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The Mapmakers: The Story of the Great Pioneers in Cartography - From Antiquity to the Space Age Paperback – 4 Apr 2002


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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico; New Ed edition (4 April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712668128
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712668125
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 651,220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

‘...Wilford has produced a brisk intelligent history.’ -- New York Times Book Review

‘A winning chronicle of mapmakers over time and space… a variety of adventures and perceptions not so often well described.’ -- Scientific American

‘An engrossing chapter from the human experience.’ -- Los Angeles Times

‘Fascinating…Wilford manages to make everything from the discovery of the longitude to advanced laser-beam technology clear.’ -- Newsweek

From the Publisher

'An engrossing chapter from the human experience.' Los Angeles Times

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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One hot afternoon in a June not long ago, our helicopter circled the stark pinnacle of Dana Butte. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By M.U. on 21 Jun. 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is not a coffee-table book full of beautiful maps - rather this is a book which skilfully and eloquently covers the history of mapmaking from primitive ancient charts to modern satellite-aided mapping of other worlds. Like good popular science books, 'The Mapmakers' enlightens the reader about the evolution of mapmaking, often at quite a technical level, without ever resorting to condescending prose or losing the reader with jargon. And best of all, it is richly embellished with historical detail. Mapmakers have been amongst the world's greatest adventurers, and the tales of bravery and hardship, all in the name of mapmaking, are as exciting as any. I heartily recommend this book to anyone with an interest in maps and the human drama which has accompanied their creation through the ages.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 28 Aug. 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What can I add to the description and the first review? This book describes how we came to know the shape of the earth, the distribution of land and oceans, mapmaking, the history of voyages of discovery, and how the earth was mapped. Later chapters descibe mapping the oceans, the moon, and even Mars. It is clearly written and well illustrated. I would have liked more on map projections, with illustrations. I also found the book to be pretty Americanocentric.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 20 Aug. 1998
Format: Paperback
Many aspects of world history are seen in a different light after reading how man learned to accurately map and use maps for world exploration. European and Americas mapping is handled extensively. Africa and Asia are lacking in historical context, perhaps due to lost or unavailable records. Being published in the early 1980's, the book is missing the last 2 decades of technological advances of Global Positioning Systems in use today. Otherwise a WONDERFUL READ for anyone interested in geoscience, geography, maps, or history.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 17 reviews
50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Mapmakers ( revised edition Aug 2000) 22 Jan. 2001
By Pen Name - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"The Mapmakers" by John Noble Wilford (ISBN 0-375-40929-7) published by Knopf/Random House in August 2000 is an updated version of the 1981 text. The revisions reflect the radical changes in the process of map-making that we already take for granted. It is of interest to anyone who has ever paddled along a complex shoreline, looked at a map, and thought " I could be here, there or anywhere". Or to anyone who has spent a winter dreaming of a lake or river, seen only in the mind's eye aided by a "window" created by maps...
This book covers the history of cartography or map-making from ancient times to the present day . Drawing on various sources, it explores the "need" to create maps both as a concrete form of communication describing the physical location of objects and our relationship to them, as well as the philosophical beliefs which can make "maps lie" based on the ideological bias of the map-maker, and the prejudices of the user. It traces in chronological format the evolution of maps (beginning in pre-history judging from some cave paintings) , from the Near East and Egypt in the period from 2000BC, to Greek philosophical conceptions of the world, to the civil engineering and mapping of the Romans, to the laughably inaccurate and fabricated maps of the early Middle Ages reflecting Europe's inward turning in the pre-Renaissance period. The Age of Discovery and the slow progress in developing maps for coastal trade reaching further and further from home, the new ( and rediscovered) technologies that aided the "mapping of both the African route to Asia, as well as the nascent understanding of the New World coastline, are covered in great detail.
Time is given to the development of map projections, problems of determining latitude and longitude, early and modern navigational devices, as well as the individuals who pioneered new concepts in mapping, often with their achievements lying fallow for another 100 years or more. Problems of mapping even long settled areas like France are discussed in the context of new systems of measuring land, as well as the State's "need" to quantify it's holdings in a more scientific manner.
The author develops his concepts within the book like small streams joining to form a great river, over a great distance and time. The final third of the book is a torrent , as the various technologies are refined, demand for accurate maps increases, and communication becomes almost instant. In the discussion of the modern era there is a already a quaintness to the debates as to whether map making might ever be "automated", or derived from computerized data alone. In the final chapters the book moves beyond the mapping of coast lines, cities and Earth itself, to mapping projects of Mars and the Universe itself. Yet the author retains his premise that maps locate the human mind in space and time, and are as essential to humans as language itself. An interesting premise early in the book is that the creation of maps may have pre-dated the complexities of language. Certainly anyone who has ever had someone "draw them a map" when words and language were insufficient , might be intrigued by both the history and ideas contained in this book!
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Simply brilliant 12 May 2002
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I bought this at Schiphol Airport as I had nothing else to read ... doesn't sound much of a recommendation, does it? - but the small cover photo of two surveyors perched on a precarious butte, though simple, begged my attention. It succeeded - and grabbed!
This book is deceptively large, due to the small font, tight spacing and thin margins.
But it needs to be:- there is so much information crammed in here ... all that the layman should ever need to know about maps & mapmaking, surveyors & surveying and discoverers and their discoveries. My only complaint is that there are no colour illustrations, which would have amplified the descriptions greatly.
The narrative style of Pulitzer winner Mr.Wilford makes for easy, yet highly informative reading, taking us from early Chinese maps with their variable scale to modern digital mapping of the cosmos, all the while inserting interesting snippets of fact and conjecture. He draws heavily on other authors (showing the depth of his research), but only to illustrate and augment the narrative. I took longer than usual to read this book, simply because I wished to savour the experience.
Required reading for all who wish to know how we came to view the world as we see it now. ...
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Very readable account of the development of cartography 11 Oct. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Wilford's training as a journalist served him well in writing this book. He has written a highly readable and information-packed history of cartography that gives enough analysis to please the scientifically adept reader while maintaining a brisk narrative that kept me enthralled. I especially enjoyed the early chapters on the discovery and exploration of the New World. Great stuff.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Great review of technical advances thru 1981. 20 Aug. 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Many aspects of world history are seen in a different light after reading how man learned to accurately map and use maps for world exploration. European and Americas mapping is handled extensively. Africa and Asia are lacking in historical context, perhaps due to lost or unavailable records. Being published in the early 1980's, the book is missing the last 2 decades of technological advances of Global Positioning Systems in use today. Otherwise a WONDERFUL READ for anyone interested in geoscience, geography, maps, or history.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Historical book on the mapmakers, but lacking detail on mapmaking 11 Jun. 2010
By Digital Puer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a well-written book that provides a rich, deep history of the people behind the maps: Mercator, Magellan, Columbus, Cook, Cassini, et al. These historical figures and many others are discussed along with how necessity, ingenuity, and determination combined to drive these men to produce maps used by travellers, adventurers, and politicians.

However, a significant lack of technical detail really hurts this book. The author provides ample pages to the mapmakers but not enough to the actual mapmaking process, which is infuriating given that the book is over 500 pages long. For example, the methodology of triangulation is glossed over too briefly; instead of trusting the reader to have even a high school level knowledge of geometry, the author only states that the lengths of the two non-base sides are determined "with some calculation" (chapter 7). Basic trigonometric and geometric concepts are barely mentioned at all. As another example, when discussing the determination of latitude, the author only states that "... Picard was particularly skilled in using angle-measuring instruments and mathematical tables to fix latitude by determining the angular height of the moon above the horizon" (chapter 8). No more detail is given on this important calculation; even the most basic geometrical figures or expressions are left out. Further, throughout the book, I was anxiously waiting for the author to describe how explorers and sailors were able to chart out coastlines accurately, but this topic is never discussed.

The last few chapters, presumably written in 2000 as part of the latest edition of this book, are quite lacking as well. GPS, which was already quite popular in the 1990s, is not given enough depth. There is no mention of why four points are needed for a fix, nor is there any discussion of when or why former President Reagan enabled civilian use of GPS.

Also, the quality of the illustrations is surprisingly bad. There are about 40 illustrations, many of very old maps, spread through the book, and most are quite poor or illegible. What is more frustrating is that it was quite often the case that a shown map had little to do with the text surrounding it. And as stated above, there are no illustrations describing the basic geometric concepts (like triangulation) upon which mapmaking is built. The only informational graphic is a listing of different map projections in chapter 6.

Overall, this is a tremendous book on the history of the mapmakers: the explorers and scientists and the context in which they made their great contributions. However, for a book of this length, there clearly is not enough information given on the mapmaking science itself, which is rather disappointing.
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