Saturday, November 10, 2012

Anime Maps

A Satellite Image of Hurricane (Sandy? no, not Sandy) turned into an anime character. 

Following upon my blog postings about Anthropomorphic and Zoomorphic maps, there is apparently a new trend in creating maps of countries (and other geographic features) that resemble anime characters.  I discovered this because all of a sudden my blog posting (#2) about the topic of anthropomorphic maps received like about 5,000 hits in one days, and I looked back to see where they were all coming from.  It was this Japanese site that had referenced my post in discussing the map of the US that looked like an eagle.  My previous posts on the topic:

This is the new(ish) one that sparked the storm: the map of the UK turned into a Victorian girl.  They clearly didn't know what to do with Northern Ireland!  See for the full evolution of the image from map to girl.

I actually think I like this one even better.

See also original Japanese site for some additional very clever transformations of countries into people:

Friday, November 9, 2012

The African Presence in Europe

“The Three Mulattoes of Esmereldas” (1599), by Andrés Sánchez Gallque, depicts a father and his two sons, descendants of African plantation slaves and New World natives, who were leaders of an Afro-Indian community.  This is one of the works in “Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe," at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.  (From: Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid)

This exhibit “African Presence in Renaissance Europe” appears to be a very interesting visual depiction of 15th and 16th century European perceptions on race and “otherness,” in a time before plantation slavery in the New World forever altered Western views of race and white superiority.  New Yorkers – you are only 2 ½ hours from Baltimore by Amtrak train, so if you are looking for something to do over the Thanksgiving break, this might be just the ticket! 
I am copying below the article (a review of the exhibit) from The New York Times in its entirety. 

A Spectrum From Slaves to Saints
‘African Presence in Renaissance Europe,’ at Walters Museum
Published: November 8, 2012
BALTIMORE — In a fall art season distinguished, so far, largely by a bland, no-brainer diet served up by Manhattan’s major museums, you have to hit the road for grittier fare. And the Walters Art Museum here is not too far to go to find it in a high-fiber, convention-rattling show with the unglamorous title of “Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe.”

Visually the exhibition is a gift, with marvelous things by artists familiar and revered — Dürer, Rubens, Veronese — along with images most of us never knew existed. Together they map a history of art, politics and race that scholars have begun to pay attention to — notably through “The Image of the Black in Western Art,” a multivolume book project edited by David Bindman and Henry Louis Gates Jr. — but that few museums have addressed in full-dress style.
Like the best scholarship, the Walters show, organized by Joaneath Spicer, the museum’s curator of Renaissance and Baroque art, is as much about questions as answers, and makes no bones about that. Many wall labels begin with an interrogative, suggesting that a museum visitor’s reading of a particular image carries as much weight as the curator’s.
And, like most ambitious but risky undertakings, it has flaws. There is evidence of budget limitations. Although no corners were cut in getting crucial European loans, the catalog — a good one — has come in a third smaller in size than planned and with signs of changes-at-the-last-minute production.
The presence of a chatty “resource center” midway through the show, with gamelike audience-participation activities on offer, will rile museum purists. (I have no problem with it.) And, in a show that tackles the issue of race head-on, the line between an objective view of the past taken on its own terms and interpretation of it in light of the present can sometimes feel precariously drawn.
But in the end none of this matters. The show is so interesting to look at and so fresh with historical news as to override reservations. It does what few museum shows ever do: It takes a prized piece of art history, one polished to a glow by generations of attention, and turns it in an unexpected direction, so it catches the searching, scouring rays of new investigative light.
Europe’s ties to Africa were ancient but sporadic. Particularly strong bonds were forged during the heyday of the Roman Empire. And in the 15th and 16th centuries, the period covered by the Walters show, they were renewed. True, as early the eighth century a pocket of intercontinental culture had sprung up in Muslim-occupied southern Spain. But it wasn’t until that occupation was coming to a close that a broader exchange began.
By the mid-1400s an expansionist Europe was hungry for new materials and markets, and a globally minded Roman Catholic Church sought new members. Well before Vasco da Gama first sailed around Africa, Portuguese merchants had opened trading depots along its west coast. And enterprising Africans were coming to Europe.
In 1484 a Congolese delegation visited Lisbon on a diplomatic mission, and Ethiopian Christian pilgrims were establishing permanent communities in Rome.
Superficially Africa and Europe had embarked on an age of cosmopolitan rapport, an idea promoted in art. It was during this period that the convention was introduced of including a black African as one of the three foreign kings in images of the Adoration of the Magi. A beautiful early-16th-century Flemish example and one with, exceptionally, two black figures, tenderly particularized, opens the Walters show on a utopian note, with a vision of multicultural harmony.
In reality harmony was rarely associated with Africa in the European mind. Known primarily secondhand from sensationalizing ancient texts, the African continent was often depicted in the Renaissance as a place of freakish beasts and bestial, violence-prone, naturally subject peoples. The attitude found its place in Renaissance decorative objects like oil lamps and door pulls cast in the shape of African heads, and in paintings that routinely included dark-skinned figures as servants or slaves.
Slavery had a long institutional history in Europe, and for centuries most slaves were white, from the eastern Mediterranean and Russia. The source changed with the beginnings of an African slave trade in Europe in the mid-1400s. And the complexion of European art, subtly but surely, changed with it.

We find a hint of this in a minutely detailed late-16th-century painting of a city square in Lisbon bustling with black- and white-skinned figures from across the social spectrum. We find it again in an exquisite drawing by Dürer of a demure 20-year-old black woman named Katharina, a slave in the household of a Portuguese patron the artist visited in Antwerp in 1521. And we find it once more in a fragmentary painting by Annibale Carracci. The original picture seems to have been a portrait of an aristocratic woman accompanied by her female slave. But only the likeness of the slave survives, and her face, with its simmering, level-eyed gaze, is unforgettable.

Being a domestic slave in urban Europe was not necessarily a lifelong condition. (The situation was very different on New World plantations.) Slaves could be freed by owners and take up independent professions. The two black men, one young, one older, in a pair of fleet chalk drawings from around 1580 by Paolo Veronese might have worked as his assistants or apprentices, much as the former slave and mixed-race painter Juan de Pareja did in Velázquez’s studio in Madrid.
De Pareja went on to have a painting career of his own, though he is largely remembered as the subject of one of Velázquez’s most magnificent portraits. But in general the names of black sitters in Renaissance paintings — and, no doubt, of black artists — are lost.
Who is, or was, the slightly stunned-looking man wearing drop earrings, a gold chain and pearl-encrusted cap in “Portrait of a Wealthy African,” by an unknown 16th-century German or Flemish artist? Or the regal-looking personage, head swathed in a milk-white turban, in an oil sketch whipped up on a sheet of repurposed accounting paper by Peter Paul Rubens?
Portrait of a Wealthy African, Flemish or German, ca. 1540, Private Collection, Antwerp
Rubens’s sitter is so attractive, we’d love to know his story. And we’d especially love to know the story — the true, gossip-free story — behind the sitter in an Agnolo Bronzino portrait whose name has survived. He’s Alessandro de’ Medici, who ruled Florence for seven years before being assassinated in 1537, and who is thought by historians to have been the illegitimate child of a pope-to-be, Clement VII, and a black or biracial woman.
Alessandro’s dark skin was remarked on by contemporaries, who nicknamed him Il Moro (the Moor), a generic term for African in 16th-century Italy. In Bronzino’s painting the subject’s complexion is inconclusively ruddy. But another portrait, this one of the ruler’s young daughter Giulia, has been cited by some scholars, who point to the child’s black facial features, as confirmation of Alessandro’s ethnic heritage.
Together these portraits probably attest to the reality of African DNA flowing through Medici blood, and through the very center of the European High Renaissance. But they are at least as interesting for the reactions they have provoked. Until recently art history has ignored, denied or at best tiptoed around their racial content, just as it has skimmed over the black presence in Europe as a whole. The Walters exhibition not only asserts that presence, but positions it as a contributing factor to a crucial moment in the forming of European cultural identity.
By the early 17th century that moment seemed to have passed. Europe’s attention turned to the Americas and to Asia. Africa became what it had started out being for Europe: a supply center for natural resources and cheap labor. Old attitudes of fear and disdain toward Africa — still the dominant view in the West — returned and hardened.
So: Renaissance followed by regression is the show’s bottom-line theme. Or is it? One of the saving graces of art — what keeps you coming back to it — is that it isn’t a bottom-line business. You think you’ve come to an end, a conclusion, and there’s always more: the exception, the extension. And so it is in this case: African Europe lived on, in new places, and in new guises.
Toward the end of the show, in a 1599 painting called “The Three Mulattoes of Esmereldas,” we see three dark-skinned men in European court attire but also wearing large gold nose ornaments and holding spears. The painting, now in the Prado, was done in Spanish colonial Ecuador. It depicts a father and his two sons, descendants of African plantation slaves and New World natives, who were leaders of an Afro-Indian community. In this painting, commissioned from an Ecuadorean artist as a gift to Philip III of Spain, they present to Europe as what they are: related, different, equal.
African Europe also continued to flourish on home turf in, among other places, popular religion. The exhibition’s final image is a resplendent 18th-century carved wood sculpture of a Roman Catholic saint, Benedict of Palermo (1526-89), who was born into a family of African slaves in Sicily, led an exemplary life as a Franciscan monk there, and was canonized in 1807.
This saint is sometimes referred to as Benedict the Moor or Benedict the African, and in the sculpture his racial identity is emphatically conveyed: his grave face and extended hand are a rich ebony black, their darkness framed and amplified by the brilliant gilding of his robe.
By the time this sculpture was carved around 1734, Benedict had long since attracted an ardent following, in Europe, in the colonial Americas and in Africa. Today he’s the official patron saint of African-America, with churches in his honor from Bahia to the Bronx. And images of him, no matter how stylistically varied, continue to combine traces of Renaissance Europe and of Africa. In him the two are inseparable, are one.

Slide show:
Walters Art Museum Website about the exhibit:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How Obama Won the Election

Map showing the results of the U.S. Presidential Election 2012
Became more: Democratic (blue); Republican (red).  From The New York Times:
How Obama Won Reelection

 For those of you who, like me, tried very hard to stay awake long enough to see which candidate was projected by CNN as the winner of the US Presidential race last night, it was finally called at 11:18 PM, but of course, there are some states (FLORIDA!!! AGAIN!!! They need to get their act together!) that are sill up for grabs.  Nevertheless, Obama received the necessary 270 electoral college votes, and then some, early enough to call by the professional prognosticators, even without the dithering of Florida’s critical 29 electoral votes. 

Here are some interesting maps of the election results.  I was struck by how red the country could be, whether looking at the state-by-state view, or especially by the county-by-county view, but still come up with a “blue” result overall.  This has to do, obviously with the variable distribution of population, giving more weight to population centers (e.g., cities and populous suburban areas) and less so to rural and relatively unpopulated areas.  This points out the fallacy of coloring in maps with nominal data, when the size of the geographic unit has little to do with its real impact for the variable in question (in this case, electoral votes).  Still, it is striking how divided the nation is, whether it is on geographic lines, racial/ethnic lines, economic lines, gender lines, or a generational divide.

State and County maps of election results, For full size interactive maps, see:

This explains where Obama’s support came from.  He got even less of the white vote than he had in the 2008 election, and kept about the same percentage of women voters (55%), but had major gains in the youth vote in key battleground states (although losing some of the youth vote in other states), and perhaps most significantly, had overwhelming support from the Latino/a voters.    
“President Obama won the Hispanic vote by 44 percentage points, 8 percentage points more than in 2008. Among the swing states, the president made the biggest gains in Colorado, taking 74 percent of the Hispanic vote, up from 61 percent in 2008. In Florida, President Obama’s gains among Hispanic voters helped him take the state. He won 60 percent of the Hispanic vote, up from 57 percent in 2008 and 44 percent for John Kerry in 2004.”

How Obama Won Reelection

Also, see the Washington Post website for a nice series of maps on the "Margin of Victory" at the state and county level, and state-by-state analysis of the election. This one shows how strong or weak the vote was for Obama or Romney.  The county one is especially interesting, because the parts of the country that are red are VERY red, almost the entire middle of the country and the deep south. Check out the County Margin map, it's a proportional symbol map showing the margin of victory in thousands of votes.  Very nice!

OK, here's another one, (Thanks Steve Duncan!) for sending some great cartograms of the election, the one above showing the relative importance of the states vis-a-vis electoral votes, but this website has a nice animation of election advertisement spending in the various swing states. Really informative!   See

Here's another interesting one (sent in by Aviva Rahmani.  Thanks Aviva!) showing the considerable spatial correspondence between areas of slavery/non-slavery in 1859,  racial segregation areas in 1950,  and red/blue voting states in 2012.  It's not a perfect match-up, and there are some interesting differences (e.g., Virginia, Indiana, New Mexico, Florida) , but wow, remarkably similar.

What The 2012 Election Would Have Looked Like Without Universal Suffrage
These five maps look at how the 2012 election would have played out before everyone could vote.  [Some of the reader's comments about the maps mention the flaws in the argument presented by these maps, but keep in mind as you look at them that they are supposed to reflect what TODAY’S United States would have looked like in the 2012 election if only certain of our citizens were allowed to vote.  Obviously, in 1850, not all the states were states, etc.  Also, I believe in the early US, not only was the right to vote restricted to white men, it was further restricted to white male property owner (no poor guys need apply).  So there are some grains for salt here to be taken in interpreting these maps, but all in all a sobering look at how differently elections can turn out when the right to vote for major constituents of our population is disallowed or suppressed.] 
Map 1: 1850
Before 1870, only white men could vote. Here's how the election would have looked before the 15th Amendment.

“President Barack Obama has been elected twice by a coalition that reflects the diversity of America. Republicans have struggled to win with ever-higher percentages of the shrinking share of the population that is white men — "a Mad Men party in a Modern Family world," in the words of one strategist.
But at America's founding, only white men could vote, and the franchise has only slowly expanded to include people of color, women, and — during the Vietnam War — people under 21. These maps show how American politics would have looked in that undemocratic past.” From:
See the website for the rest of the maps on what the election would have looked like without the black vote, the youth vote, and women’s vote.  

Also check out the collection of pre-Election Maps 2012 at

Monday, October 29, 2012

Best Visualizations of Hurricane Sandy

NASA’s GOES satellite image of the hurricane as of early this morning, October 29th 

Greetings, everyone.  Well, with the wind howling around my windows, I wanted to post some links to some amazing visualizations of Hurricane Sandy that I just received.  (Thanks, Amy!)  Sandy has just made landfall, and some of you may even have already lost power, been flooded out, or have been pre-emptively evacuated.  Everyone please stay safe, and let’s hope for the best.  The emergency management people seem to have done a good job preparing for this storm-of-the-century, and so we will hopefully have minimal loss of life, although property damage is a whole other story. 

Wind map October 29th.  This really tells the story. 
See more visualizations at: 

Dramatic aerial photos of the Atlantic City boardwalk, breached:

From the European perspective - How Sandy compares to Europe, (size-wise)  from BBC News

And, risk of flooding from Sandy, also from BBC News, via NOAA

Hurricane Sandy in perspective, taking up roughly one third of the US mainland. (but confusingly enough from this graphic, not located correctly on the map!  Just inserted in the middle of the continent for size comparison's sake!)

And check out these Before and After aerial photos of Sandy's destructive force along the New Jersey coast at
Thanks, Stephen Franciosa, for sending the link.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Election Maps 2012

Cartogram of the world, showing the number of times various countries around the globe were mentioned by the candidates in the 3rd Presidential Election this week.  Very nice map by Michael Porter, one of CUNY’s own, and now a health geographer heading up the GIS unit at a major NYC agency. 

So we find ourselves now in the home stretch leading up to the US Presidential Elections, and I would like to share with you some of the clever and informative election theme maps that have been making the rounds. 

Interactive change-the-scenario maps
The first series of maps are interactive, where you, the map viewer, can change the map by altering the scenarios for the electoral votes by state. 

The New York Times

The Wall Street Journal – shows important “issues” in each state, as well as whether Obama- or Romney-leaning

Real Clear Politics interactive map of electoral college votes

CNN You can create your own map looking at different scenarios in the battleground states

Huffington Post, same interactive deal as the others, the second link showing a “cartogram” (really a sort of a proportional symbol map)

The Historical Perspective
One thing that strikes me as I look back on the history of Presidential election results is the extreme closeness of most races.  It seems that the 50-50 divide in our country is nothing new.  Most of the elections have been won by just a very small margin of the popular vote.  46% to 48%, etc., even one that was 48.4% to 48.6%.  What a squeaker!  There have been only a few landslides in the popular vote, such as Teddy Roosevelt’s 1904 election (56% to 37%), and FDR’s 1936 election (61% to 36%) and a few notable others, but generally the popular vote is only within a few percentage points, when there are two major candidates running.  In several elections, the insertion of a third party candidate has basically served as a spoiler for one or the other of the major party candidates. 
Another interesting thing to look at is the cases when the popular vote is very, very close, within a percentage point or two, and yet, the electoral college map looks like a landslide for one party or the other.  And of course there are the famous times in our history when a candidate has won the popular vote but lost the electoral college vote, memorably with the Al Gore/George W race in 2000.

For the historical perspective, see
Maps of the electoral college results in US elections since 1789

Isarithmic history of the 2-party vote
He uses county-level results to create the contours.  Check out the animated version showing election results from 1876 to 2008.

“Using county-level data, I spatially and temporally interpolated presidential vote returns for the two major party candidates in each election from 1920-2008. The result illuminates the sometimes gradual, sometimes rapid change in the geographic basis of presidential partisanship.”

Here’s his take on the same election data, shown in choropleth maps.

The 2008 Election results
Interesting look at the 2008 election results, including some cartograms and clever use of color to indicate intensity of results. 

Civil War Divisions vs. the 2012 Electoral Map
And from Common Sense Democracy, a comparison of the 1864 Civil War Divisions and the 2012 Electoral Map (as of August, 2012)

Electing a US President in Plain English
If you are as confused as many Americans are about how this whole electoral college thing works, here’s a good little animated video that explains it all “in plain English.”  All, that is, except for Nebraska and Maine, which don’t follow the rest of the states and are even more confusing, and I don’t think this video bothers to tackle those two anomalous states.  I like the cute cartoons of the states.

Swing States
The rest of the electorate can just sit quietly and have a beer?  Haha!  Don't you believe it!  Everyone should get out to vote, even the so-called "safe" states.

How the last four years affect YOU

This is not exactly a map, but it is an interactive report by town (based on zip code) for an accounting of how Obama administration policies have benefited your town.  It's pretty impressive, actually, and it seems would refute most of the hyperbole surrounding the "what has Obama actually accomplished?" and "are you better off than you were four years ago?" type questions.  Plug in your zip code at the website here to see for yourselves.  In addition to the zip code specific listing of accomplishments in energy, jobs, health care, taxes, small business, education, etc., there is also a map of your area with pins to designate sites where programs are directly linked to Obama Recovery Act policies and funding, and you can mouse over them and it will tell you how many jobs were directly created by each.

And here is our current (and future?) President, looking carefully at a world map, as all national leaders should be doing at least once a day.

Check out my current post (November 7th, 2012) on the actual post-election maps at

Monday, May 28, 2012

Map of the Week 5-28-2012: Blaeu’s 1654 Atlas of Scotland

Map of the “Yle of Skie,” from Blaeu’s 1654 Atlas of Scotland.  “Continue now, look at Scotland, and enjoy a feast for the eyes.”  So writes Joan Blaeu in his 'Greetings to the Reader,' part of the preliminary material to his 1654 Atlas novus. (from introductory remarks by Charles Withers, Professor of Historical Geography at the University of Edinburgh, on Blaeu’s Atlas of Scotland, at

Joan Blaeu (1599-1673) was a very esteemed and prolific Amsterdam mapmaker working in the Map-mad 17th century.  He received the prestigious appointment as mapmaker to the Dutch East India Company, which was responsible for opening up new markets for trade throughout the world, and for whom accurate maps would obviously have been of paramount importance.  But Blaeu’s maps were also tremendously beautiful and desirable in their own right as objets d’art.  For instance, in many of Vermeer’s wonderful paintings of everyday life in the Netherlands, a framed Blaeu map appears in a position of prominence in the interiors of the homes that are the setting for his paintings, indicating their cherished status as symbols of wealth and discernment of the occupants, but showing also how popularized and widely-owned his maps had become with the middle and upper classes.  (See an example of this at
The Atlas was, for all intents and purposes, more than 70 years in the making, and for an interesting history of how the Atlas came to be, and all the obstacles, both technical and bureaucratic, impeding its eventual publication, see the excellent account at  When completed, Volume V of Blaeu’s Atlas Novus contained 49 maps of Scotland and 6 of Ireland.  It was published originally with all text in Latin, and later editions were translated into Dutch, French, Spanish, and other languages, but never into English! 
Blaeu’s Atlas of Scotland and Ireland was a quite a ground-breaking work.  It used the latest in scientific geographic knowledge (and all that word implied in the 17th century – Geography was really a catch-word for most of the knowledge about the world) combined with “Chorography.”  What is Chorography, you might well ask?  It is a term which has gone out of service, for the most part, but perhaps will enjoy something of a comeback with the recent interest in more qualitative techniques and mixed-method approaches in Geography, all of which have seen a resurgence in recent years.  
From the good Prof. Withers again: “Geography in the age of Pont and Blaeu was not as we would now understand the term.  Early modern geographical knowledge drew upon natural history, astrology, even natural magic and was apparent in various forms: descriptive geography, mathematical geography - of importance to navigators and in mapmaking - and, notably, chorography.  Chorography as understood and practised in the late 16th and 17th centuries drew upon the work of the classical authority Claudius Ptolemaeus (known as Ptolemy).  In Book I of his eight-book Geographia, Ptolemy distinguished between geography and chorography:  'The purpose of Geography is to represent the unity and continuity of the known world in its true nature and location ... The aim of Chorography is to represent only a part'.  Crucially, chorography was a qualitative art: 'Chorography therefore concentrates more on the quality of places than on their quantity or scale, aware that it should use all means to sketch the true form or likeness of places and not so much their correspondence, measure or disposition amongst themselves or with the heavens or with the whole of the world' (cited in Withers 2001a, 140-1).
The intellectual worlds of the late 16th and 17th centuries recognised and used this crucial distinction between geography, the accurate representation of the whole known world, and chorography, the pictorial and written 'impression' of local areas and places, without regard to what we moderns would take to be quantitative accuracy.  Chorography appealed to late Renaissance intellectual ideas of order.  But it did more than that.  For three reasons, 'The chorographic/geographic distinction was perhaps the most important classifying scheme for maps in 16th-century Europe' (Mundy 1996, 5). It was a means to classify existing maps.  It created a standard dual model of how space should in future be mapped. It corresponded to models of the political state: 'indeed, its contours followed the fault lines between regionalism and nationalism' (Mundy 1996, 5-6).  The distinction was widely employed throughout the late 16th and 17th centuries in Europe, Japan, Russia and the Portuguese and Spanish colonies of the New World (Withers 2001a). In England in this period - and, after 1603, in the newly created geographical entity that was 'Great Britain' - chorography was 'the most wide-ranging of the geographical arts, in that it provided the specific detail to make concrete the other general branches of geography' (Cormack 1997, 163).
Chorography's textual features took several forms.  Description of places and regions very commonly incorporated topographical poetry: 'self-fashioning' through versifying was a commonplace in Elizabethan accounts of land and nation (Greenblatt 1980; Helgerson 1986, 1992; Klein 2001).  Chorography emphasised the local and did so historically and geographically: with reference, for example, to the genealogies of families of note, and to the remarkable features in a place.  This attention to place had political significance in that matters of a local nature - notable families, distinctive natural features, historical antiquities and such like - were made to appear part of that place, fixed over time as well as in space. Because of this, chorography - with geography one of what the late Renaissance and early modern worlds understood as the 'eyes of history' - was closely associated with chronology (the other 'eye'), with antiquarianism and with emerging ideas of public utility and of national identity (Cormack 1991a, 1997; Mayhew 2001).
In sum, chorography was a particular form of geographical knowledge, rooted in certain intellectual traditions and apparent in words and maps, that was concerned to capture the 'impression' of a region or place.  It was, textually, an essentially conservative form of regional description in as much as it assumed the continued authority of the monarchy and nobility.  That fact in turn is why chorographical writing often lauds leading families and prominent individuals of note: patronage, patriotism and the political well-being of the realm revealed through its regional portrayal were closely associated elements in Blaeu's world.” (From: “A Vision of Scotland,” by Prof. Charles Withers, at

Works Cited in above Excerpt:  
Cormack, L. B., Charting an Empire: Geography at the English Universities (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997).
Greenblatt, S., Renaissance Self-Fashioning from More to Shakespeare (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980)
Helgerson, R., 'The Land Speaks: Cartography, Chorography and Subversion in Renaissance England', Representations 16 (1986), 51-85
Klein, B., Maps and the Writing of Space in Early Modern England and Ireland (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001)
Mayhew, R., 'Geography, Print Culture and the Renaissance: "The Road Less Travelled By", History of European Ideas 27 (2001), 349-369
Mundy, B. E., The Mapping of New Spain: Indigenous Cartography and the Maps of the Relaçiones Geograficas (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).
Withers, C. W. J., 'Pont in Context: Chorography, Mapmaking and National Identity in the Late Sixteenth Century', in The Nation Survey'd: essays on late sixteenth-century Scotland as depicted by Timothy Pont edited by Ian C. Cunningham (East Linton, 2001a), 139-154.

“The nether ward of Clyds-dail and Glasco” Zoom-able map at:  

On this map of the Lower Clyde region, north is the right side of the map, “Glasgva” is shown in the top middle as a major city (in red) on the banks of the River Clyde, with the location of “The Mills” below it (to the east of the city, but in this orientation it looks like to the south since we are used to north being on top rather than to the side.  Likewise, the River Clyde runs east-west in reality, but in this map appears to run north-south, until we get used to the idea that north is on the right).  Many of the place names on this map still exist on modern maps, with little change, such as Parthick (now Partick), Blyths Wood (now Blythswood), Burrowsfield (now Barrowfield), Carntynenoc (now Carntyne), etc. 

            The map of the Isle of Skye (Yle of Skia) shown above at the top of this post – zoom-able version at - depicts the largest of the islands in the Inner Hebrides.  In old Norse, the name for Skye is skuy (misty isle), skýey or skuyö (isle of cloud).  In Gaelic the name for the Isle of Skye, Ellan Skiannach, means “the winged island,” possibly owing to its many notches and indentations and peninsulas radiating out from the central core of mountains, making it look like feathered wings.  
              "This Ile is callit Ellan Skiannach in Irish, that is to say in Inglish the wyngit Ile, be reason it has mony wyngis and pointis lyand furth fra it, throw the dividing of thir foirsaid Lochis."  English translation from Lowland Scots: This isle is called Ellan Skiannach in Gaelic, that is to say in English, "The Winged Isle", by reason of its many wings and points that come from it, through dividing of the land by the aforesaid lochs.  From Munro, D. (1818) Description of the Western Isles of Scotland called Hybrides, by Mr. Donald Munro, High Dean of the Isles, who travelled through most of them in the year 1549. Miscellanea Scotica, Quoted in Murray (1966) p. 146. 

Near the center of Blaeu’s map of Skye (above and to the left of the town of Portry – now Portree) is Loch Cholumbkil (Colum Cille - Saint Columba’s lake), and in the middle of the loch is a little island with an abbey, and on the little island is a little lake.  The loch appears to be at the end of a river which leads from a sea loch, Loch Snizort (love that name – SNIZORT!).  Unfortunately, I can find no trace of this lake within an island on a lake within an island on a current map of Skye, but I will look for it when I am in Skye next week and perhaps find it on large-scale OS maps. 
I did find some notes about Loch Columbkille in an old journal written in 1883 by a well-known (at the time) travel writer and painter who spent 6 months in the Hebrides, so apparently the Loch and its islet were still extant 130 years ago or so. 

“This fine sea-loch divides itself into an inner and an outer harbour, perfectly land-locked. The former is still known to the older fishers as Loch Columbkille, being one of the spots specially dedicated to St. Columba, who was patron saint of half of Skye, and many neighbouring isles. The other half was the property of that St. Maelruhba to whom, as we have seen, were offered such strange sacrifices.' At the further end of the loch, close to the sheriff's house, is a small rocky islet, where a few fragments of building, and traces of old graves are all that now remain to mark the spot where once stood the oldest monastic building in Scotland; so, at least, say certain of our wisest antiquarians.”
From In the Hebrides, (Chapter 13) by C. F. Gordon Cumming (1883) at

Kilt Rock is a spectacular rock formation south of Staffin on the Trotternish peninsula, Skye. The 200ft-high cliffs take their name from the basalt columns which resemble the folds of a kilt. There is also a waterfall where the River Mealt plunges 200 feet straight down to the shore.

The ruins of Duntulm Castle lie approximately six miles north of Uig on the Trotternish peninsula of Skye. Duntulm was previously the site of an iron age broch, a Pictish fort and a Viking stronghold. The castle changed hands several times between the Macleods and the MacDonalds but it was secured as a MacDonald stronghold after the Battle of Trotternish in the 16th century.  Written in Gaelic as Dun Tuilm, the meaning is often debated but it is most commonly translated as 'fort of the green grassy headland'. The castle was abandoned by the MacDonalds in favour of Monkstadt in the 1730s and stone from the castle was used in building the new house.  This left the castle in a dangerous state of disrepair and it has only recently been stabilized.

These illustrations were taken from 'In the Hebrides', by CF Gordon Cumming (1883) at

            This will be my last blog posting for a little while.  I have to take a short hiatus for the next few weeks from all extracurricular activities.  I will be in Skye for the long Jubilee weekend, I need to finish my research and prepare and give five presentations in June based on my work here over the past 6 months, and finally I will then have to organize myself and pack up my life here in order to return home to NYC.  I hope to be back to full blogging power in mid-summer, and I’m sure will have a good backlog of interesting tid-bits of geographica to share. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Map of the Week 5-21-2012:Can a 3-D Map Change the World?

A screenshot of the new Mapply platform.  For the interactive version, see
This is Mapply - Virtual 3-D Maps built with real world data.  So far, the website just shows demos - the actual application is not really up and running yet, but the developers are claiming some amazing things for their platform.  They say they have real-time data for 400 cities in 52 different countries, and there is practically no limit to what you can find with the data. There will be real-time data on weather, traffic, what's happening in each city, how to get around, connections to all kinds of data extracted from social media that will inform our understanding of a place, and more - all in one site for easy access.  They say it will change the world! 
Check out their little videos of fly-throughs of London and San Francisco at  Here is “From Olympic Park to the Gherkin.”

Monday, May 14, 2012

Map of the Week 5-14-2012:Lost Colony Found on Map!

The Lost Colony of Roanoke Island, a 400-year old mystery, may just have gotten a major clue in the form of the investigation of a patch over an old watercolor map by John White in the collection of the British Museum.  From:  Thanks, Brian Morgan, for sending me the link! 

In the 1587, English settlers came to a coastal island in what is now North Carolina for the purpose of forming a permanent colony in the New World.  This was the first English settlement to include civilians, not just explorers and military.  After a harrowing few months there, the leader of the expedition and the fledgling colony’s governor, John White, went back to England for supplies to ensure the colony’s survival over the coming winter.  When he returned, all traces of the colonists were gone.  For the past 400 years, people have speculated on what fate might have befallen them, including massacre by the nearby American Indian tribes, assimilation into the tribes, disease epidemic, starvation, and so forth. (White's return was delayed three years, until 1590, due to the Spanish Armada incident and Queen Elizabeth's moratorium on non-essential shipping during the duration of hostilities.)

John White's 1587 watercolor map of the North Carolina coastal area, including the Roanoke colony.  The areas within the dotted outlines indicate the two areas of the map having patches afixed later.  Also, notice the various crests on the map, inserted on top of a "virgin" and "empty" landscape to denote English ownership and dominion over the place.

Earlier map of Virginia, by John White, 1585, with Sir Walter Raleigh’s coat of arms displayed prominently, a stamp of English possession imposed on the existing indigenous population.  Map from "New Found Lands: Maps in the History of Exploration,” by Peter Whitfield.
“Historically, one of the most important purposes in the development of maps was for political control. Those who could describe a place graphically and understand its location in relation to other places could put a claim to it and control it: if you were the one who could define boundaries and map an area, it belonged to you. Maps helped the powerful consolidate political power and establish jurisdiction over conquered territories.” From “GIS for the Urban Environment.”
            This new examination of an old map sheds some light on what might have happened to them.  Underneath an inconspicuous patch on the map there was a drawing of a fortification.  Why the patch was put on the map covering the drawing of the fort is unknown.  It was common to put patches on maps when there was new information, as a quick and cheap way of updating the map without having to re-draw it completely.  It was less common to put a patch over a map to obscure or obliterate some piece of information. 
Even on maps today, sensitive areas are “vague-ified,” and we see numerous examples of that with our own national mapping agency (USGS) in relation to military areas, archaeological sites, and certain endangered species conservation areas where it was deemed to be best not to show exact locations to the public.  The patched-over inland fort on the 1587 map may have been a situation like that, whereby the authorities did not want the location to be known.  It is now thought that perhaps the members of the Lost Colony made their way about 50 miles inland and built the fort rather than remain on Roanoke Island. 

Paleis Noordeinde, The Hague, How the Dutch cover up sensitive areas on their Google Maps, from Granta.  More cool examples at

The researchers at the British Museum looked at the map using a number of different techniques: Infrared Reflectograms, Infrared false color, Ultraviolet reflected, Ultraviolet induced luminescence, and Reflected visible light images, Raman spectroscopy, and all kinds of amazing high-tech image enhancing and processing methods to see the history of what had been drawn on the map.  The findings of the map investigation are quite fascinating, and are documented in a British Museum publication at  
Transmitted Visible Light Image of Patch 2 area on the John White Map

Infrared False-Color image (800-1,000 nm) of Patch 2 area.

John White, the cartographer who created the map, had been to the New World once before, as the official map-maker and artist to a 1585 expedition to the same general area.  It was a rather novel concept at the time to have an artist and cartographer on board such a ship of exploration, and White’s paintings remain an important record of what life was like in the pre-colonized New World, especially 16th century Algonquin society.  In later years, artists were commonly employed on journeys of discovery, most famously in Captain James Cook’s voyages across the Pacific (late 18th century, fully two centuries after White’s work).  Engraved plates were made from John White’s drawings and the prints were disseminated throughout Europe under the title “America,” which helped to popularize the “exoticism” of the New World. 
Village of the Secotan in North Carolina. Watercolour painted by John White, 1585, on his first voyage to America.