Cartobibliography: The History of Printed Maps

The indispensable step in approaching a map (or anything) to be used as evidence is to check its publication history and its credentials as a source in the same way as a bibliographer examines a book. The discriminating description of maps is known as cartobibliography, a term first used in 1914 by George Fordham in the title of his book Studies in Carto bibliography. Fordham neither repeated the word in the seven essays forming that book nor did he make any systematic attempt to establish any principles for the descriptive listing of maps; that had been done, up to a point, in 1838 by the Dutch mapcollector Bodel Nijenhuis, who did indeed comment on and evaluate early maps according to specified criteria. Unlike bibliography for books, however, for which a large number of societies exist to keep a watchful eye on standards of practice, the cartobibliographies produced throughout most of the twentieth century tended to come from individuals working independently in their own way. The outcome is a shelf full of regional and thematic cartobibliographies compiled to different specifications. An outstanding few were universally acclaimed to have set the heights to be achieved henceforth. Donald Hodson's Printed Maps of Hertfordshire, which was followed by his County Atlases of the British Isles, 1704-1789 are examples of the most comprehensive and detailed cartobibliographies to have been completed to date. Just as it is often alleged that Britain is the best mapped country in the world, so it may be said that it is also the richest for its county and other cartobibliographies.

The tasks of unraveling the origin of each individual map, recognizing different printings and issues of the same map (through the identification of a sequence of 'states' from altered imprints, coats of arms, sometimes tiny changes of content, or damage to the wood block or copper plate), checking what the given date actually represents (date of completion of draft, of printing, or of original publication) or ascribing a date for those lacking one, discovering who made it (and why, and for whom), chronicling its publication history (including reuses and derivations) and the postpublication history of the block or plate it was printed from, indexing its contents, establishing a bibliography, and much else, combines academic scholarship with the expertise of specialists, such as map collectors, map dealers, and auctioneers. In this context, cartometrics has already demonstrated its value in confirming families of maps. Setting the pace as well as the standards for modern cartobibliography is the group founded by Professor Gu?nter Schilder in the Faculty of Geosciences, University of Utrecht, which has seen the publication of Schilder's own Monumenta Cartographia Neerlandica (eight volumes since 1986) and Peter van der Krogt's ongoing revision of Cornelius Koeman's Atlantes Neerlandici. Bibliography of Terrestrial, Maritime and Celestial Atlases and Pilot Books, Published in the Netherlands to 1880 (1967-1971).