The History of Cartography, the “Most Ambitious Overview of Map Making Ever,” Is Free Online

FYI: The Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press has made avail­able online — at no cost –five vol­umes of The His­to­ry of Car­tog­ra­phy. Or what Edward Roth­stein, of The New York Times, called “the most ambi­tious overview of map mak­ing ever under­tak­en.” He con­tin­ues:

Peo­ple come to know the world the way they come to map it—through their per­cep­tions of how its ele­ments are con­nect­ed and of how they should move among them. This is pre­cise­ly what the series is attempt­ing by sit­u­at­ing the map at the heart of cul­tur­al life and reveal­ing its rela­tion­ship to soci­ety, sci­ence, and reli­gion…. It is try­ing to define a new set of rela­tion­ships between maps and the phys­i­cal world that involve more than geo­met­ric cor­re­spon­dence. It is in essence a new map of human attempts to chart the world.

If you head over to this page, you will see links (in the left mar­gin) to five vol­umes avail­able in a free PDF for­mat. The image above, appear­ing in Vol. 2, dates back to 1534. Cre­at­ed by Oronce Fine, the first chair of math­e­mat­ics in the Col­lège Roy­al (aka the Col­lège de France), the map fea­tures the world drawn in the shape of a heart. A pret­ty beau­ti­ful design. Below you can find links to the indi­vid­ual vol­umes avail­able online.

Vol­ume 1

The His­to­ry of Car­tog­ra­phy: Car­tog­ra­phy in Pre­his­toric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediter­ranean

Vol­ume 2: Book 1

Car­tog­ra­phy in the Tra­di­tion­al Islam­ic and South Asian Soci­eties

Vol­ume 2: Book 2

Car­tog­ra­phy in the Tra­di­tion­al East and South­east Asian Soci­eties

Vol­ume 2: Part 3

Car­tog­ra­phy in the Tra­di­tion­al African, Amer­i­can, Arc­tic, Aus­tralian, and Pacif­ic Soci­eties

Vol­ume 3: 

Car­tog­ra­phy in the Euro­pean Renais­sance: Part 1

Car­tog­ra­phy in the Euro­pean Renais­sance, Part 2 

Vol­ume 4:

Car­tog­ra­phy in the Euro­pean Enlight­en­ment

Vol­ume 5:

Car­tog­ra­phy in the Nine­teenth Cen­tu­ry, Forth­com­ing

Vol­ume 6:

Car­tog­ra­phy in the Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry

If you buy any of the print­ed ver­sions on Ama­zon, each edi­tion will cost you $400-$500. As beau­ti­ful as the book prob­a­bly is, you’ll like­ly appre­ci­ate this free dig­i­tal offer­ing.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon. If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load 91,000 His­toric Maps from the Mas­sive David Rum­sey Map Col­lec­tion

40,000 Ear­ly Mod­ern Maps Are Now Freely Avail­able Online (Cour­tesy of the British Library)

Behold an Incred­i­bly Detailed, Hand­made Map Of Medieval Trade Routes

Ancient Maps that Changed the World: See World Maps from Ancient Greece, Baby­lon, Rome, and the Islam­ic World

The World Map That Intro­duced Sci­en­tif­ic Map­mak­ing to the Medieval Islam­ic World (1154 AD)


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