MapCarte 240/365: From the old homeland to the new homeland! By Fritz Freudenheim, 1938



MapCarte tends to feature the work of adults principally because maps created by children generally do not exhibit a strong design philosophy. But children’s maps can have a certain aesthetic all of their own due to the simplicity of the graphics and often unwieldy use of lines and colours. Then there are the maps made by children that provoke thought, perhaps not designed intentionally to do so but which catapult them into our consciousness.

This map by eleven year old Fritz Freudenheim was drawn in 1938. His family escaped Berlin in the late 1930s and this map documents their journey, their homes and the various locations they went along the way. The title says it all – From the old homeland to the new homeland. Germany is the largest European country on his map as you’d expect. It’s a mental map and a picture of the familiar. They reach Hamburg, the main export for fortunate Jewish emigrants. They board the Jamaique and travel via Belgium, France and Portugal. Africa is a brief stopping point but drawn small with only Morocco labelled. They eventually reach Uruguay, their final destination and South America is shown in bright colours, relatively well defined, yet detached from North America.

Mental maps and, children’s mental maps often bring us cartographic treasures. This map, though a tragic pictorial description of escape from oppression shows how illustrating the plight of one person or family can give us a sense of empathy that perhaps mapping hundreds of thousands using aggregate statistics cannot.

While perhaps unintentional this is a well designed map. The familiar is drawn as important, the unfamiliar smaller and less detailed. The layout works well and the linear story is clear and unambiguous.

MapCarte 237/365: Carte figurative des pertes successives en hommes de l’Armée Française dans la campagne de Russie 1812-1813 by Charles Minard, 1869

MapCarte237_minardAs it is colloquially known, he Minard map was published in 1869 on the subject of Napoleon’s disastrous Russian campaign of 1812. French civil engineer Charles Joseph Minard’s maps and graphics are often cited among the best in information design and this is perhaps the most famous of his works.

The schematic flow approach of this statistical graphic, which is also a map, displays 6 separate variables in a single two-dimensional image: geography, time, temperature, the course and direction of the army’s movement, and the number of troops remaining.  The map has been described as one of the most complete statistical maps of all time by Edward Tufte and it’s rare to find a list of classic maps that argues with this commendation.

It is superbly clear in its representation using only two colours with black emphasizing the death toll on the retreat.  The horrific human cost is the story of the map as Napoleon entered Russia with 442,000 men and returned with barely 10,000 which included some 6,000 that had rejoined from the north, symbolized as 1mm of line width to 10,000 men.  The geography of the battles are marked and the temperature shown across the bottom supports interpretation.

Napoleon underestimated the vastness of Russia and the inhospitable winters.  Minard exquisitely mapped the total disaster.

MapCarte 235/365: The Klencke Atlas by Johannes Klencke. Maps by Joan Blaeu, 1660


Until recently, the Klencke Atlas was renowned as being the largest atlas in the world (a title now taken by Millenium House’s Platinum Earth atlas) but size alone would not necessarily get the work into a list of great maps. The atlas was presented to Charles II in 1660 by a consortium of Amsterdam merchants led by Johannes Klencke. The 41 maps it contains are largely the work of Joan Blaeu, a master of the Dutch Golden Age of Cartography.


The atlas was conceived, likely by Johan Maurits, Duke of Nassau-Siegen, as an enormous book containing maps of the world and its heavens. It was to collectively contain the world’s knowledge. For that, a truly large atlas was born but it is the maps it contains that make the cartography so enthralling.

Blaeu’s work was meticulous, detailed and of a consistently high quality. His maps are all works of art in their own right and symbolic of the artistry of the Dutch cartographers and engravers of the time. The Klencke atlas is not merely an over-sized book and contains very little white space. Each map fills the large sheets in detail and the borders contain numerous illustrations of cityscapes and persons. Even the seas and oceans are adorned with sailing ships representing exploration and discovery.

A large, beautiful and historic atlas that represents a golden age of map-making. The atlas is large but it’s impressive cartography too.

MapCarte 232/365: Atlas de Cuba by Garardo Canet and Erwin Raisz, 1949



Atlases are designed to set out a social, economic, cultural and physical history of a place. They provide a slice in time that explains a country or a region and are often out-of-date fairly rapidly due to changing circumstances. It’s an inevitable problem for many atlas producers that as soon as one edition is published, work on the next begins in earnest. Of course, that also brings rewards since we can amass a collection of atlases that together paint the changing picture and, as cartographers, show us the changes and altering style of map-making and representation.

The Atlas de Cuba by Canet and Raisz was a little different. It attempted to paint a living picture of Cuba…literally given the hand drawn beauty of the work. They set out to explore problems and how these might manifest as well as what the solutions may be. Raisz’s work is evident. His maps are bold in use of colour and graphically rich as they combine beautiful landform mapping with innovative thematics. The page illustrated here, on agriculture, is typical of the maps. Relief is depicted in oblique ‘molehill’ style and the land use is laid out in a regular grid to create a patchwork of statistical information on the different crops. Simple blocks of complimentary colours give us a clear indication of the crops and the page is adorned with other graphs, legends and illustrations to bring the work to life.



There’s a simplicity in the work of this atlas that belies the effort it takes to make such maps. Keeping things simple is a mainstay of cartography but actually being able to achieve it and bring a subject to life is no simple task. To get it right across an entire atlas is an even more impressive achievement.

You can see many more illustrations from the atlas on John Krygier’s blog here.

MapCarte 216/365: Michelin Red Guides by Michelin, 1900-present

MapCarte216_michelinMichelin, the French tyre manufacturer has long been known for more than just its tyres. It publishes guide books, maps, travel guides and is the organisation that bestows Michelin stars to restaurants in its red guide book for the quality of its cooking. Even the company mascot Bibendum, colloquially known as the Michelin Man, is one of the most iconic brand symbols.

Our interest in MapCarte is in the cartography of the Michelin Guides, a series of annual books first published in 1900 with the French guide for motorists. The guides were originally published with blue covers but these were changed to red in 1931 and they have been known as the red guides ever since.

In particular, the more historic early editions which contained some beautiful cartography. Originally designed to boost demand for cars (and thus tyres, the first edition was given away free and contained information for motorists, maps, car mechanics, hotels and petrol stations. Other countries soon followed and the example here, from the 1911 British Isles version illustrates the cartography perfectly. MapCarte216_michelin_bookThe guides continued to be given away free until 1920. The restaurant listings became hugely popular and this gave rise to anonymous restaurant inspections and in 1926 the award of stars for fine dining and eventually a category that informed the motorist of the value of the establishment in context to a journey as follows:

  • one star: a very good restaurant in its category
  • two stars: excellent cooking, worth a detour
  • three stars: exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey

The maps are two colour and yet convey the essential information for a motorist perfectly. In urban areas, roads are not actually drawn but remain a focal point because of the depiction of built up areas which deliniates the road system perfectly. Roads are deliniated by linework only where buildings do not exist. It’s a very clever and efficient method of depicting the central component of a map for a motorist! Labels and other features are overprinted in black with small pictorial symbols where necessary. Patterned fills indicate parkland, Churches are also depicted in black and a waterlining technique marks out water bodies and the coastline. The only black linework indicates rail links and dashed lines are used well to link to places noted in the margins.

These large scale town plans are particularly detailed and accurate. So much so that while the guides’ publication was suspended during World War II, the Allied Forces requested a reprint of the 1939 guide because it contained the best and most up-to-date cartography to support military use.

Beautifully simple cartography but highly effective. The form and function are well suited and the maps have a delightful aesthetic appeal.

MapCarte 203/365: Mt Fuji, by anon, 1830



There’s very little that is genuinely new in cartography yet with such massive technological advances we see reinvention all the time. So it’s always useful to keep an eye on our cartographic heritage. It informs what we do because we can tease out best practice; and it shows us what has gone before so we can ensure we give credit where due.

This stunningly beautiful map of Mt Fiji from the early 1800s gives us much food for thought. The detail of the mountainscape and, in particular, the use of a side elevation to create the appearance of molehills was used earlier but used here to great effect. The fact the Fuji itself is given prominence by being depicted in the round, rather than an elevation works well and shows how different graphical treatments to similar phenomena can be used to classify importance.

There’s a fine mix of planimetric and plan oblique in the work with a coastline shown using a vignette and some sense of routes across the landscape. The surrounding text works well in the traditional vertical orientation.

Overall, a beautiful historical map. Simple.

MapCarte 198/365: Carta Marina by Olaus Magnus, 16th century



There’s something about hand drawn maps that draws cartophiles in. They more than often demonstrate the art of cartography simply because every mark has to be carefully thought through. This map is the first detailed map of Scandinavia and as a hanf drawn map it’s an absolute gem.

The symbology and colours, the typography and layout are second to none and demonstrate the very best of the art of cartography. Many of the defaults of modern software do not give this sort of final aesthetic yet with a little knowledge it’s not rocket science to replicate this sort of map.



The detail and typography is exceptional and the graphical techniques for different land types is particularly impressive. Trees as mimetic symbols and patterns fills for the water bodies are especially well designed.

A lovely historical map that gives us strong pointers to how we might implement similar techniques on contemporary efforts.

MapCarte 192/365: Map of Vesuvius by John Auldjo, 1832


Making a map of a single geographical feature and a single phenomena is a challenge, particularly if you want to make it interesting. So making a map of a single volcano has the potential to be rather tedious. Except, this map from the late 1800s is anything but boring.

All lava flows resulting from eruptions are mapped beautifully. The geographical accuracy is perhaps not perfect but the colours used to demarcate the different years works wonderfully well. The map presents a rich spatio-temporal pattern of the ferocity of the eruptions and illustrates the variety of the flows perfectly.

MapCarte192_vesuvius_detailThe use of such overlapping colours would normally be regarded as a cartographic oddity but representing different time periods and the lava flows that demonstrate very particular characteristics works well.

A graphical description of a very unique phenomena that makes a beautiful map.


MapCarte 161/365: Maps Descriptive of London Poverty, by Charles Booth 1898-9

MapCarte161_boothCharles Booth, an English philanthropist and businessman is renowned for his survey into life and labour in London at the end of the 19th Century.  Critical of the value of census returns as a way of identifying inequality, he set to work investigating poverty for which he was recognized by awards from the Royal Statistical Society and the Royal Society.

The Maps Descriptive of London Poverty (there are 12 in the set of whichare an early example of social cartography..or cartography that draws attention to social circumstances in order to encourage some sort of social change.  Using Stanford’s  6 inches to 1 mile Map of London and Suburbs, Booth coloured each street to indicate the income and social class of its inhabitants.


This choroplethic overlay on a light base is an early form of ‘mashup’ and used a rudimentary diverging colour scheme with black for the lowest class (Vicious, semi-criminal inhabitants) through dark blues and into reds and yellows (Upper-middle and upper classes, wealthy).  Neighbouring colours were deliberately similar in hue so the map illustrated social transitions across space though strong gradients are easily seen when blacks and reds are in close proximity.  The overlay is slightly transparent to allow the underlying base map detail to be seen for interpretation.

Taking a planimetric basemap that gives a sense of structure and overlaying thematic detail seems commonplace these days but at the time these maps were evolutionary. They weren’t the first thematic maps but they were some of the most detailed and well prepared. As a device to communicate they could hardly be more perfect.

More details at the Charles Booth online archive here.

MapCarte 142/365: Atlas for the blind by S. G. Howe, 1837

MapCarte142_howe1These days we’re pretty used to seeing maps designed to accommodate a wide range of user circumstances including colour modifications for those who perceive colour differently or the use of audio to provide a narrated map. There’s also a small but important research area that encompasses tactile mapping for people who have limited or no sight at all. This map is regarded as the first to be made that was specifically designed with blind people in mind. Quite simply, all we know about cartographic design in terms of standard visual variables goes out the window.

Samuel Howe designed this atlas, comprising maps of 24 US states with a page of text accompanying each, for children at the New England Institute for the Education of the Blind in Boston. The medium was a heavy paper stock and every line and mark, symbol and piece of text was embossed. While braile was invented some 12 years earlier it wasn’t capable of representing even simple, let alone complex, cartographic symbology. Lines take on different shapes and forms for different features and numbers and letters are used as symbols to locate places, each of which is expanded on and shown in the accompanying text.


While clearly the amount of detail one can include is heavily constrained by the technology and also the fact that recovery of detail is through the fingers, Howe did not sacrifice basic map components such as latitude and longitude and scale. Water has an embossed fill and mountains are shown using a series of short lines, not unlike a heavily generalised hachure effect.


The atlas was used as a geography teaching aid and the children could learn where boundaries of countries, roads, mountains and a range of points of interest lay. While braille took over for communicating words, Howe’s maps still provide a clear lineage to maps made in a similar style today. The techniques used today tend to follow the same as the production of heat-moulded relief maps using a plastic sheet. Conceptually though, features are still commonly embossed on maps for the blind.

A great example of making a map for a very specific user and dealing with design in a way that accommodates the constraints the user faces.