As I read the new Simon Garfield book, “On the Map,” an old obsession with maps comes back to life. At home, I have a 4′ x 3′ map of the county where I was born. It was in my grandfather’s office then his home all through my childhood. I also have a small collection of old gazetteers that contain maps I would love to clip and frame, although doing this would prove my wife correct that I am a little unhinged.
Garfield weaves plenty of humor as many collectors and map makers frequently dance with madness, and in the era of the internet and GPS, maps are changing rapidly and can be used to illustrate more than geography. Population maps, a world map that Facebook captured of traffic to their site (with a dark area over China), and Bestiaries documented creatures (often mythological) that were believed to inhabit an area.
“On the Map” does what a good book does. It draws from the history, evolution, and diversity of its subject and pulls the reader in enough to taste the obsession on which collectors thrive. Nicholas Basbanes’, “A Splendor of Letters,” is what ignited my fascination with books and librarianship while working in the library from which I borrowed that book. Oddly enough, both of these books dedicate several pages to the ancient library of Alexandria, a library that the Library of Congress was likely modeled after.
As this book is in our new non-fiction collection awaiting eager readers to come in to the library, a great resource is online to provide us with political, geographic, historical, and cultural data called the CIA World Fact Book: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/
This website will appeal to map lovers, and is a great resource for students. When doing a report on a nation and you need the GDP, population, area, or even the lifestyle and political leanings of the citizens, this primary source is excellent. It has plenty of maps!
As many instructors frown upon internet resources, this should be one of the exceptions. Learning to use a library is an important skill to learn, and we strongly encourage research to begin here because our books are carefully selected, but there are a few web sites out there that I will share that are a-okay!