Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Earth as Art

I love walking through the travel aisle and finding a customer standing transfixed in front of our map browser, gazing at the brilliant colors of our Tyvek map, contemplating the World Upside Down, or pointing out a memory of a place on a map to a friend. Maps draw people in, ask for interaction, reflection, or simply admiration. While I walk by our browser fifty times a day, I gained a new appreciation for the art of cartography this past week at two different venues: the Boston Antiquarian Book Festival and the new map room at the Boston Public Library.
Walking through the rows upon rows of ancient and beautiful books, prints, and maps at the Antiquarian Book Festival at Hynes Convention Center, it was my turn to gawk. I squeezed between two tweed suits, through a cloud of must, and stood staring at the familiar shape of my home state. A German 1955 map of Iowa hung before me, surrounded by maps that showed our states divided into territories–a visual history lesson. I passed one map so old it depicted California as an island. I’d seen a similar map at the Boston Public the week before when I finally made it to the new Map Room there.
If you haven’t visited the Norman B. Leventhal Map Room, check it out on your next trip to the BPL. When I went, it was election week, and the walls were covered in red and blue U.S. maps, with plaques explaining the electoral college. I read the plaques; it still confuses me, but this was no fault of the exhibition. The current exhibit focuses on Boston’s public spaces. As you enter the map room there is a gorgeous mural of downtown Boston, overlooking the State House and Common. Inside, you can learn about the development of your favorite greens around town.
If you or someone you know is also an appreciator of the map as art, come check out the amazing travel-oriented gift books we have on display at Booksmith. From the Granger Collection we have a gorgeous book of Historic Maps and Views of Boston. After perusing these historic views of your favorite city, check out Mark Ovenden’s new Railway Maps of the Worldwhich I happen to have on my coffee table at home. From Kim Je-hwan’s dizzying design of the Tokyo Metropolitan Railway System to a map of the United States covered with an intricate system hairline cracks that was the world’s largest railroad network at its peak in 1918, this book will stun, absorb, and amaze your guests.
And finally, when you’ve completely saturated yourself with these visual masterpieces, pick up Robert D. Kaplan’s Revenge of GeographyKaplan examines the history of the world through the lens of the map, exploring how climate changes, topography, and proximity all contributed to major events in the shaping of world history. All of these books make great holiday gifts, especially when paired with that tube-shaped package that can only be the wall map on their list. For more about the maps we carry, visit us at www.globecorner.com.

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