MapCarte 317/365: MasterMap® by Ordnance Survey, 2001


Ordnance Survey has long held a reputation for unsurpassed quality and coverage in its mapping. It’s been steadfast in its approach to mapping of Great Britain such that the quality is world renowned and the envy of many countries. In 2001, Ordnance Survey launched a brand new product to bring its large scale products into the 21st century.


Not so much a map as a digital product that records every single fixed feature of Great Britain in a contiguous database, MasterMap® represents the most detailed, consistent and up-to-date geographical vector database of any country at a scale of 1:1250.  Four separate layers contain topographic, transport, address and imagery data to form the full product. Later, additional layers for water and sites were added.




Every feature is assigned a Topographical Identifier (TOID) that gives it a unique reference as well as attribute information to classify it and support mapping tasks.  Continuous review means the database is as current as the latest ground survey data captured in the field and the product is versatile and flexible enough to suit a myriad of mapping purposes at different scales.


The schema is robust and currently the database contains over 460 million individual features with extensive metadata.  As a product, the release of MasterMap® was, and remains, innovative and its scale and level of detail are unsurpassed.  The uniqueness of its design is in the construction of a database that supports the mapping needs of a diverse set of user requirements. Key to the utility of the product is the ability to select and style the elements from the database that are required for a specific need. Thus, the product can be styled to give it the classic Ordnance Survey appearance, or to match a user-specified style and product requirement.

More details of Mastermap can be found on the Ordnance Survey web site here.

MapCarte 222/365: Baseball’s Many Physical Dimensions by Lou Spirito, 2013


Small multiples are a great way to illustrate comparisons because their side-by-side layout allows us to move across the different images while retaining an impression of the last shape or pattern in visual memory. They are particularly useful for time-series. They can be used simply to compare like-for-like when exploring how the same phenomena might vary from place to place.

Lou Spirito has taken the US Major League baseball fields and done just that, by laying them out in a grid on the right of his map that shows the different dimensions and characteristics. This allows him to show detail for each field in its own context as well as provide a comparison. He goes further though by using an overlay technique to emphasise differences which are not necessarily visible from the side-by-side view.



The effect of overlaying the fields gives us an insight into how they vary; and how markedly they vary in their overall shape, dimensions and using the graph at the foot, the minimum and maximum heights of the outfield wall. He has given us multiple views of the same information, each of which teases out a particular part of the information.

On their own, neither the small multiples or overlay provides us with the visual to support easy interpretation. Together they give us a wealth of information.

MapCarte 195/365: Central Park Tree Map by Ken Chaya and Edward Sibley Barnard, 2011


There’s nothing quite as absurd as a map-maker intent on capturing some phenomena to a ridiculous level of detail on a map. There’s something particularly impressive about such dedication and the search to create that perfect record that can be unsurpassed. Maps have always been seen as providing accuracy, precision and a documentary source so it’s no wonder that we can find all manner of individuals who take it upon themselves to dedicate huge numbers of hours to their cause.

Edward Barnard and Ken Chaya are responsible for perhaps the most detailed map of trees ever produced. As a project that began innoccuously in 2008, it soon grew to become a tireless survey of every tree in Central Park, New York City. The resulting map is not just a record of the nearly 20,000 specimens but a beautifully detailed cartographic product.


The map does not constrain itself to a standard paper size and is produced in the same aspect ratio as the park itself on a long thin vertical strip. It would have been easy to splice it up into sections and run them parallel on a standard landscape page but the impact of using a non-standard page size is worthwhile. The colours are vibrant and each tree species is given its own mimetic planimetric symbol. This adds colour, texture and shape to the map to give a sense of the distribution, size and type of trees.

Some elements of the park’s physical structure are presented in obliquely which provides anchor points and recongnisable places. These work well to create some sense of depth in the work.



Overall a beautiful map and testament to the dedication and perseverance of two men and their quest to make a map that had never been made.

More details at the author’s web site here.

MapCarte 51/365: Street atlas by Melway, 1966


The first edition of Melway was released in 1966 after 5 years of production and contained 106 original hand drawn maps.  Now in its 39th edition (, the map was created in response to shortcomings in available directories at the time.

By the 1980s Melway was the most popular street directory in Melbourne.  The maps are designed with a rich and diverse palette of colours, from the blue suburb names to the bright orange secondary streets to the black major roads giving clarity to distinct features.

The publication was awarded the International Cartographic Association award in 1982 and the inaugural award for cartographic excellence by the Australian Institute of Cartographers.  Street labeling is positioned above the roads, instead of being placed within the road which was against the market trend at the time.  Type hierarchy, positioning and colour provided space in which to label a wide range of contextual information. The maps maintain an often imitated ‘house style’ and it has become so ubiquitous that it’s not unusual for people to give a Melway grid reference as directions.

MapCarte 44/365: Plan de Paris by Louis Bretez, 1739

MapCarte44_turgotA classic example of the principle of adding detail to communicate complexity. Commissioned by the the chief of the municipality of Paris, Michel-Étienne Turgot, the Turgot map of Paris was prepared by Louis Bretez and originally published in atlas form across 20 pages, each 50 cm by 80 cm giving an accurate birds-eye view of a part of the city. In its entirety the map would measure 250 cm high by 322 cm wide, corresponding to a scale of approximately 1:400.


Bretez took over two years to survey the city in detail and was granted permission to enter mansions and gardens to take measurements and draw sketches. The map uses an isometric projection and for the time, went against the trend of more geometric, planimetric depictions of cities in favour of a return to a pseudo-panoramic style. The benefit of an isometric projection allows scale to remain constant across the map so buildings in the foreground are to the same scale as those in the background.

This is large-scale mapping in the extreme and the result of a huge effort. It paid off with a beautiful map!

MapCarte 21/365: View and Map of New York City by Herman Bollmann, 1962


Published for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Bollman’s map maintains scale equally throughout by an axonometric projection, a technique developed as early as the 15th Century.  Bollmann, a woodcarver and engraver, drew this spectacularly detailed map by hand from 50,000 ground and 17,000 aerial photographs to allow readers to view all parts of the map at the same scale.

The map exaggerates widths of streets to create a perfect amount of white space in which buildings sit.  The dense fabric of the city is represented at the same time as giving clarity to individual buildings.  Vertical exaggeration is used to give a sense of the skyscrapers soaring.  The street numbering is consistently placed and beautifully letter-spaced.

The rich detail invites closer inspection and the colouring, predominantly in pastel shades (to identify building function) with deep grey roof-tops mimics the grey skyline of Manhattan. Other versions exist such as Constantine Anderson’s 1985 map and Tadashi Ishihara’s version from 2000.