100 books like Cartography in the Twentieth Century

By Mark Monmonier (editor),

Here are 100 books that Cartography in the Twentieth Century fans have personally recommended if you like Cartography in the Twentieth Century. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of A History of America in 100 Maps

Jeremy Black Author Of Maps and History: Constructing Images of the Past

From my list on for people who love maps.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian fascinated with maps and geography, I have produced historical atlases on the world, Britain, war, cities, naval history, fortifications, and World War Two, as well as books on geopolitics and maps. I am an Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Exeter and a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and of Policy Exchange.

Jeremy's book list on for people who love maps

Jeremy Black Why did Jeremy love this book?

An excellent example of the British Library’s History … in 100 Maps series, this book, by an expert, on the American geopolitical imagination, combines a first-rate text with instructive maps. Handsomely produced, it is good value.

By Susan Schulten,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A History of America in 100 Maps as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Throughout its history, America has been defined through maps. Whether made for military strategy or urban reform, to encourage settlement or to investigate disease, maps invest information with meaning by translating it into visual form. They capture what people knew, what they thought they knew, what they hoped for, and what they feared. As such they offer unrivaled windows onto the past.
 
In this book Susan Schulten uses maps to explore five centuries of American history, from the voyages of European discovery to the digital age. With stunning visual clarity, A History of America in 100 Maps showcases the power…


Book cover of The Eternal City: A History of Rome in Maps

Georgia Irby Author Of Conceptions of the Watery World in Greco-Roman Antiquity

From my list on how to read maps.

Why am I passionate about this?

I still remember the day I discovered the family atlas (I must have about five; it then lived in my room, and my dad was probably irked, but too kind and encouraging to show it). Since then, I have been mesmerized by maps. How lucky I am to turn an early passion into a focus of research and teaching (I am a Classicist and Historian of Ancient Science). My publications include studies of narrative maps in Greco-Roman literature (they too were mesmerized by maps). You can find maps in the most unexpected places!

Georgia's book list on how to read maps

Georgia Irby Why did Georgia love this book?

In this beautiful book, Maier guides her readers through the parallel development of Rome (imperial city, Holy See, thriving center of art and intellectualism) with the evolution of mapmaking.

I like the clear way that she shows how the changing city helped inform transitions in how and why maps are made. For example, medieval maps of Rome forefront of the city’s five churches, while downplaying other features, and give the cloistered monk (and modern reader) the opportunity to trace an imagined pilgrimage (I spent many childhood hours with the family atlas imagining my own journeys to faraway lands).

Only in the 19th century, when travel for pleasure becomes widespread, do maps of Rome (and elsewhere), advertising their sponsors, become more utilitarian, enabling tourists to find their own ways, and supplying cheap souvenirs. 

By Jessica Maier,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Eternal City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the most visited places in the world, Rome attracts millions of tourists each year to walk its storied streets and see famous sites like the Colosseum, St. Peter's Basilica, and the Trevi Fountain. Yet this ancient city's allure is due as much to its rich, unbroken history as to its extraordinary array of landmarks. Countless incarnations and eras merge in the Roman cityscape. With a history spanning nearly three millennia, no other place can quite match the resilience and reinventions of the aptly nicknamed Eternal City. In this unique and visually engaging book, Jessica Maier considers Rome through…


Book cover of William Birchynshaw's Map of Exeter, 1743

Jeremy Black Author Of Maps and History: Constructing Images of the Past

From my list on for people who love maps.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian fascinated with maps and geography, I have produced historical atlases on the world, Britain, war, cities, naval history, fortifications, and World War Two, as well as books on geopolitics and maps. I am an Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Exeter and a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and of Policy Exchange.

Jeremy's book list on for people who love maps

Jeremy Black Why did Jeremy love this book?

The discovery of hitherto unknown maps is a great treat and this edition uses one to show the development of urban mapping. Well-anchored in the locality, this book is also of much wider value.

By Richard Oliver, Roger Kain, Todd Gray

Why should I read it?

1 author picked William Birchynshaw's Map of Exeter, 1743 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This major re-examination of the history of map-making in Exeter, the historic county town of Devon, follows from the recent discovery of a 'new' Georgian town map of the city. That map, by William Birchynshaw (a man not known tohave produced any other), is reproduced in facsimile, along with nearly two dozen other maps from 1587 through to 1949. They are prefaced by an introduction which places the new discovery within the context of four centuries of map-making, demonstrating how Birchynshaw owed a debt both to John Hooker's map of 1587 and to that by Ichabod Fairlove of 1709; and…


Book cover of Atlas: A World of Maps from the British Library

Jeremy Black Author Of Maps and History: Constructing Images of the Past

From my list on for people who love maps.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian fascinated with maps and geography, I have produced historical atlases on the world, Britain, war, cities, naval history, fortifications, and World War Two, as well as books on geopolitics and maps. I am an Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Exeter and a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and of Policy Exchange.

Jeremy's book list on for people who love maps

Jeremy Black Why did Jeremy love this book?

Wide-ranging, high-production values, a good balance of maps and text, and excellent value for money. Includes many different types of map not least those of fantasy worlds.

By Tom Harper,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Atlas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The British Library's map collection is the national cartographic collection of Britain and numbers around four million maps dating from 15 CE to 2017 CE. These include road maps drawn for 13th century pilgrims and sea charts for 17th-century pirates. They include the first printed map to show the Americas and the last to show English-controlled Calais. They include the world's biggest and smallest atlases. They include maps for kings and queens, popes, ministers, schoolchildren, soldiers, tourists. There are maps which changed the world. As well as comprehensively showcasing the varied and surprising treasures of the British Library's "banquet of…


Book cover of The Story of Maps

Toby Lester Author Of The Fourth Part of the World: An Astonishing Epic of Global Discovery, Imperial Ambition, and the Birth of America

From my list on geographical ideas behind the age of discovery.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer and an editor with eclectic interests. I’ve published two books of popular history—Da Vinci's Ghost (2012), about Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, and The Fourth Part of the World (2009), about the map that gave America its name. I’ve also written extensively for national publications on such topics as the sociology of new religious movements, privacy protection in the Internet age, the Voynich manuscript, the revisionist study of the Qur’an, the revival of ancient Greek music, and alphabet reform in Azerbaijan. I’m presently a senior editor at the Harvard Business Review and a contributing editor at The Atlantic. From 1988-1990, I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Yemen.

Toby's book list on geographical ideas behind the age of discovery

Toby Lester Why did Toby love this book?

You can certainly find more recent surveys of the history of cartography, but this accessible work, first published in 1949, still stands out as an engaging and enlightening survey of the territory. Lloyd Brown begins his story some 2000 years ago, in Alexandria, Egypt, with the ancient Greeks and Romans, whose geographical ideas came together in the work of Claudius Ptolemy, and he then goes on, in an enjoyable narrative style, to show how scholars and monks and merchants and sailors and scientists all contributed to the art of mapmaking. The first half of the book provides an excellent summary of the kinds of maps that thinkers and travelers would have been familiar with by the time the Age of Discovery got underway.

By Lloyd A. Brown,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Story of Maps as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"An important and scholarly work; bringing together much information available heretofore only in scattered sources … easily readable." — Gerald I. Alexander, F.R.G.S. Cartographer, Map Division, New York Public Library
Early map making was characterized by secrecy. Maps were precious documents, drawn by astrologers and travelers, worn out through use or purposely destroyed. Just as men first mapped the earth indirectly, via the sun and stars, so must the history of maps be approached circuitously, through chronicles, astronomy, Strabo and Ptolemy, seamanship, commerce, politics. From the first determination of latitude 2000 years ago through the dramatic unraveling of longitude 1700…


Book cover of Treasures from the Map Room: A Journey through the Bodleian Collections

Matt Duckham Author Of GIS: A Computing Perspective

From my list on maps and mapmaking.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been surrounded by maps all my life. As a child, a highlight of family summer holidays was the night before, pouring over road maps, planning every step of our drive from my home in rural English midlands, via the cross-channel ferry, to a rented gîte in France, perhaps in the Dordogne or the Loire Valley. Maps are to me a paragon of design: a true marriage of science and art. In an amazingly compressed space, a well-designed map can be incredibly beautiful at the same time as containing an incredible amount of raw data, more than could be contained in reams of tables or many pages of text. 

Matt's book list on maps and mapmaking

Matt Duckham Why did Matt love this book?

Maps are powerful, useful, functional objects. But mapmaking is also an art, with a long history and tradition of design. That indelible connection between the map room and the art gallery is what I enjoy most in this book.

Each map in this selection from the Bodleian Library at Oxford University is accompanied by a thoughtful reflection on the story behind the map and its impact. But it is the maps themselves, reproduced in rich color on high-density, fine-art-book quality paper, that are the main attractions here. I can, and have, spent many hours lost in an exploration of the flourishes, nooks, and curiosities of an individual map.

Immersing myself in an artful map from this book is to be transported to another time and place that is simultaneously endlessly strange and yet comfortingly familiar.  

By Debbie Hall (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Treasures from the Map Room as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book explores the stories behind seventy-five extraordinary maps. It includes unique treasures such as the fourteenth-century Gough Map of Great Britain, exquisite portolan charts made in the fifteenth century, the Selden Map of China - the earliest example of Chinese merchant cartography - and an early world map from the medieval Islamic Book of Curiosities, together with more recent examples of fictional places drawn in the twentieth century, such as C.S. Lewis's own map of Narnia and J.R.R. Tolkien's map of Middle Earth.

As well as the works of famous mapmakers Mercator, Ortelius, Blaeu, Saxton and Speed, the book…


Book cover of Mapping the World: An Illustrated History of Cartography

Kevin Cornell Author Of New in Town

From my list on world-building.

Why am I passionate about this?

I believe stories to be our species’ instinctual tool for discovering our best selves. Sometimes those stories are about real people in the past, sometimes they’re completely imagined people in the future — sometimes we even swap out the humans for animals or aliens, or sassy anthropomorphized objects. Whatever the case, for a story to work its wonders, its details must be believable, or we reject its premise. These books help make a story believable, and, if you get the alchemy just right, those details can even help tell the story themselves.

Kevin's book list on world-building

Kevin Cornell Why did Kevin love this book?

You get a lot of insight into a culture from the maps they create. Not only how they view themselves, but how they view others around them. There have been times in history when cultures weren’t even concerned with their maps being geographically accurate— they were a tool for teaching religion, or indulging a yearning for the fantastic. This book gives an excellent overview as to the many ways humans have used, and designed, maps throughout the centuries.

By Ralph E. Ehrenberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mapping the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mapping the World is a one-of-a-kind collection of cartographic treasures that spans thousands of years and many cultures, from an ancient Babylonian map of the world etched on clay to the latest high-tech maps of the earth, seas, and the skies above. With more than one hundred maps and other illustrations and an introduction and running commentary by Ralph E. Ehrenberg, this book tells a fascinating story of geographic discovery, scientific invention, and the art and technique of mapmaking.

Mapping the World is organized chronologically with a brief introduction that places the maps in their historical context. Special "portfolios" within…


Book cover of The Sovereign Map: Theoretical Approaches in Cartography throughout History

Roberto Casati Author Of The Cognitive Life of Maps

From my list on navigating the age of maps.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have obsessed with maps my whole life, but I guess the main drive for studying them is my enjoyment of outdoor spaces, as a hiker, a mountaineer, and as a sailor: always with a paper map at hand. If you use GPS (a wonderful innovation) you will not only lose some of your precious orientation abilities but above all you will look less at the environment around you. I feel that paper maps do a great favor to my brain and to my enjoyment of places. The books below are a great tribute to maps; they helped me understand them better, and this affected the way I use them.

Roberto's book list on navigating the age of maps

Roberto Casati Why did Roberto love this book?

This is a super-authoritative book on the historical evolution of map-making by a renowned scholar of classics. It shows a surprising variety of maps from Antiquity to the present. Yet in this variety, Jacob is able to find important commonalities that help us understand what makes a map a map.

The take-home message for me has been that maps are engines of thought. By making a territory visible, they unleash a trove of otherwise unthinkable thoughts about it. 

By Christian Jacob, Tom Conley (translator), Edward H. Dahl (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sovereign Map as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A novel work in the history of cartography, "The Sovereign Map" argues that maps are as much about thinking as seeing, as much about the art of persuasion as the science of geography. As a classicist, Christian Jacob brings a fresh eye to his subject - which includes maps from Greek Antiquity to the twentieth century - and provides a theoretical approach to investigating the power of maps to inform, persuade, and inspire the imagination. Beginning with a historical overview of maps and their creation - from those traced in the dirt by primitive hands to the monumental Dutch atlases…


Book cover of How Maps Work: Representation, Visualization, and Design

Roberto Casati Author Of The Cognitive Life of Maps

From my list on navigating the age of maps.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have obsessed with maps my whole life, but I guess the main drive for studying them is my enjoyment of outdoor spaces, as a hiker, a mountaineer, and as a sailor: always with a paper map at hand. If you use GPS (a wonderful innovation) you will not only lose some of your precious orientation abilities but above all you will look less at the environment around you. I feel that paper maps do a great favor to my brain and to my enjoyment of places. The books below are a great tribute to maps; they helped me understand them better, and this affected the way I use them.

Roberto's book list on navigating the age of maps

Roberto Casati Why did Roberto love this book?

If you draw a map, you have many choices of symbols, colors, types of lines, sizes of characters, and so on. We may think these are just arbitrary choices perpetuated by tradition, but MacEachren successfully shows that we better conceive of those items as solutions to communication problems in a subtle dialogue with the Gestalt requirements of visual perception. Not any symbol will do. The symbols must be fit for minds like ours.

I learned a lot from this visual approach to maps.

By Alan M. MacEachren,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked How Maps Work as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now available in paperback for the first time, this classic work presents a cognitive-semiotic framework for understanding how maps work as powerful, abstract, and synthetic spatial representations. Explored are the ways in which the many representational choices inherent in mapping interact with information processing and knowledge construction, and how the resulting insights can be used to make informed symbolization and design decisions. A new preface to the paperback edition situates the book within the context of contemporary technologies. As the nature of maps continues to evolve, Alan MacEachren emphasizes the ongoing need to think systematically about the ways people interact…


Book cover of Mapping an Empire: The Geographical Construction of British India, 1765-1843

Pamela K. Gilbert Author Of Mapping the Victorian Social Body

From my list on how epidemics relate to bigger narratives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began college as a science major, but then switched to literature from a minor to my major. In graduate school, as I worked on my dissertation (which became my first book), I found that metaphors of the body and health were everywhere in the literary field in the mid-nineteenth century. Suffice it to say that the sciences, including the rapid development of modern medicine, are both fundamental to this period and deeply shape its literary culture. In Mapping the Victorian Social Body, I became fascinated with the history of data visualization. Disease mapping completely transformed the ways we understand space and how our bodies exist within it.

Pamela's book list on how epidemics relate to bigger narratives

Pamela K. Gilbert Why did Pamela love this book?

A wonderful book on how techniques of mapping were central to the construction of both the empire and of an emerging idea of “India” as a coherent space. I love the way it clearly lays out how mapping is never simply an innocent process of measuring or describing something that exists out in the world, but is always a process of constructing that reality. And it is an essential part of the history of India, as well as the British empire. 

By Matthew H. Edney,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mapping an Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this history of the British surveys of India, focusing especially on the Great Trigonometrical Survey (GTS) undertaken by the British East India Company, the author relates how imperial Britain employed modern scientific survey techniques not only to create and define the spacial inmage of its Indian empire, but also to legitimate its colonialist activities as triumphs of liberal, rational science bringing "Civilisation" to irrational, mystical and despotic Indians. The reshaping of cartographic technologies in Europe into their modern form played a key role in the use of the GTS as an instrument of British cartographic control over India. In…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in cartography, maps, and philosophy?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about cartography, maps, and philosophy.

Cartography Explore 31 books about cartography
Maps Explore 20 books about maps
Philosophy Explore 1,618 books about philosophy