Tuesday, 10:05am
19 October 2010

Got to have a map

For designers, the cartographic viewpoint can be a literal need

There is a vivid phrase in the Nobel prize citation for Mario Vargas Llosa: ‘the cartography of structures of power’, writes Sally Jeffery. I don’t know if it originates with Vargas Llosa or the Nobel committee. However, for the kind of people who become designers the cartographic viewpoint can be a literal need.

Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News had me scrabbling back and forth through the pages trying to get the hang of the location, until I got out the atlas and identified a bit of Newfoundland coastline that seemed to match her flask-shaped bay. The location may be fictional, but it didn’t matter.

Books for children often have maps, and some remain in the mind’s eye permanently. Locations in grown-up books are seldom mapped. The ability to comprehend a linear textual description is a badge of intellectual maturity, I suppose. Here, from the bookshelf of this infantile graphist, are some maps of more or less fictional places.

Top: Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome: part of jacket map by Steven Spurrier.

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Above: Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories by Joyce Lankester Brisley: map by the author (coloured by another hand).

Below: Stars of Fortune by Cynthia Harnett: the author’s map of sixteenth-century logistics on the endpapers.

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Above: Ruth Robbins maps Ursula Le Guin’s imagined world in The Wizard of Earthsea.

Below: From an atlas published in the 1920s. Not exactly fictional, but great sweeps of conjecture.

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