Brain Pickings

The Beauty of Maps: Seeing Art in Cartography

by

What 13th-century astronomy has to do with the shape of the internet and the British Library.

We love maps. And we love data visualization, of which maps are among the earliest and most ubiquitous examples. As location continues to tickle the tips of trend analysts’ tongues and location-based applications take over the mobile landscape, it’s interesting — if not necessary — to understand the historical context of our relationship with location and geography.

That’s exactly what a new BBC series titled The Beauty of Maps: Seeing Art in Cartography explores.

The site features five of the world’s most beautiful historical maps, five of the most ambitious and fascinating digital ones available today, and video highlights that explore the stories and cultural contexts behind these maps. (While the video content may be restricted to people in the UK, we recently uncovered a nifty way to access blocked content on the web — and it includes a step-by-step guide to cracking the BBC iPlayer specifically.)

From Psalter’s cartography circa 1260 to a map of today’s global data exchange to a colorful NASA map of the dark side of the moon, the site is a treasure trove of cartographic fascination.

The effort is part The Map as Art, part Strange Maps, part essential education for the age of location.

To further indulge your cartographic cravings, we recommend these excellent resources for historical cartography and vintage maps:

Know a great source of cartographic inspiration? Do share below.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

Share on Tumblr