Dartmouth College Library Bulletin

Maps Old and New


Maps are used almost as many times for pleasure as for some utilitarian purpose. Their pictorial interest appeals to many persons, whatever their backgrounds. The old geography class)fication of G, usually thought of as books of description and travel, contains just the sort of volumes that captivate us because they often contain pagesize maps or, even more visually pleasurable, fold-outs. Not only do maps offer visual pleasure, but we find that the pleasure is often combined with a practical purpose. So we note that discarded topographic sheets are being used to produce envelopes for sale by their creative manufacturer; some others end up as wallpaper adorning dormitory rooms as well as homes.

All maps are not true maps, that is, they do not all depict real places but represent the imaginations of those who produced them. There are books devoted to this type of map. Here are some:

  • Jeremiah Post, An Atlas of Fantasy (Baltimore: Mirage Press,(1973).
  • Raymond H. Ramsay, No Longer on the Map; Discovering Places That Never Were (New York: Viking Press, [1972] ).
  • Ronald V. Tooley, Geographical Oddities; Or, Curious Ingenious, and Imaginary Maps and Miscellaneous Plates Published in Atlases. Map Collectors' Circle, Map Collectors' Series No. I. (London: Map Collectors' Circle, T963).

Maps are not always easy to identify bibliographically and locate, especially the older ones. They are not like books and their identity is not always consistently placed on them. In recent years, however, various publications have appeared that have made the process of identification and locating easier. Twenty-five years ago the American Geographical Society published its Index to Maps in Books and Periodicals and so far has provided three supplements.1 In the past few years other guides have appeared. So, for example, there is Maps Contained in the Publications of the American Bibliography, 1659-1819: An Index and Checklistby Jim Walsh.2 This record opens up much wealth hidden in books and published as map separates through the first 180 years of our country's history; it is based upon the Charles Evans American Bibliography and the volumes of the Shaw/Shoemaker continuation. The texts of the publications listed in Evans and Shaw/Shoemaker are sometimes owned by the Library in original form but they are also available in microform in the Jones Microtext Center.3

Walsh provides several kinds of indexing: by date of publication, place of publication, name, book title, map title, and place. As he notes, this index and checklist "is not intended to be a descriptive and annotated guide to the maps.... [and] scale, map dimensions, notes, unique characteristics, etc., are not included...."4

David C. Jolly's Maps of America in Periodicals Before 1800 does provide this type of map description. There are indexes by the title of periodical indexed, by reference sources cited in the description of the map, by engraver, by personal name, by geographic region, and by title. Jolly provides a lengthy introduction, all helpful to those interested in such scholarly information. His Maps in British Periodicals is also in the collection.5

Jolly's guides are an outgrowth from his annual publication, Antique Maps, Sea Charts, City Views, Celestial Charts & Battle Plans, published since 1983.6 This is a sort of American Book Prices Current for maps. For anyone fascinated by old maps this guide is not only good "armchair" reading but informative.

Even more specialized guides are available. For instance, see David S. Clark's Index to Maps of the American Revolution in Books and Periodicals: Illustrating the Revolutionary War and Other Events ofthe Period 1765--1789.7

1. American Geographical Society of New York. Map Dept., Index to Maps in Books and Periodicals. 10 vols. (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1968). The supplements issued between 1971 and 1987 extend indexing to 1986. The American Geographical Society library, once located in New York, is now at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

2. (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1988).

3. Charles Evans, American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America From the Genesis of Printing in 1639 Down to and Including the Year /820 with Bibliographical and Biographical Notes. 14 vols. (Chicago: Privately Printed for the Author by the Blakely Press, 1903-1959). Evans intended to continue to 1820 but actually ended at 1800. Ralph R. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker compiled the American Biblography, a Preliminary Checklist for 1801-1819(New York: Scarecrow Press, 1958-66)in 22 vols.

4. Walsh, xi.

5. (Brookline, Mass.: David C. Jolly, 1989); (Brookline, Mass.: David C. Jolly, 1990-1991.)

6. (Brookline, Mass.: David C. Jolly, 1983+ ).

7. (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press [1974]).