Artists Magazine

Art of the Illustrated Map

“Mapmaking is perhaps the oldest variety of primitive art,” says map historian Lloyd Brown. He clarifies that early attempts at mapping weren’t based on systems of measure; rather, the original pioneers of geography actually created imaginative interpretations of their worlds the same way the mind makes mental pictures of its environs.

Over time, geographic atlases became more reliant on mathematics, eventually causing conceptual maps of previous centuries to be discredited for their lack of technical accuracy. By 150 A.D., the new and official field of cartography closed the book on what we now call “illustrated” maps in favor of maps drawn “to scale” utilizing strict standards of design.

Despite this rejection from their scientific peers, however, the artists who produced visionary maps endured. As a result, both forms of maps advanced to chart separate but parallel paths of achievement. We all

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