Bookmarked First You Make the Maps | Elizabeth Della Zazzera (Lapham’s Quarterly)

From the fifteenth to the eighteenth century, European powers sent voyagers to lands farther and farther away from the continent in an expansionist period we now call the Age of Exploration. These journeys were propelled by religious fervor and fierce colonial sentiment—and an overall desire for new trade routes. They would not have been possible without the rise of modern cartography. While geographically accurate maps had existed before, the Age of Exploration saw the emergence of a sustained tradition of topographic surveying. Maps were being made specifically to guide travelers. Technology progressed quickly through the centuries, helping explorers and traders find their way to new imperial outposts—at least sometimes. On other occasions, hiccups in cartographic reasoning led their users even farther astray.

Elizabeth Della Zazzera documents the developments in mapping that made long sea voyages possible. It is easy to pick up a modern map and assume that this is the way it always was, even worse to open up Google Maps in the browser. Della Zazzera breaks down the various developments, providing examples to support her discussions. Although not necessarily about oceans, I am reminded of Simon Ryan’s book The Cartographic Eye and the way in which maps actual tell their own particular story.