Reference Points

December 06, 2009|By June Sawyers, Tribune Newspapers

'Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities'
Viking Studio, $30

Frank Jacobs loves maps; the stranger the better. In September 2006 he started a blog that collected "cartographic curiosa," as he calls it, on the Internet. Much to his surprise, the site was so popular - he thought it would appeal to only a few fellow map geeks - that he felt compelled to create a hard-copy version of his cyberspace blog. Consequently, he calls "Strange Maps" an anti-atlas as well as "the most improbable, incomplete and incorrect atlas you're ever likely to hold in your hands." And also, he ventures, one of the funniest.

The maps are out of the ordinary, and, yes, somehow strange: cartographic misconceptions (California as an island); literary creations (Thomas More's map of the fictional island of Utopia); and zoomorphic maps that transform maps into the embodiment of living creatures or in human form (Ireland as a peasant woman). One section is devoted to various cartographic images of Manhattan. Two of my favorites are the world tube map, wherein the planet appears as one big global metro system and where you can get on in Vancouver and get off in Auckland; and the musical theater history tube map that, using the London Underground as a framework, covers musical theater from "Cabaret" to "Candide." Fascinating, wonderful and often quite hilarious.

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