Get Lost in Straetview: 17th Century Amsterdam

Looking for a good reason to visit Amsterdam this Spring? The Amsterdam-based maritime museum Het Scheepvaartmuseum just openend a great exhibition on their Atlases. Very high on my to do list, as you can imagine.

If you can’t really book tickets to Amsterdam anytime soon, you’re still lucky: today the museum launched the website Straet View (think Google Street view goes seventeenth century). Great fun to wonder around seventeenth century Amsterdam.

I’ll keep you guys updated about when I’ve visited the exhibition because there will be a lot more map fun in The Atlases (so be careful… that post might still trigger you to visit Amsterdam real soon!).

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Marginalia in cARTography

From next week on, there is an exhibition on show in the Chazen Museum of Art called Marginalia in cARTography.This exhibition (February 28 until May 18) explores the visual discourse between marginal artistic images and the maps where they appear, as this marginalia sheds light on the content and purpose of the maps, their authors and patrons, and on the historical period when they were made. The exhibition also explores cartography as an art form, with a focus on the representations in the map margins. Guest curator is Sandra Sáenz-López Pérez, an Spanish art historian who specializes in the iconographical analysis of maps and the artistic interest of historical cartography.

If you don’t happen to be around the corner of Wisconsin (like me), you might like the fact that the catalogue is downloadable here.

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Map: Blaeu, Willem Janszoon, Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica ac Hydrographica Tabula, Map, Amsterdam, 1635, 41 x 54 cm., Courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Maps of Amsterdam

You know I live in Amsterdam. A great city to live in, also because of the charming canals that give the city its beauty and historical feel. In the Stadsarchief Amsterdam, an exhibtion called Booming Amsterdam just opened. The expo is about the building of the canals in the Golden Age. In 1613, Amsterdam was growing quickly and expansion was needed to house all people living in and coming to Amsterdam.The city council decided to build city canals. Booming Amsterdam gives you a great overview of 400 years of urban development. You will find maps, architectural plans and cityscapes to tell the city’s story. And it is quite the story!

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And of big importance to me: two books were also recently published: Kaarten van Amsterdam (Maps of Amsterdam), Part 1: Amsterdam from 1538-1865, Part 2: Amsterdam from 1866-2012.

Part 2 is an updated and extended version of a book published in 2002, Part 1 is completely new. I had the honour to speak with the author – Marc Hameleers- a few weeks ago and he told me the project has been a part of his life for the last 20 years. The base for these two books is a catalogue written by D’Ailly in 1934. Marc Hameleers: “A.E. d’Ailly was working at the Stadsarchief of Amsterdam (the municipal archives) and he wrote a very thorough, detailed catalogue of the maps of Amsterdam. Unfortunately not very exciting to read, but the content is impressive. Don’t forget: D’Ailly didn’t have the resources we have nowadays to research the existence and availability of maps. His research is really impressive.”

Obviously, there are some big differences between the catalogue from 1934 and these new books: D’Ailly included the maps in a chronological order of its content. This means a map from the 19th century would be found in the beginning of the overview because it presented Amsterdam in the 17th century). Hameleers decided to follow the chronology of the map itself, making the overview also useful to study the cartographical developments and focus. Another big difference: Hameleers included all different versions, fascimiles etc of one map in one catalogue number. This makes the overview the books offer much more useful and practical. The Stadsarchief Amsterdam has a huge collection of maps of Amsterdam, but research was also done in other collections worldwide to get closest to a complete overview as possible.
The result of these years of work by Hameleers? Two beautifully designed books (by Ronald Boiten and Irene Mesu) with almost 1100 images. The books are intriguing because of their massive amount of great content, super printing quality (the maps look great) and the information they provide about the development of my lovely city. A must have if you ask me!

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Information about the exhibition Booming Amsterdam:
15 February – 26 of May 2013
Admission adults: 6 euros
Adress: Stadsarchief Amsterdam, Vijzelstraat 32 Amsterdam
www.boomingamsterdam2013.nl

Information about the books:
Publisher: Thoth
ISBN: 978 90 6868 620 3 (part 1) and 978 90 6868 621 0 (part 2)
Price € 69,50 (per book)

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On the Map

To me On the Map by Simon Garfield is a great addition to the world of map books. ‘Why the world looks the way it does’ suggests this book will entertain the reader. And it does.

The book wanders through history in a relaxed way, and Garfield really takes the reader along on the discovery journey he takes. You can almost hear him speak out loud about every map. Whether it is about the Vinland map -and the discussion about it in the cartography field- or about Google Maps, Garfield gives you the feeling that each map story is a very special one. Of course I was happy to see a chapter included on stereotype mapping in the nineteenth century (my own thesis subject).

The part about women’s inability to read maps was also fun to read. Usually I get in defense mode the minute someone starts that discussion, but that proved not to be needed with Garfield. He does have a point though when he says women usually rely on landmarks to find their way, and men are slightly better in using spatial clues to find their way. Fair enough.

This book is a perfect gift for anyone intrigued by maps. I can’t say I read a lot of map topics that were new for me, but I like the broad variety of maps that are included. The fact Garfield even included the recent Apple Maps developments makes this book very up to date. That completeness of the book (plus the over 60 illustrations in it) makes it your perfect partner for a cold winter day on the couch.

On the Map by Simon Garfield

‘A pub quizzer’s dream . . . Rather than over-romanticise the experience of map-reading, Garfield allows his varied, expertly researched stories to speak for themselves, and in so doing helps us see that there are fewer things in life more useful, rewarding and beautiful than a map that does what it’s supposed to. Perhaps if Apple had read the book a few months ago, today’s iPhone users would have a much better idea of where they’re going.’, David Clack, Daily Telegraph

On the Map
Simon Garfield
Profile Books
ISBN 978-1846685095

(In Dutch: Op de kaart will be published in June by Podium, ISBN: 978-9057595714)

Atlas de Wit

Have you seen the beautiful recent Atlas De Wit publication yet? This book should definitely be on the wishlist of map lovers. The Atlas De Wit is a historical atlas with 158 city plans and bird’s eye views of towns in the Northern and Southern Netherlands in the seventeenth century, by cartographer Frederick de Wit. The fascimile offers you the opportunity to wander through Dutch (and Belgian) cities: take a step back on these gorgeous handcoloured maps and get lost in the 17th century. The atlas was presented with the tagline ‘Discover the Google Earth of the Golden Age’, a smart move.

Atlas de Wit
M. van Delft & Peter Van Der Krogt
€ 119 (introduction: € 99 until 31/12/12)
ISBN 978 94 014 0189 0
Issued in three languages: Dutch, French, English

About the Atlas (in Dutch):

Beautiful Sea Charts Exhibition

This is a true beauty and a great excuse to go back to Paris real soon. In the Bibliothèque nationale de France you can find this exhibition (until January 27th 2013): L’Âge d’or des cartes marines – Quand l’Europe découvrait le monde (The Golden Age of Sea Charts).

Not alone are the maps in the exhibition beautiful and gives the expo a great overview of the discovery of the world and this category of maps, the library did a great job on presenting the subject. The website looks stunning. There should be a free iPhone and iPad app for the exhibition any day now, the catalogue looks very promising and the design of the exhibition (by Véronique Dollfus et Jeanne Bovier-Lapierre) should give you the immediate feeling you step into a portolan chart. Plus: 350 maps are made available on Gallica (the digital ‘jewel box’ of the library). This expo is a must go if you ask me. And let me know if you’ve visited the BnF!

Happy Birthday Mercator

Today is the 500th birthday of cartography hotshot Gerardus Mercator who the Dutch love to claim as a ‘sort of Dutch’ cartographer. He was born in the Low Countries in 1512, but his birth town is in Belgium. So credits for the Mercator projection will have to go to our neighbours: la Belgique, 12 points! To celebrate his birthday various activities will take place throughout the year. The Mercator2012 project will keep you updated about the diversity of projects during 2012.

So, drink one on Mercator tonight, because he is a figure of big importance for map making. Happy mapping Gerardus!

The Beauty of Maps

I love the BBC for the documentaries they make, and loved them even more last year when they decided to dedicate a series to the subject The Beauty of Maps. No suprise there, I was überexcited! There are four episodes, all dealing with another type of maps in a different period of time. The documentary is shot beautifully, with an absolute lead role for the incredible map collection of the British Library in London, great music and various map people in it. Because one of the episodes is on Cartoon Maps – the topic of my History MA thesis – I got involved as well. Great fun to be providing information and I couldn’t have been more proud: they asked me to be ‘on the show’ as well. So there was my television debute, on BBC Four, in the Beauty of Maps. Great fun! Episode 4 covers Cartoon Mapping of Europe in the 19th century: the century of upcoming nationalism and increasing tension in Europe. The maps by creator Frederick W. Rose are phenomenal in their design, colour use and witty comments. I’ll dedicate another blog entry to his maps, for now I just want to share the great website of the BBC Four series with you, where different maps can be explored and information is provided (there is also a special school programme for teachers)!

And oh yes dear, you can check all episodes on YouTube: