We need to know where we are, and where we aren’t. Maps help. In providing that basic information, some maps manage to be beautiful. Here’s a map of a place you didn’t want to be in late December 2004.

The map of the eye of the 2004 tsunami and the places most affected is a portion of a painting by graphic design legend Paula Scher who is a member of Pentagram in NYC. Image from here, for e.g.

Above is a detail of another Paula Scher map painting. She has pretty much covered the whole world. This from a map blog called cartophilia.

Also based in New York is Maira Kalman, responsible (with Rick Meyerowitz) for the map above of NYC that was the cover of the New Yorker magazine for Dec 10, 2001. Image from here which shows more of Maira Kalman’s smile inducing illustrations.

San Francisco and surrounds got this imaginative mapping in the 1930’s. Image presented at strangemaps.

Christoph Nieman has a blog at the New York Times called Abstract City that has some nifty whimsical road maps in a post called My Way. He now lives in Berlin and is a multi-media (e.g.paper, Lego) artist. Thx to K in Portland for the tip off.

From a map of the Mediterranean by Diego Homem about 1560 shown on the BBC website.

A map of Philadelphia drawn and coloured in 1781 by Louis-Alexandre Berthier, image from Princeton University.

Maps of old–at least the ones that have survived–are almost always beautiful. The idea of conveying practical information with grace and artistry seems to have been with is a long time.

A visual guide to some places in well known nursery rhymes.

Some writers invent imaginary worlds for their characters to inhabit, places like Oz created by L. Frank Baum in 1900. A 1908 edition of the book included a map of the Wizard’s world. Both of the above from a blog called
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Hand drawn maps have their own charm. People put in what is important to them, not necessarily to anyone else. There are sites entirely devoted to this urge such as this and other sites that have requested hand drawn maps from their followers, such as this.

The above map is one I did. I opened the atlas at random and just picked places whose names appealed to me. Then I gave each one a colour and shape that seemed to fit. There was no earthly reason for me to do this.

Maps seem to make us feel safer. They tell us we are somewhere. It isn’t just motorists and explorers who need maps. We know, for e.g., that dolls need their own maps. This Atlas was made for Queen Mary’s Doll House at Windsor Castle (BBC).