The Mapmaker’s Dilemma

Maps are historical novels. They embody the discoveries of countless generations of seafarers. They are the children of the great explorers. The mapmaker is powerless alone. He is completely dependent on others to bring him the means to practice his art: an original view; the most current calculation; the newest idea; or the latest scientific breakthrough. The more stories collected, the more accurate and detailed the picture that emerges. Each new piece of information added to the whole reveals an ever-changing, ever-evolving, living history of Man’s journey on planet Earth.

There’s a wonderful book called A Mapmaker’s Dream: The Meditations of Fra Mauro, Cartographer to the Court of Venice: A Novel” about a cloistered monk at the dawn of the Renaissance who meets with visitors from around the world returning from extraordinary journeys and adventures in an attempt to glean the latest tidbit to add to his maps. Venice was a great world power at that time and considered by its cosmopolitan residents to be the center of the world. Its rulers controlled commerce and trade throughout the Mediterranean and beyond with vast fleets of merchant ships and war ships.

As modern mapmakers, we surely face many of the same challenges that all publishers of decorative objects have had to navigate through the centuries. Just as a shopkeeper on the Piazza San Marco most likely did in the thirteenth century, we continually ask ourselves: How do you convince someone, especially in today’s hectic, digital world, to buy a paper map?

The obvious patrons of maps come to mind: the government; the schools; the military. And, in fact, many of the maps we know today were commissioned by those agencies. Monarchs and their wealthy creditors have throughout time sought to control the maps and the mapmakers because maps make money for those who hold the levers of power. Whoever has the more accurate map has a better chance of winning in war or commerce. As it has always been.

We at 1-World Globes & Maps are not thinking too much about war. We try to concentrate on the changes affecting the industry, the technical advances in paper and ink products, and promoting the beauty and value of paper maps to the general public.

We have a quaint notion that our Academia MapsĀ® classroom map series should be in every school and that our collection of map murals is the best out there. But, like our medieval counterparts, we’re still scheduling meetings with today’s explorers, just back from their adventures with stories to tell, to try to get the latest bit of news about that coastline, that city, or that border. Stay tuned.

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