Tourist maps might seem to have changed a lot between the 13th century and the 21st century, and indeed they have, but we also notice similarities such as the use of pictorial representations of salient landmarks and the editing out of unnecessary clutter.
Itinerary from London to Beauvais
In this medieval map from 1250, which provides an illustration of the route from London to Beauvais and, on subsequent sheets, onward to the final stop of Jerusalem, the chief towns along the route are shown with pictorial representations and the distances between them are noted in days. Broadly, tourist maps share a lot of similarities with amusement park maps in terms of the wow factor for certain elements that are brought to the foreground as well as the generalization of other elements that aren’t as important. This is the power of the cartographer, who can showcase certain places that they want you to go to rather than other places that they don’t think are important or where they would prefer you not to go.
The fact that this 13th century map has roads and places on it is special because it represents one of the first times that we see more of what we’d call a map rather than just a list of place names, which was the way routes were normally shared with others in this time. The map is a woodblock print and is painted with watercolor as well, which is very representative of this era. The creator of this map, Matthew Paris, a Benedictine monk, probably did not ever actually take this pilgrimage and that may be why the map is so sparsely detailed. The Blackletter gothic script, also called Gothic or Textura, is fairly standard for maps of this time period and beyond. In fact, this lettering style was widely used between 1100 AD and the 17th century. Finally, and probably the most interesting thing about this map that we saved to talk about at the end, is that it is an example of what is called a strip map. A strip map is kind of like a comic strip, only turned left 90 degrees and therefore read from bottom left to top right.
John Ogilby 1675 Britannia Atlas-The Road from London to Lands End
This one is also a woodblock! This is exciting because Vanessa is an expert in these sorts of maps, having studied them extensively. With woodblock prints one can’t just create perfect circles or curvatures so there is a distinctive look. When they are pressed onto paper the ink doesn’t always stay in the grooves so the resulting inked lines can have a wonderfully organic look, at least to the eye that is trained in computer-created exacting line widths. So the imperfections from that as well as the imperfections that occur after the map is painted with watercolor make these types of maps very nuanced, unique, and beautiful. Every copy, while the same map, comes out looking a little different.
There’s a large cartouche--an ornamental frame--at the top of this atlas page, and indeed there is a different cartouche at the top of each of the pages that is interesting in itself. The compass roses are a little inconsistent in that the first one is colored in, and, wait for the technical term, “spiky,” while the others don’t have the colored spikes, or directional points. A debate ensues over whether or not this was intentional. As a cartographer you probably never want someone to think, “is this because the cartographer was lazy or was this intentional?”
London is a vibrant burst of detail in the lower left but then as you move along the route the map is less detailed such that the reader doesn’t see any more detail than you were meant to see. There’s a feeling that we’d be much more excited to visit some of these locations more than others depending on how they are depicted on the map. Also, might this atlas actually be part of a secret project to replace parliamentary government with a strong monarchy? Moving back to map elements and features, there is a notable innovation here: a 1 inch to 1 mile scale that makes reading the strip maps--yes, these are strip maps just like the Itinerary from London to Beauvais map we talked about earlier--easy. Another unique thing is that Ogilby straightened out the roads, a form of generalization. Town plans for many of the places in the atlas are also, for the first time, laid out.
This map of Stavanger, Norway, made by Kevin Paul Scarrott, was made in our century, around 2010. This is a modern tourist map similar to what you might find in most cities. This one is enlarged and posted in the city for pedestrians to consult. Wouldn’t it be great to have the tourist map that you yourself made posted as a large poster in the middle of your city or town?
Just as with the much older maps we get to see unique pictorial buildings. These salient landmarks, a favorite phrase referring to places that are the most interesting or important, are highly detailed and yet many other parts of the map are generalized, again, a common trait for tourist maps that want to draw the eye away from the boring and toward the exciting. One difference with this map, however, is that the roads here are right where they should be with all their twists and turns, not straightened out to fit the strip map style.
The aesthetic is very familiar to those who have seen other modern tourist maps: thicker roads--the thoroughly technical term “chunky” may or may not have been used to describe them,--legends explaining circled number locations, and an intriguingly similar base color to others, orange. Perhaps because art tends to be derivative, with cartographic products being no exception, we see these similarities. No extra textures or fills are used, making this a nice non-busy composition. Many vibrant hues balance out that orange base. It takes a bold cartographer to use bold colors! Thinking about the users, however, one can imagine that they would appreciate the bright hues when they are traversing unfamiliar ground in bright sunlight. But the biggest take-home here is that tourist maps tend to provide pictorials of the salient landmarks and generalize the rest. Indeed, many tourist maps have that in common from the 13th century to today.