The Image of the World

 Sue Wingrove enjoys a look at the cultural significance of mapmaking

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Reviewed by: Sue Wingrove
Author: Peter Whitfield
Publisher: British Library
Price (RRP): £17.95

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Published in 1994 and reissued to coincide with the British Library’s exhibition Magnificent Maps (running till 19 September 2010), this colourful book examines the cultural significance of world maps in different historical periods.

For early map makers, their maps peter out at the edges into unexplored land or sea. They might hazard a guess, as in Ptolemy’s map of c150 AD (republished 1482) which shows land linking south-east Asia with Africa. The book then ranges from medieval maps (primarily devices to show God’s divine power) such as Hereford’s Mappa Mundi of c1300, through to 21st-century cartograms which are visual representations of data (such as infant mortality) presented as a map. On the way it explores the influences that religion, art, science and philosophy have had on the way we map the world.


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Sue Wingrove is deputy editor of BBC History Magazine