with just three land masses on it. Those land masses are Asia, Europe, and “East”. Unlike the modern convention of placing Northern territories at the top of the map, the mapper placed “East” at the top, in keeping with the religious convention of the time.
Geography is a factor in this map, however the dominating factors are biblical belief, and myths and legends. Prominent features of the map include the Red Sea and Jerusalem. Christ stands above the disc, holding an orb in his hand. Some other features of this map are highlighted using gold-leaf paint.
It is not known who created this map. Some historians believe that the map is based on another map which was owned by Henry III, and was hung in his bedroom in Westminster Palace. Henry III’s map predates this one by 50 years, and it’s hard to confirm if someone saw that map and used it as inspiration to create another one.

Illustrated Maps of Imaginary Worlds – Star Wars

 :: Posted by admin on 10-01-2012

If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’re probably familiar with the work of Ralph McQuarrie. This amazing designer has produced a lot of art relating illustrations to the Star Wars universe. His works are now collected in “The Illustrated Star Wars Universe”, a combined effort between McQuarrie and author Kevin J. Anderson.
The book collects concept art from the Original Trilogy, and includes not just McQuarrie’s work but also concept art created by Michael Butkus, Joe Johnston, Norman Reynolds, and Michael Pangrazio. Eight of the most important planets from the original movies are covered, and readers can enjoy looking at costume art, home layouts, alien concepts, and high level illustrated maps. For a Star Wars fan, this is not just a collectible, it is an amazing look into the raw vision of the original designers.
The planets covered in the book are:
• Alderaan
• Bespin
• Coruscant
• Dagobah
• Endor
• Hoth
• Tatooine
• Yavin 4
This means that the book covers a huge range of environments, from snow-covered Hoth to the deserts of Tattooine, and the more built-up Coruscant. Every environment is explored.
The book is rather old now; it was first published in 1995, but it is still well worth a look. The art style is timeless (as you would imagine, for something that covers a science fiction theme), and the text that accompanies the images is fascinating to read. The images are elaborated upon by fictional characters form the Star Wars universe, including an Imperial Advisor to the Emperor’s court, a Councilman, a scientist, and a shape-changing Anthropologist.
If you’re a fan of exploring different worlds, as well as your own world, then this particular tome is most definitely one worthy of adding to your collection. Why limit yourself to exploring just one galaxy?

Illustrated Maps In History – Desceliers’ Map

 :: Posted by admin on 09-24-2012

Continuing our series about Illustrated Maps in History, let’s take a look at Desceliers’ World Map. This map dates back to the mid 16th century. It was drawn in a style similar to the sea charts of the time, with compass directions and navigational lines being prominent features, but the map itself is not designed to be used as a sea map.
Desceliers’ World Map was created as a display piece for King Henri II of France. It was intended to be shown off on a table in his library, or stored in his curiosities cabinet. The navigational value of the map may be questionable, but as a piece of art it is definitely fit for a king. The map was created in 1550, and King Henri died just nine years later. It’s fortunate that his heirs chose to preserve this map, as it preserves both the knowledge, the artistic style, and the attitudes of the era in which it was created with amazing detail.
This illustrated map of the world was drawn by hand by Pierre Desceliers of the Dieppe School of Cartography. It is a rather large piece, and drawing it with the tools available at the time would have been a challenging undertaking.
The coastal lines on this map are surprisingly accurate for the time period in which it was created, and are a testament to Decelier’s knowledge of navigation and geography. Once you move in-land, the geography is slightly less sound, however. The map paints a picture of the world based partly on observation, and partly on classical sources.
It’s this blend of knowledge and classical geography that makes this map so beautiful. It’s a true insight into a different time period and it stands alone as a Renaissance artwork.

Illustrated Festival Maps – Sanam Luang

 :: Posted by admin on 09-02-2012

Sanam Luang in Bangkok, Thailand, is home to the Thailand Kite Festival. Vasuphon Sanpanich has created a gorgeous illustrated map of the festival. The map shows local landmarks, and gives an overview of the area where the festival is held.
Information about the festival is written in the area around the main park on the map, highlighting that it’s the Traditional Sport of Thailand, and that the celebration involves song, prayer, and the Royal Ploughing ceremony.
The map shows quite clearly what happens at the festival. Participants can be seen flying kites, taking part in prayers, playing games, and enjoying other festivities. The map has a hand-drawn appearance, with bright colours and cartoonish people that are somewhat reminiscent of characters from The Simpsons.
As an example of how an illustrated map could work as an advertisement, Sanpanich’s work is outsanding. The message presented is that the festival is fun for all the family, with plenty of things for people of all ages to enjoy.
The water areas are represented by the familiar two-tone waves that are commonly used in modern illustrated maps. The Royal Garden is lined with bushes, and the vehicles on the road are abstracted just like children’s toys.
Abstraction is an important part of all illustrated campus maps. When a map is made too detailed, it becomes difficult to look at, and if you’re trying to get across a general point, such as “The Royal Garden will be home to a festival, where many activities will take place”, then that point is lost in the details. It takes an incredibly skilled artist to be able to find the perfect balance between abstraction, aesthetics, and clarity.
The only thing that could be considered to be missing from this particular map is a smaller traditional map that explains how a visitor could get to the Royal Garden.