The best books about maps

3 authors have picked their favorite books about maps and why they recommend each book.

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William Birchynshaw's Map of Exeter, 1743

By Richard Oliver, Roger Kain, Todd Gray

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

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.


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Maps and History: Constructing Images of the Past

By Jeremy Black,

Book cover of Maps and History: Constructing Images of the Past

What is my book about?

Historical atlases offer an understanding of the past that is invaluable to historians, not only because they convey a previous age's sense of space and distance but also because they reveal what historians and educators of those periods thought important to include or omit. This book - the first comprehensive and wide-ranging account of the historical atlas - explores the role, development, and nature of this important reference and discusses its impact on the presentation of the past.

Map

By Phaidon Press, John Hessler,

Book cover of Map: Exploring the World

Maps are the most ancient type of infographic we know, and that comes as no surprise. Spatial navigation is one of the most important evolutionary skills that both animals and humans have developed. Recording this knowledge in maps requires both a thorough scientific understanding and considerable artistic skills. This beautiful coffee table book is a mind-blowing and timeless trip through the field of cartography. It charts the development from pre-historic maps carved in stone all the way to recent brain scans from the Human Connectome Project. Give me this book and I’ll be lost browsing through its visual treasures for several days.

Who am I?

I am a writer and editor with a background in art history, based in Berlin. My work has always been shaped by two complementary needs. First, I always felt a thirst for understanding and knowledge. Second, I was always on the hunt for brilliant design and beautiful visuals. Infographics were thus a natural terrain for me. Since 2012, I have published four comprehensive books in the field. This includes both surveys of contemporary work as well as studies in the history of the field.


I wrote...

History of Information Graphics

By Sandra Rendgen,

Book cover of History of Information Graphics

What is my book about?

This XL-sized compendium explores the history of data graphics from the Middle Ages right through to the digital era. Curated by Sandra Rendgen, some 400 milestones span astronomy, cartography, zoology, technology, and beyond. Across medieval manuscripts and parchment rolls, elaborate maps, splendid popular atlases, and early computer-based information design, we systematically break down each work’s historical context, including such highlights as Martin Waldseemüller’s famous world map, the meticulous nature studies of Ernst Haeckel, and many unknown treasures.

The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Egypt

By Bill Manley,

Book cover of The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Egypt

I’m recommending this 1st book because it really is the perfect introduction to ancient Egypt and its unique landscape. Its accessible format features excellent maps which each have a theme to best explain the way Egypt’s distinct environment directly influenced its culture, its history, and its relationship with the rest of the ancient world.


Who am I?

Having studied ancient Egypt her entire life, Professor Joann Fletcher is based in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. As a founding member of the university’s Mummy Research Group, she is also Lead Ambassador for the Egypt Exploration Society and an advisor to museums around the UK. Her numerous publications include The Search for Nefertiti, Cleopatra the Great, and The Story of Egypt, academic papers, and regular contributions to the BBC's History magazine. She also makes frequent appearances on radio and television. Although it’s incredibly difficult to pick just 5 books that best encapsulate ‘Ancient Egypt’ in its broadest sense, it’s important to start with those which are as informative and accurate as possible when many can be quite the opposite! 


I wrote...

The Story of Egypt

By Joann Fletcher,

Book cover of The Story of Egypt

What is my book about?

The book covers Egypt’s ancient history, from its major events and key sites to the people themselves. By looking at both the pharaohs and their subjects, it reveals how these men and women created this spectacular culture which still influences our modern world. It also features new discoveries, some of which I’ve been involved with over the last thirty years or more, including the true beginnings of mummification, Tutankhamen’s clothing, and the women who ruled as pharaohs (as also highlighted in two of my previous books The Search for Nefertiti and Cleopatra the Great).

Ultimately The Story of Egypt is based on my life-long passion for the subject, and my genuine desire to bring the ancient Egyptians ‘back to life’ as it were.

The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings

By John Haywood,

Book cover of The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what value is an illustrated, annotated map complete with key dates and a timeline?! Most books carry a few maps that help orientate you to the text, but this atlas is a treasure trove. It provides a visual context that is hugely helpful in understanding how the world of the Vikings evolved.


Who am I?

Ian Stuart Sharpe likes to imagine he is descended from Guðrum, King of the East Angles, although DNA tests and a deep disdain for camping suggest otherwise. He is the author of two novels set in his alternate Vikingverse, the All Father Paradox and Loki’s Wager. He once won a prize at school for Outstanding Progress and chose a dictionary as his reward, secretly wishing it had been an Old Norse phrasebook. It took him thirty years, but he has finally realised his dream.


I wrote...

Old Norse for Modern Times

By Ian Stuart Sharpe,

Book cover of Old Norse for Modern Times

What is my book about?

Have you ever wanted to wield the silver tongue of Loki, or to hammer home your point like a Thundergod? Old Norse is the language of legends and the stuff of sagas, the inspiration for Tolkien and Marvel, for award-winning manga and epic videogames. It is the language of cleverly crafted kennings, blood-curdling curses, and pithy retorts to Ragnarök. Old Norse for Modern Times gives you the perfect phrase for every contemporary situation:

Battle-cries to yell on Discord: "Do I look to be in a gaming mood?" Sýnisk þér ek vera í skapi til leika?"

Mead hall musings: "This drink, I like it! ANOTHER!" Líkar mér drykkr þessi! ANNAN!"

With over 500 phrases inside, it is the perfect guide for Vikings fans, whether they are re-enactors, role-players, or simply in love with Ragnar.

Atlas

By Tom Harper,

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

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.


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Maps and History: Constructing Images of the Past

By Jeremy Black,

Book cover of Maps and History: Constructing Images of the Past

What is my book about?

Historical atlases offer an understanding of the past that is invaluable to historians, not only because they convey a previous age's sense of space and distance but also because they reveal what historians and educators of those periods thought important to include or omit. This book - the first comprehensive and wide-ranging account of the historical atlas - explores the role, development, and nature of this important reference and discusses its impact on the presentation of the past.

21st Century Atlas of the Moon

By Charles A. Wood, Maurice J. S. Collins,

Book cover of 21st Century Atlas of the Moon

Stargazers find out pretty quickly that the Moon can be a nuisance. After first quarter, the Moon illuminates the entire sky, and washing out all but the brightest stars and deep-sky objects like galaxies and nebulae. Seasoned astronomers soon learn that if the Moon is up, it’s what you should be observing! The challenge is to appreciate what you’re seeing.

When I was doing research for my book, 50 things to see on the Moon, I observed the Moon every chance I got, making notes about what I saw. But early on, I had no idea what I was looking at! This lunar atlas helped me appreciate the Moon’s topography, geography, geology, and so much more.


Who am I?

My journey into astronomy began with a small and rickety telescope purchased at a local pharmacy. I found it fascinating to observe the Moon and Saturn with their rings using such meager equipment. I decided to share these views with others by writing my first book, 50 Things to See with a Small Telescope, an easy-to-understand beginner’s guide which I self-published and sold through Amazon starting in 2013. I have since published a number of other books on space for children. Besides writing, I work as the telescope operator at Burke-Gaffney Observatory. In 2020 I was awarded the Simon Newcomb Award for excellence in science communication.


I wrote...

50 Things to See with a Telescope: A young stargazer's guide

By John A. Read,

Book cover of 50 Things to See with a Telescope: A young stargazer's guide

What is my book about?

50 Things to See with a Telescope covers everything you need to know to identify constellations, planets, stars, galaxies, nebulae, and more. Beginner stargazers will find star hopping easy with clearly plotted routes on images of the sky and detailed views from a backyard telescope. 

This easy-to-read, fully illustrated stargazing book will enrich your experience of the skies above. For those living south of the equator, a Southern Hemisphere edition of this book is also available. This book is part of an award-winning series, including: 50 Things to See on the Moon, 50 Animals that have been to Space, 50 Space Missions that Changed the World, and 110 Things to See with a Telescope (coming July 2021).

Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade

By David Eltis, David Richardson,

Book cover of Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade

This is best viewed as a template for the vast historiography of the slave trade that includes studies of the slave ship, the crews, the horrors of the “middle passage” and the organized acquisition in Africa and disposal in the Americas of African bodies. The Atlas is a graphic summary of the comprehensive base compiled by Eltis and his colleagues.


Who am I?

I taught American, European, and World History at the University of British Columbia for over 30 years. I was constantly reminded of the dynamics and consequences of slavery and how a history of black America should be more prevalent in understanding the development of American culture, institutions, and identity over time. In writing two books on colonial America and the American Revolution, the roots of America’s racial divide became clearer and the logic of permanence seemed irresistible. My Shaping the New World was inspired by a course I taught for years on slavery in the Americas. Compiling the bibliography and writing the chapters on slave women and families helped to refine my understanding of the “peculiar institution” in all its both common and varied characteristics throughout the Americas.


I wrote...

Shaping the New World: African Slavery in the Americas, 1500-1888

By Eric Nellis,

Book cover of Shaping the New World: African Slavery in the Americas, 1500-1888

What is my book about?

Between 1500 and the middle of the nineteenth century, some 12.5 million slaves were sent as bonded labour from Africa to the European settlements in the Americas. Shaping the New World introduces students to the origins, growth, and consolidation of African slavery in the Americas and race-based slavery's impact on the economic, social, and cultural development of the New World.

While the book explores the idea of the African slave as a tool in the formation of new American societies, it also acknowledges the culture, humanity, and importance of the slave as a person and highlights the role of women in slave societies.

Atlas of the Bible

By John Rogerson,

Book cover of Atlas of the Bible

Part of my job when writing historical fiction is to know the "lay of the land." That means understanding regional maps, the geography, the climate, and the flora and fauna of the era and location of my story. I turned to this book so often that some of the pages are falling out. Beautifully illustrated with color photos, maps, and drawings, this book describes the history and main features of twelve main geographical regions in the Holy Land and connects them to major events in the Old and New Testaments. It's an accessible resource that functions more as a cultural atlas than simply as a map atlas.


Who am I?

I have been an avid reader of historical fiction since I was very young, and I love learning about the life and times of different periods of history. One might describe me as a "research junkie." My desire to know more about the everyday lives of my historical characters has taken me on many wonderful adventures, and my personal library is full of books I use for research. I write fiction, creative nonfiction, and novels. I am currently completing a new novel about a family of downwinders, people who contracted cancer from government-sanctioned radioactive fallout from the atomic bomb tests in Nevada during the 1950s and 1960s.


I wrote...

Blood of a Stone

By Jeanne Lyet Gassman,

Book cover of Blood of a Stone

What is my book about?

Set in first-century Palestine on the fringes of the Roman Empire and the Jesus movement, Blood of a Stone is a sweeping story of murder, betrayal, love, and the search for redemption. Faced with the brutality of slavery, Demetrios murders his abusive Roman master and flees to Galilee to create a new life and a new identity.

However, freedom has its price. Secrets cannot remain secret forever. When Demetrios is betrayed by a close friend, he risks everything to silence those who would enslave him again. His quest leads him to startling discoveries and dire choices, and Demetrios must answer the question we all face: Can we ever be free of our past?

Charles Booth's London Poverty Maps

By Mary S. Morgan,

Book cover of Charles Booth's London Poverty Maps: A Landmark Reassessment of Booth's Social Survey

Not a book as such, but these maps tell the social historian a great deal about London in the late-1800s. They were compiled by Charles Booth, a wealthy philanthropist, who wanted to highlight the areas of London in the greatest need of help. In order to achieve this, he despatched a team of researchers to every street in London (except the City,) to assess their character. The results were entered onto a colour-coded map – yellow streets were the most affluent; black were the resorts of “vicious semi-criminals”.


Who am I?

Fiona Rule is a writer, researcher, and historian specialising in the history of London. ​ She is the author of five books: The Worst Street In London, London's Docklands, London's Labyrinth, Streets Of Sin, and The Oldest House In London. ​ A regular contributor to television and radio programmes, Fiona also has her own company, House Histories, which specialises in researching the history of people's homes. She holds an Advanced Diploma in Local History from the University of Oxford.


I wrote...

The Worst Street in London

By Fiona Rule,

Book cover of The Worst Street in London

What is my book about?

Amid the bustling streets of Spitalfields, East London, lies an anonymous office block. The average pedestrian wouldn't even notice it, but beneath its foundations lies all that remains of Dorset Street – The worst street in London: once the resort of thieves, conmen, pimps, prostitutes, and murderers, most notably Jack the Ripper.

This book chronicles the rise and fall of this remarkable street, from its promising beginnings, through its gradual descent into iniquity, vice, and violence, to its final demise at the hands of the demolition men. This remarkable story gives a fascinating insight into an area of London that has always been a cultural melting pot and the place where many thousands of migrants became Londoners. It also tells the story of a part of the capital that, until quite recently, was largely left to fend for itself, with truly horrifying results.

The Girl from Everywhere

By Heidi Heilig,

Book cover of The Girl from Everywhere

It’s not often you can pick up a fantasy book and laugh. Not only laugh but travel with a rogue group of people and enjoy every minute of it. The Girl from Everywhere is just plain fun! I loved the characters, so much personality! That it’s a time travel story makes it exciting, and I have a passion for tall ships, so she had me with the sailing adventure. Add to that humor and a feisty dialogue. I can’t say enough about this book.


Who am I?

I write, I read, I love people, and I have been living in a fantasy world ever since I was small. Personalities fascinate me and I have studied the little quirks and oddities that flavor individuals both in my artwork (I’m a portrait artist/oil painter), in my college major (counseling), and while writing my stories. What makes us who we are, and who our characters are, involves our backstories, our hopes, our fears, our dreams. Everyone has them and our characters in our stories should too. Oftentimes when I’m writing I find myself exploring a character more than I thought I would and that’s the fun part. I enjoy authors who do the same. 


I wrote...

Sword of Cho Nisi Book 1: Rise of the Tobian Princess

By D.L. Gardner, Mario Teodosio (illustrator),

Book cover of Sword of Cho Nisi Book 1: Rise of the Tobian Princess

What is my book about?

From the moment Erika makes a fatal mistake that could cost her father his kingdom, she meets the challenge of redemption head-on, tackling the Dark Wizard, rescuing her brother from a torturous curse, and wrestling with a stormy love affair. She's not alone, for the struggles are more than one person could handle, and her help comes from both family and unexpected sources. Regardless of who proves their allegiance, the Sword of Cho Nisi Rise of the Tobian Princess is a test of courage for all our heroes.

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