Maps, Maps Everywhere

Posted inDesign Books
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Jeff Woodbury, (no title), 8.5 x 5.5"

“Mike, here’s where we are in the scheme of things.” This scrawled message, found in From Here to There, accompanies a hand-drawn map that pinpoints Mike’s final destination of 20 Princess Street. What this map also tells us is that we are in Australia, south Australia, Adelaide to be precise. From a sketch of the continent to the cross street this map situates everything for Mike.

Maps typically keep us focused on the passage between two points, the details of the specified route acting as blinders to everything outside the charted course. But, whether a journey is tightly scheduled with no time for diversions or is defined by detours, there is always a whole world just outside the parameters of a starting point and end point.

Princeton Architectural Press has pretty much cornered the market on books that celebrate the act of mapping everything – from time to the imagination. From Here to There is the latest addition to this library, put together by Hand Drawn Map Association founder Kris Harzinski. Some of the featured maps are crudely straightforward, while others merit intensive study, like Jan Rothuizen’s mapped and annotated floor plans for a Beirut hotel room and the Anne Frank House. The hand-drawn quality personalizes every single one of these maps, reminding one and all how a sense of place is incredibly subjective.

Mapping out all aspects of human experience lets these cartographers feel as if they own their experience, or at least contain it on the page so it can be relayed to others with more than just words. Katharine Harmon has done two map-related books for PAP, You Are Here and The Map as Art. Both collections present maps as figurative concepts inspired by the look and purpose of traditional maps. In Cartographies of Time, Daniel Rosenberg and Anthony Grafton reach back to the 15th century to detail the human propensity for making time and history visual. What the incredibly informative text and myriad illustrations drive home is that timelines are maps of existence.

Humans have always needed to assert their presence on the physical and psychic landscape, and this trait is what informs all of the maps in all of these books. It makes sense that PAP continues to release map-centric titles. While they are all related to one another, none of them feel or look the same, which is doubtless a result of human ingenuity and obsession.