In 1994 I established a web site, generously hosted by Mr. Henry Davis for 12 years, called Cartographic Images (http://www.henry-davis.com/MAPS/). The site contained over a thousand old maps and associated monographs about each one. However, I did not have the ability to update/correct/modify this site. Eventually the cost of hosting a website became viable and I re-established the site in 2010 at www.cartographic-images.net, where I could continually try to improve its content. In 2015 I created a new website using a different format, but essentially the same content that is even easier to maintain, update, etc. This newest website is www.myoldmaps.com. Over the past 40 years I have accummulated notes about each of my favorite cartographic works. The selection of particular cartographic works was purely a personal one, based more upon the map’s aesthetic appeal than any other criteria; although the more one knows of their history, the more certain maps take added interest and aesthetic appeal due to their particular, or relative, significance.
Each monograph is arranged somewhat chronologically according to the date of either the “author”, and/or, especially in the case of unknown authorship, the actual or estimated date of the work itself as determined by various recognized scholars in the field of cartographic history. However, particularly in the case of Maps from Antiquity, many of the maps discussed/described herein were actually produced in the modern period because the original contemporary map has not survived and the modern map is an attempt at interpreting the geographical concepts of the likes of Homer, Herodotus, Strabo, Eratosthenes, Ptolemy, etc. The numbering system that is employed corresponds to the set of 35mm photographic slide transparencies that originally accompanied each volume; these slides have now been transferred to digital files and an electronic database. In addition, all of these monographs are available in a hard copy and paperback books.
The original motivation for these monographs came out of my frustration when, after reading about a significant and/or curious cartographic work, I could not find an accompanying illustration of the map in question. Conversely, I often would find fascinatingly curious maps that contained, at best, only an accompanying caption, but little or no written background on its history, relative significance, and/or explanation of the legends, curious cartouches, figures, imaginary geography, etc. (It is an enigma to me how any author/publisher could tease their readers with such omissions.) Therefore, what started out as an attempt to establish an annotated set of slides on curious old maps, has grown to its present form. I merely wanted to bring together, in one place, all of the scattered bits of information relating to each map that I have found through canvassing various American libraries and from my travels from Great Britain to Japan.
In order to obtain additional information, or find an illustration of a particular map, meant researching and gathering bits and pieces from many different sources - from general works or articles on cartography, travel and exploration, geography, history, etc. Of course, this continued research merely led me to find even more interesting cartographic specimens for study. During this time (the 1970’s) there were very few books and periodicals dealing with cartography compared with today. From the 1990’s on there was an explosion of lavishly illustrated and specialized reference books on cartography, such as Shirley’s The Mapping of the World..., Harley and Woodward’s series on The History of Cartography, Goss’ The Mapmaker's Art, Nebenzahl’s Maps of the Holy Land, Edson’s Mapping Time and Space and Harvey’s Medieval Maps, just to name a few. My meager income also made collecting maps and even acquiring, or even accessing, the out-of-print reference books such as Bagrow’s History of Cartography, Bunbury’s History of Ancient Geography..., Stevenson’s Terrestrial and Celestial Globes, Beazley’s The Dawn of Modern Geography... or Miller’s Mappamundi; Die äeltesten Weltkarten nearly impossible.
What to do? I decided that the only pragmatic way to pursue my growing passion to “collect” and study these intriguing and beautiful expressions of man’s curiosity, science, history and knowledge was through photography. This is when I began to compile a collection of 35mm slides (transparencies) of maps and globes that I found particularly fascinating, together with documenting as much information that I could find about each one. I found that this approach allowed me to satisfy the collector in me, as well as a means by which to study and appreciate maps and globes in greater detail. The maps that most fascinated me were from the period before the invention of printing and “scientific discovery”. Unfortunately, this meant that, even as my financial means appreciated, actually collecting such one-of-a-kind artifacts was even more difficult since most of these were in the possession of major world libraries and museums. This European pre-Renaissance period, as well as Middle East and oriental cartography have attracted very little scholarly or public attention, which reduced the likelihood that even facsimile copies would be available. It should also be noted that most libraries and museums will not allow just anyone without “proper credentials” to even view their collections, let alone photograph them. The relevant books which were out-of-print that could be found in libraries were often classified as non-circulating reference material. What to do? I was not a college professor or recognized scholar, published author, map dealer or any one with “connections”. I was just someone who loved maps and wanted to know more about them. Because of the unscrupulous thieves that have visited libraries, even “sweet talking” a librarian does not work like it used to. Since my visits to many high profile libraries were often a target of opportunity associated with a business trip, advanced introductions for entrè were not always possible. Using the inter-library loan system became one solution, since I had only to establish a trusting rapport with just one local librarian.
In spite of all of these obstacles, however, I was able, over the past forty years, to accumulate over a thousand 35mm slides of maps, globes and related material of particular interest to my research. The source for these images included personally photographing maps/globes on exhibit and in books, catalogues and periodicals, direct purchase of slides from the libraries/museums from my travels to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Washington D.C., Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, Prague, Münich, Venice, Florence, Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo, and now on the internet. Whenever I happened to be on a business trip, I tried to carve out some time for the “hunt”. Along the way I did engage in traditional map collecting (who could resist the temptation) and soon found that one quickly runs out of wall space, closet space, garage space and a wife’s patience. So it was back to the photography and the ability to satiate my collector impulse to my heart’s desire. The photographs that I take normally contain one shot of the entire map; and, through the use of close-up lenses, I take detail blow-ups of particularly interesting or significant portions of specific maps or globes. Therefore, in this way I have been able to acquire copies of many of my favorite maps and globes most of which are not “collectable” in the normal sense, even as facsimiles. They are now finally all easily accessible in one place for further study, instead of residing in countless libraries, museums, books, periodicals, etc.
With the advent of computer technology, I transferred my 35mm slide collection to digital format so that they can now be examined in much more detail on a computer, and interactively correlated with amplifying background and reference data. I developed a relational database that contains a “record” for each map, with cross references to a detailed description, associated cartographers, reference material, and the location(s) of the actual map or globe. This database facilitates my future research activity by providing easy access to a single reference source. I also established an internet web site, Cartographic Images, in 1994 that has received many inquires for additional information (http://www.henry-davis.com/MAPS/). It is, by virtue of, again, finances, that only a portion of my database could be made available on-line until 2010 when I could establish and maintain a website that I could personally control (www.cartographic-images.net).
My goal is to continue my efforts to explore additional cartographic treasures and to create an extensive collection of illustrations dealing with ancient, medieval, oriental and early Renaissance cartography, along with ample supporting documentation and references; all in the form of an electronic database. These efforts may benefit some future young scholar and possibly leave behind a hopefully useful research tool.
Technically, these maps were photographed with, first, a Minolta 35mm single reflex film camera, and later with a digital camera; scanned electronically or found on various internet web sites. Each map is then imported (copied) into the database software called FileMaker Pro™ that is a cross-platform (Windows/Macintosh) compatible (currently with 251 images and associated monographs). Each map/globe illustration has a corresponding monograph written about it that may run from one to forty or more pages and that provides a detailed description and related background information that, as a minimum, includes: the title, author/cartographer, size, date, location(s), references, the source for the illustration, the projection/shape, the orientation, the type (e.g., woodcut, stone/copper engraved, MS, reproduction, facsimile, reconstruction, etc.), the style (e.g., T-O, Beatus, Macrobius, Ptolemaic, etc.) and as much descriptive material as I can extract from the map itself and/or from previous researchers.
All in all, as a result of my passion for maps I have also learned a considerable amount about photography, computer hardware and software, desktop publishing and database design. And, of course, along the way I have learned a great deal more about my favorite cartographic works.
The act of gathering, synthesizing, and formatting this information into these monographs is in no way meant to imply any real authorship on my part. This was purely a personal endeavor at compiling and editing the type of information on the particular selection of maps in which I was interested, from the sources that were accessible. The list of literary sources used in constructing these monographs are specifically identified at the end of each monograph.