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Mapmaker, Mapmaker, Make Me a Map

Maps are a visual record of human endeavor, each with a tale to tell. In their various forms, maps are models of time, diaries of political maneuverings and works of art that provide a unique vision of how the world evolved.

"Cartographia: Mapping Civilizations," by Vincent Virga. 2007 "Universalis cosmographia secunda Ptholemei traditionem et Americi Vespucci aliorum que lustrations" by Martin Waldseemüller. 1507

Drawn from the world’s largest cartographic collection, housed in the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress, "Cartographia: Mapping Civilizations," by Vincent Virga, has been published by the Library in association with Little, Brown and Company.
Comprising more than 250 maps, "Cartographia" celebrates the work of those who have charted the world from the dawn of civilization to the present. Among the rare gems included in the book are the 1507 Waldseemüller world map, the first to include the designation "America"; Orelius’s "Theatrum Orbis Terrarum" of 1570, considered to be the first modern atlas; rare maps from Africa, Asia and Oceania that challenge traditional Western perspectives; William Faulkner’s hand-drawn 1936 map of the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Miss.; and a map of the human genome.

Virga and co-author Ron Grim discussed "Cartographia" as part of the Library’s Books & Beyond author series. The lecture can now be seen as a webcast on the Library’s webcast page. Also featured are webcasts on the Waldseemüller world map, including the official transfer of the map from Germany to the Library and a lecture in which John Hessler, a cartographic technician in the Library’s Geography and Map Division, discusses computer modeling to understand the map.

The Library’s Geography and Map Division has custody of the largest and most comprehensive cartographic collection in the world, with collections numbering over 5 million maps, 72,000 atlases, 6,000 reference works, more than 500 globes and globe gores (designed to be cut out and pasted onto a sphere) and numerous plastic-relief models, and a large number of cartographic materials in other formats, including electronic.

The Library’s exhibition, “Maps in Our Lives,” recognizes the 30-year partnership between the Geography and Map Division and the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM), the nation's primary professional organization dedicated to surveying and mapping activities. It explores four constituent professions represented by the ACSM—surveying, cartography, geodesy, and geographic information systems (GIS)—and draws on both the Library's historic map collections and the ACSM collection in the Library of Congress.

A. “Cartographia: Mapping Civilizations,” by Vincent Virga. 2007. Little, Brown in association with the Library of Congress. Reproduction Information: Not available for reproduction.

B. “Universalis cosmographia secunda Ptholemei traditionem et Americi Vespucci aliorum que lustrations” by Martin Waldseemüller. 1507. Geography and Map Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction information not available.