A weblog for members of the Canadian Cartographic Association and other individuals interested in all things cartographic

Eduard Imhof Snippets

Eduard Imhof, a Swiss cartographer of the 20th century, was well known for his skills in mountain cartography. Though some of his books appear to be out of print, much of his work is still available on the Internet. The Alpine Mapping Guild, one of Imhof’s successors in the field of mountain cartography, has posted a number of chapters and images of his work online, including 6 chapters of his book Cartographic Relief Presentation, last printed in 1982, an article on text placement that originally appeared in The American Cartographer in 1975, and some images of his work. Another collection of his work, both as a cartographer and an artist, is available at his virtual library.


OS Business

The Independent has a short news story on the Royal Geographical Society’s annual conference, focusing on the technological changes occuring in the mapping industry. Interestingly, according to the article, only 9% of the Ordnance Survey’s business stems from the sale of paper maps - of which 5.1 million were printed last year.


Artistic Flair in ESRI Maps

ESRI’s products are primarily known as GIS tools and for cartographers it has, at times throughout its development, required some real effort to produce high quality cartographic products similar to what was produced before the advent of GIS. ESRI and other software vendors of GIS have made it relatively easy for anyone to produce maps. Even trained cartographers have the choice of producing an adequate map in GIS or spending much more effort on it to produce something of high quality. When faced with tight timelines and budgets, the latter often falls by the wayside.

This is not to say that to produce an artistic or high quality map product is impossible in ESRI’s software (or in any other GIS for that matter). It only takes a little more time and a little knowledge. SecretPlans.org, a relatively new blog that mixes some personal items (puppies, children) with professional map making issues, has posted 3 ArcGIS tips for getting a map to look like an older, early 20th century product. The ideas are relatively simple and worth keeping in mind (but would still need a little playing around with to be truly effective).

By way of cartotalk


How Accurate are Online Street Maps?

A quiz (and it would be helpful to know the area on this one): which of the following street maps, generated from one of the many online mapping services, is accurate? (Focus on the intersection of streets near the centre of each map.) Google Maps perhaps?Or Yahoo! Maps which looks very similar in content and appearance?
Or MSN Maps / Live Local, also similar in appearance and content?
Or perhaps Map24 which exhibits a different style and geometry?
. . . which is also similar to Rand McNally’s geometry . . .
. . . and online map provider leader MapQuest:
Two different sets of geometry. So who’s right? The answer is NOT Navteq, even though it seems to have supplied both geometries (how can that be?). What about Navteq’s biggest competitor, TeleAtlas (by the way, who uses TeleAtlas in the online street mapping world?)?
Something completely different again. The correct alignment and geometry of roads can be seen on this map, provided by the City of Peterborough on its online mapping site (MapGuide plug-in required, only works in IE; ignore the white patch on the right side):
And, interestingly enough, also in the National Road Network data layer provided by the federal government, free of charge:
(which is not to say the NRN is any better than Navteq or TeleAtlas (it seems to fall down in the more rural areas of the country). Perhaps this little piece of geometry is not a big thing - but it does affect driving directions - Google Maps gets it right according to its own geometry but wrong according to reality. Rand McNally gets it right according to reality but wrong according to its own geometry (but wrong when reverse directions are considered).

All of this suggests that local knowledge can’t be beat which is why, perhaps, TeleAtlas has initiated an online map feedback tool to elicit such knowledge from its users. How will they determine what information they receive is correct and what is chaff sown by nasty competitors? It will be interesting to watch what happens - and if Navteq picks ups on a similar approach.

As an aside - none of this takes into consideration that, when zoomed in enough, many of the streets which should be straight seem to angle from intersection to intersection. Is it a case of someone setting the snapping tolerances too high?


Freeing the Maps

Jared Benedict has started an initiative to make U.S. DRGs (digital raster graphics) freely available on the Internet. These 1:24,000 topographic maps are already public domain but must be purchased through a vendor. Finding this situation to be ridiculous Jared began a campaign to raise money to purchase and make them all freely available through the Internet Archive. I’m not sure how long the campaign was going on but by yesterday evening he had reached his goal of $1,600 and is now placing the uploading the images to their final resting place (no indication yet where that will be). An impressive effort to make data more freely available.

What other data awaits release?


Tropical Storm Maps

This year has been relatively quiet on the tropical storm front in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico areas. This has not been the case in other areas of the world. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (site currently down) has produced a few maps of tropical storms in the Pacific and Indian Ocean areas, one showing trackis of major storms in the past 5o years, the other showing the geographic probability of storms of specific intensities. Both are available in pdf format.

By way of ResourceShelf


CBS on Maps

Map the Universe points to a CBS news clip on the World of Maps, focusing on the New York Public Library’s Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division and the world of map collecting. The video is about 7 minutes long and worth a view.


A 15 year old high school student from Piedmont, California took on the task of producing a map of his town as part of his school work. The map seems to be moderately successfully, selling at $4 a piece. What is interesting are some of the comments made in the ContraCostaTimes news story. “Making maps was not the teen’s first choice for a new internship, but ‘it didn't sound too horrible,’ he said.”

The sotry goes on to say “To begin, Jensen said a basic map of Piedmont was downloaded off a generic map site. From there, the map must be independently verified as to its accuracy. Then work begins on adding parks and other community sites that would be included. To trip up copyright violators, oftentimes cartographers include a ‘bunny’ on the map, a fictitious feature planted somewhere on the map. There are no ‘bunnies’ in the Piedmont map, but there is a symbol hidden in it, the pair said.”

Any “generic map site” would, I’m sure, be a little unhappy about their maps being used as a base for a commercial product. Furthermore, unless the base is truly copyright free, it is a little ironic that Jensen would be including “bunnies” (I’ve never heard them called that) to trip up people who might want to copy the map.


Bryce 5 Available for Free

Bryce, a software package that allows you to create 3-D landscapes and animations, is making version 5.0 of its popular software available for free download until September 6th. The latest version of Bryce is 5.5; apparently 6.0 is due out shortly so you won’t be getting the latest and greatest. Still, if you’ve ever wanted to try it out, now’s your chance. Bryce 5 runs on both PCs and Mac (but not Mac OS X Tiger).

By way of Cartotalk


International Conference on the History of Cartography

22nd International Conference on the History of Cartography
Berne, Switzerland
8-13 July 2007

The Conference is the major international scholarly conference dedicated to advancing knowledge of the history of cartography, of maps and mapmaking, broadly defined. The conference promotes global cooperation and collaboration among scholars (from any academic discipline), curators, collectors, dealers and institutions through illustrated talks, poster presentations, exhibitions, and a social programme. Educational and cultural institutions have supported each conference.

The first aim of the conference is to foster discussion on the history of cartography in general, not necessarily the history of single maps. The presentations should be focused on the history of cartography and only deal with historical geography or the history of discoveries on the margins.

Contributions on a topic from specialists in disciplines such as geodesy, tourism studies, linguistics, history of science, art history, etc., are very welcome.

The conference venue will be the Conference Centre of the recently renovated UniS-Building of the University in Berne, which is well equipped with modern presentation facilities. The dates are 8-13 July 2007 and the conference themes will be:
  • Mapping Relief
  • Maps and Tourism
  • Language and Maps
  • Time as the Cartographic Fourth Dimension
  • Any other aspect of the history of cartography
Christoph Graber (Conference Secretary)
c/o swisstopo
Postfach CH-3084 Wabern
Fax: ++41 31 963 24 59
Email: ok@ichc2007.ch

Deadlines for proposals is October 1, 2007.

Visit the website at http://www.ichc2007.ch


Recently I was sent a link to a site that sold canned maps - Illustrator files of maps of states ($3.95 US for an outline of Illinios, for instance). This puts a blogger in an awkward position: posting a notice about such a site is like a free advertisement. I am reluctant to do so unless the site is of obvious interest or benefit to the readership (namely, cartographers and other interested cartophiles). Posting review of books could be considered free advertisement as well, I suppose. So the line is a bit fuzzy and things are not all that black and white.

With that in mind, the following could be considered a free advertisement. Maps.com is also a commercial site that sells royalty free maps but this one might be of benefit to cartographers. As well as regularly offering work to freelance cartographers (mostly in the cleaning up GIS output in Illustrator department) they also allow cartographers to post and sell their work. Cartographers who do so receive 30% of the gross sales amount but there is no indication as to how the price for a map is determined. I can’t comment on how Maps.com is like to work for; if anyone has done so, leave a comment and let me know.

Thanks Jeff.


Review: Terra Nostra

Terra Nostra 1550 – 1950: The Stories Behind Canada’s Maps
Jeffrey S. Murray
McGill – Queen’s University Press / Septentrion

ISBN 0-660-19496-1
23.5 cm x 31 cm
192 pp, hard cover
$46.95 CDN

Jeffrey Murray spends his days working for Library and Archives Canada, tending its collection of 1.7 million old maps, what he considers to be the best job in the world. That’s entirely understandable, if the maps and artifacts included in Terra Nostra are anything to go by. The book is a short, 192 page salute to the collection as a whole – there is no focusing on the “gems” of the collection. Rather, Murray takes a moderately successful approach to highlighting the holdings of Library and Archives Canada by looking at time periods and trends.

The book has four broad areas of focus which he entitles “Envisioning Canada,” “Perfecting Our Cities,” “Finding Our Way,” and “Scaling the Landscape.” Each of these areas is further subdivided into more specific chapters that look at a specific type of mapping or period in Canada’s cartographic history. By doing so, Murray provides a light but interesting sketch of history of mapping in Canada.

Chapters focus on the early attempts at mapping North America as European explorers sought out the much fabled Northwest Passage, British mapping of newly conquered Quebec in the 1700s, insurance mapping, bird’s-eye mapping, county maps of the late 1800s and maps of the First World War. Each chapter is short, easy to read and is accompanied with many illustrations. More interesting from a technical perspective, each contains a two page description of the mapping technologies of the time, including woodblock, offset and sun printing. No convenient computer technology here.

Which raises the question in my mind: why stop at 1950? Aside from the convenience of bookending the collection between two dates 400 years apart, I could not see any reason why Murray did not extend the parameters of the book to include maps up to 2000. Surely the rapid change in technologies since then would have easily provided enough material for additional chapters and would have offered a better sense of progression in mapping in Canada?

Though there are many illustrations and maps there are, from the map lover’s perspective, never enough and never enough that show detail. This is not a limitation of the book but rather of the media: hundreds of pages of colour reproductions would make the book too expensive for the market. A simple web link to the Libray and Archives Canada holdings would not be remiss. Nevertheless, the book is a nice overview of Library and Archives Canada’s collection of old maps – a great addition for the coffee table collection.

The book is also available in French as Terra Nostra 1550 – 1950: Les cartes du Canada et leurs secrets from Les Éditions Septentrion.


Warsaw 1945 / 2005

My Polish is non-existent but from what I can see it looks like the City of Warsaw has a collection of orthoimages taken in 1945 that they’ve put up on their web mapping site. The site requires the AutoDesk MapGuide plugin and shows the 1945 images and images from 2005. 1945, of course, marked the end of the Second World War and the effects of that war are clearly evident in the images. The changes over the 60 years are tremendous, as can be seen in these two sample images of the same area to the left.

By way of TerraObserver

(By the way, if anyone can translate the text on the site and provide me with some details on the images, let me know.)


US 2006 Election Map

Why wait for the next U. S. election to map results when you can do so now? The New York Times has an interactive map in which you can create and save scenarios and decide who is going to win each race this coming fall. There is alot of to explore on this map - users can select New York Times predictions, highlight close races and review Senate races from six years ago. The map is viewable by geography or population (i.e. as a cartogram).

Thanks Tracy.


Interactive Projections

Penn State Online GIS Education and the Dutton e-Education Institute have put together a map that the user can reproject to 10 different projections. It is a site that would primarily be of interest to those who don’t have access to a GIS. Projections include Plate Carree (or geographic), Mercator, Transverse Mercator, Cylindrical Equal Area, Robinson, Lambert conformal Conic, Albers Equal Area Conic, Azimuthal Stereographic, Azimuthal Equidistant and Azimuthal Orthographic. The site allows users to specify the parameters of each projection, display distortion ellipses and plot and label a location on the map. The site makes use of ArcIMS to display the maps.

(Update: My apologies for failing to include the link!)


Donation to Help Digitize Yale Map Collection

William Reese, a rare book and art dealer, has pledged$100,000 to Yale University to digitize its collection of 220,000 maps, including 15,000 maps of North America from before 1850. Yale has agreed to match the donation which it says will not only bring its collection of maps in to the modern age but will also provide a record of its collection, some of which suffered the effects of E. Forbes Smiley’s visits. No word yet on whether the collection will be made accessible online.

Read the full news story in the Hartford Courant.

By way of Map the Universe


Yahoo! Maps Adds More Imagery

Yahoo! Maps has added more high resolution imagery to its mapping site. The additions don’t seem to follow any logic, being rather spotty. Included are places like Abidjan, Edmonton, Rome, Nairobi and Santorini (where you can almost see the dogs roaming the streets). In some cases, imagery is better than what is available through Google Maps. This follows up on previous imagery updates more than a month ago. See the Yahoo! Maps blog for more details.


NACIS 2006

The North American Cartographic Information Society’s annual conference will be held this year in Madison, Wisconsin on October 18 - 21. The preliminary program is available online as a pdf and includes presentations and discussions on cartographic design, use of type, building mashups, and symbology. Also included in the program is the annual practical cartography day and the NACIS map-off. This year’s keynote speaker will be Schuyler Erle, author of Mapping Hacks and Google Map Hacks and cofounder of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation.


Bike Routing

When using the available web mapping sites for directions, what is provided is usually the quickest or shortest route from point A to point B. This, of course, comes as no surprise and is what users expect. The results assume that the user will be travelling by car - which isn’t always the case. byCycle looks to find the best or safest route for cyclists, taking into consideration such things as hills and vehicular traffic. byCycle draws on municipal data and overlays that information on a Google Map. “Designed to be ‘the MapQuest for bikes,’ byCycle’s online trip planner allows cyclists to plot bike-friendly routes across town. Enter starting and ending addresses, and the planner plots a bicycle-sensitive course between them. Click anywhere on the map, and the Web site gives the nearest intersection. Choose two points, and the Web site calculates the best biking route between them.” The site is current limited to 3 U. S. cities: Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Portland, OR.

Read about the site in the Portland Tribune.


On Holidays . . .

I will be away on holidays until August 14th, 2006. I would be GPSing my travels but, unfortunately, my Magellan Meridian Platinum decided to take a break from working as well. Where does one get a GPS repaired? Or are they just another disposable consumer item?


London Underground Maps

The London Underground map is perhaps the most recognizable map of modern times. A History of London Tube Maps has an extensive collection of London Underground maps since 1889 to the present, including recent updates. It is easy to understand why Beck’s map was so successful when viewed in the contect of its predecessors. Maps are in jpeg format at a resolution that is large enough to read.

By way of Plep


ArcWeb Explorer Revisited

When I first blogged about ArcWeb Explorer (AWX) back in May, the application/tool was still in beta and had a number of unresolved issues that limited its functionality. Now, these problems appear cleared up, making AWX and interesting and useful tool.

AWX has all the usual features of a web mapping site: a search for addresses and directions and an interchangeable map / satellite image. Satellite imagery seems limited to Landsat for areas outside of the United States. Nothing unusual of spectacular here.

But AWX offers more than any of the other web mapping sites: users can search by telephone number (mine was eerily aacurate) or url. Users can also upload their own Excel spreadsheet of geographic coordinates, addresses, telephone numbers or urls (limit one Excel spreadseet per session). Users looking at the United States can access U.S. Census data by switching from regular map or satellite view to data view. Users can also generate a tabular report of census data for a user-specified area (e.g. 10 mile buffer around a selected point). Users can also find an address for an indicated location on the map (if one exists).

There are still a few bugs in the system (after running a report I had trouble getting the screen to refresh as I zoomed out) and the refresh rate is a bit slow but AWX holds promise and seems to indicate the direction online mapping sites are headed.

View the AWX help page for more details on its functionality.


Nunaliit is a framework designed to make it easy to bring stories and data together, using maps as a connecting focus. From the Nunalit website: “The Nunaliit framework aims to make it easy for anyone to build a cybercartographic atlas - telling stories and exploring the relationships between space, time, knowledge, and our senses. Initial development has focused on an XML schema for organizing and connecting content into a meaningful state, and a compiler to render that information out to an interactive web interface. This system is quite usable now, if you're comfortable with XML. Future developments will see great improvements for creators as the tools to contribute, link, and tell stories around content and maps are built and integrated. Our goal is to have cybercartographic story-telling be as simple as working with collaborative web technologies like Wiki are today.” No working, online examples as yet.

The project is a product of Carleton University’s Cybercartography and the New Economy project.

Thanks Tracey


Tavi, Boy Map Wonder

Tavi Shaffer-Green, a 2 1/2 year boy from Kansas, can draw maps and name countries better than most (take the little quiz in the sidebar to see if you can match his brains). Writes the Lawrence Journal-World: “Tavi is still in diapers and hasn’t yet started preschool, but he can identify all the countries in the world — with the exception of maybe a Pacific island or two — and can draw many of them by hand. He’s known all the planets since he was 20 months old and can tell you during what time period Antarctica formed.”

This is quite something to read about but to actually see this boy at work is something else. Watch the Channel 6 news story on Tavi.

“Tavi’s next big step is to start half-day Montessori preschool in the fall in California. His parents say they mainly want him to learn social skills and haven’t given too much thought to what his schooling step will be after that. It should be interesting, though. When he went to visit the preschool, he looked at a map on the wall and saw that something was amiss. Tavi says he told the teacher: “This a very old map. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was still Zaire.”

And to think he just wants to be an astronomer or a spaceman.

By way of atlas(t)


ArcGIS 9.2

A draft version of ESRI’s desktop help files for ArcGIS 9.2 is available online. For those not attending the annual user conference next week, this is a good way to familiarize oneself with with the new features. With regards to cartography, 9.2 offers some very impressive animation and representation tools. Sadly for me in my current position it might be awhile before I get my hands on it; my employer is currently working with 8.3 and only now thinking of moving to 9.1. Nevertheless, it is satisfying to see great improvements being made on the cartography side of things in ESRI’s products.

By way of Map GIS News Blog for UK, Europe and World Maps


Scottish Maps

Those interested in maps of Scotland would find it worthwhile to visit the National Library of Scotland’s web page on maps. The site includes pdfs of all 9 issues of its publication Cairt, an 8 page newsletter that covers all things related to Scottish maps. The latest issue includes a discussion on Blaeu’s map of Scotland as compared to a similar one by Philip Lea. Also included on the site are links to collections of maps of Scotland, both old and new, as well as libraries, map societies and general map related sites. The Library has its own collection of maps online dating back to 1560.

By way of MapHist


GIS' Shortcomings

Spiegel Online has an article about the impact of Google Earth on scientific studies. The article is interesting if only for some of the misconceptions of GIS that it exhibits. For instance, “Computers have long been capable of processing geographic data. There are powerful, special programs that can create all kinds of colorful maps. And unlike Google Earth, which can only be used to display data, these programs -- experts call them geo-information systems, or GIS -- are also useful in analysis. But operating the programs is also incredibly cumbersome. Their biggest drawback is that they spit out vast numbers of individual maps without providing a look at the whole picture -- they don't provide a digital globe rotating directly in front of the viewer's eyes.” Cumbersome? Vast numbers of individuals maps? Perhaps the biggest drawback in GIS its technical sophistication but the fact that it has never promoted itself very well to the general public (ESRI’s GIS Day notwithstanding).


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