Books In Breif // Maps

December 16, 2007|By Sources: Los Angeles Times, Newsday, Chicago Tribune, Houghton Mifflin

CARTOGRAPHIA: MAPPING CIVILIZATIONS -- Vincent Virga and the Library of Congress Little, Brown & Co. / 266 pages / $60

A map, writes Vincent Virga in the introduction to this splendid volume, is "a dream, an idea, an action, an emblem of human endeavor." Virga - described as "America's foremost picture editor" - traces the history of the quest to organize knowledge through more than 200 maps drawn from the Library of Congress collection, from a Mesopotamian agricultural plan chiseled in cuneiform on a clay tablet (circa 1500 B.C.), to a recent visualized diagram of the Internet. Along the way, there's an Egyptian map of the path to Paradise, an early and exquisite three-dimensional survey of Paris, a map of the Low Countries in the shape of a lion, an expedition guide to the Rocky Mountains and a plan of the original MGM Studios. Virga says these maps document the process of "transforming experience in space to abstraction of space." The maps document exploration, tyranny and even utopia.

TRANSIT MAPS OF THE WORLD

Edited by Mark Ovenden

Penguin / 144 pages / $25

For the map geeks among us comes a colorful new book with subway maps to 205 cities. This heavily visual book by Londoner Mark Ovenden groups the cities' transit systems by zones and includes historical maps, logos and photos. It's fascinating just to see the evolution of mass transit in urban areas, but also useful to orient yourself to a transit system before you arrive. The book is the first and only comprehensive collection of historic and current maps of every rapid-transit system on Earth. Using glorious, colorful graphics, Ovenden traces the history of mass transit - including rare and historic maps, diagrams and photographs, some available for the first time since their original publication. Transit Maps is the graphic designer's new bible, the transport enthusiast's dream collection and a coffee-table essential for everyone who's ever traveled in a city.

MAPS: FINDING OUR PLACE IN THE WORLD

James R. Akerman and Robert W. Karrow Jr.

University of Chicago Press / 400 pages / $55

This truly magisterial book introduces readers to the widest range of maps ever considered in one volume: maps from different time periods and a variety of cultures; maps made for divergent purposes and depicting a range of environments; and maps that embody the famous, the important, the beautiful, the groundbreaking or the amusing. Built around the functions of maps - the kinds of things maps do and have done - Maps confirms the vital role of maps throughout history in commerce, art, literature and national identity. The book begins by examining the use of maps for wayfinding, revealing that even maps as common and widely used as these are the product of historical circumstances and cultural differences. The second chapter considers maps whose makers employed the smallest of scales to envision the broadest of human stages - the world, the heavens, even the act of creation itself. The next chapter looks at maps that are, literally, at the opposite end of the scale from cosmological and world maps - maps that represent specific parts of the world and provide a close-up view of areas in which their makers lived, worked and moved.

AMERICA FROM THE AIR

Daniel Mathews and James S. Jackson Houghton Mifflin / 386 pages / $19.95

This is an illustrated guide, in both book and CD-ROM, to what an airline passenger sees from his seat while flying over the United States. Through its ingenious construction and a map of preferred flight paths, it's easy to find those pages that correspond to whatever flight a passenger happens to be on, and then to identify features that can be seen from the air. The book marries geology, natural history and human history for a glorious portrait of the continent, from the Atlantic City Boardwalk to Mount Saint Helens. Each two-page spread features an aerial photo with captions identifying features passengers will see and an essay interpreting the features.The CD-ROM can easily be used on a laptop in the air.

Sources: Los Angeles Times, Newsday, Chicago Tribune, Houghton Mifflin

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