In them danger, confidence, mystery, promise, potential. It’s the initial fantasy meets The Plan, then as part of the essential equipment that gives a unity and a steadiness in the span of the doing, found temporal coherence projected two dimensionally spatially. Afterward bicycles bags tents titanium cups put away, maps remain clues and cues, where we were and therefore what we were. In form, unfolded into texture, peering hunched over protecting it from the rain lest it disintegrate more, or on a small glowing screen, or clipped on the stem, crinkled in the jersey pocket, under a persnickety plastic cover, committed to imagery from the local’s linear narrative of landmarks.
And then in their history even more, not just aesthetic but so much that, not just technical, but so much that, too. Artistry governed by formulae, formulae transformed into a visceral sensation crossing like magic back over from abstraction. All painted against a more whole synthesis of prejudice, cultural jealousies, triumphant aspirations and just flat out lies and guesses, picturing what’s important and more importantly what’s not, typography has to converse with the representation of the topography, fidelity inevitably competes with utility. I think we learn through maps that representation is only uneasily symbolic, we do better when the representation can transmit bodily movement through spaces, but nor would a simple satellite photo do, either, since that’s not our vantage or need.
These are my favorite books on and of maps:
Maps: Finding Our Place in the World
James Akerman & Robert Karrow Jr., eds.
Transit Maps of the World
Oxford Atlas of the World
Mapping the World: An Illustrated History of Cartography
Cognition in the Wild
Maps of the Imagination: The Writer As Cartographer
Mercator: The Man Who Mapped the Planet
(And, of course, the blog Strange Maps)