Cartographia is a wonderful coffee table book for the history or map buff in your family. It traces maps and civilizations back to early Barylonian times, long before modern mapmaking skills. In my (American) ignorance, I always though that man believed the Earth was flat until Christopher Columbus came along. But the ancient Greeks were making round maps to match the known lands of the Earth hundreds of years before Christ.
This book, sponsored by the Library of Congress, is divided into four major sections. They are the Mediterranean World, the Three-Part World, The Fourth Part: the Americas, and The Fifth Part: Oceania and Antarctica.
The Mediterranean World covers history back to the Babylonians through the Romans, as well as adding the Islamic World, the Holy Land, and the areas around the Mediterranean Sea. The Three-Part World covers Africa, Asia, and Europe. The Fourth Part is divided between Latin America and Anglo America. The Fifth Part, and the final major division, covers Oceania and Antartica. The Epilogue includes a brief, interesting section titled The Unseen Cultural World.
The color plates of the many presented maps are wonderful. They aren't just geographical maps of areas, but reflect the cultural, social, and political thinking of the times they were created. For example, there's a wonderful plate depicting the Netherlands in the shape of a lion. There is one of ancient Egyptian gardens only - not the larger area where the gardens were located. There are also pictures of other historical items - buildings, pottery, etc. There are maps that we can find now in museum areas or other areas of interest - one of the last ones is a map to the booths of a Book Festival on the Mall by the Smithsonian Institute
Cartographia has a Cartobibliography at the end with the title of each plate in the book. There is also a comprehensive index at the end to help the reader find information in a hurry.
As I mentioned, this is a coffee table book. It is also a good reference book. It follows how maps have evolved, how maps reflect and shape the society that create them, and how maps are another tool to preserve the history of the world. This can be read from cover to cover, but is better to delve into at different places, coming back and checking out an era, and eventually seeing how our world all ties together and separates itself.
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