A paper map must be pretty remarkable to get a glowing review in Slate. The very idea of a “Map Review” is remarkable enough. The Map Center has been too busy selling “The Essential Geography of The United States” to blog properly about it so it is nice to see the kinds of things I have been trying to say all all along written where thousands (millions?) instead of dozens will read them.
For ages now, the first step to produce a “new” map has been to decide which existing maps to base it on. That will save a lot of time consuming work. However, things that have always been on the map tend to stay there and new things have trouble breaking through. If I took on the task of deciding from a fresh perspective what needs to be added to the standard reference map of the USA, and what has lost relevance, I am sure I would never finish. David Imus took a good two years.
One of my favorite features, elevations in feet noted next to selected cities, actually revives an early cartographic practice. On the other hand, three letter airport codes came into being long after the question “what belongs on the map?” seemed permanently settled. There is a popular specialty USA map that spots colleges and universities, but Imus’s map properly recognizes that prominent colleges, the reason for so much travel planning and daydreaming, belong on a general reference map.
Best of all for map browsing pleasure is recognizing features you have heard of and wondered about: Bits of history and culture that will be less likely to float out of your mind after you have seen them on the map. Fallingwater. Trinity Site. Bluegrass Country. The San Andreas Fault (with arrows to show the directions of movement). And now I know the Garden of Eden is almost right in the middle of Kansas.
I wonder if it was an easy or hard decision to omit railroads. My only quibble.
The Slate article observed that “Specialty map shops are disappearing.” Ouch. By now, most people are surprised to know there ever was such thing as a specialty map shop! One of those people wanders incredulously into the Map Center every now and then.