Latitudes Newsletter Feb 2018

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Map Society


February 2018


Source: San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Lignes Aeriennes Latecoere (later Aeropostale), began flying from Toulouse to Barcelona on Christmas, 1918.  Two months later it pushed its route to Casablanca, shown here. (This month is the 100th anniversary of this air link.) This poster was made at some point between then and 1925, when the route was extended to Dakar (now in Senegal). Great use of the map in design.




Thursday, February 15, 2017 – 5 PM – Madison Bldg – LoC:  Leslie Trager (WMS) will present Henry Hudson: Cree History and Ancient Maps. Trager is a revisionist historian who believes Cree and Inuit history indicate they encountered Hudson during his exploration of Hudson Bay. The Cree allegedly witnessed the mutiny and rescued Hudson and his remaining men. Trager also believes that knowledge of the Hudson Bay area existed before Hudson arrived there in 1610 based on maps which depicted the Bay years before that date.  

Note: This program was postponed from December 2017 due to uncertainty about a government funding appropriation by the U.S. Congress. Once we postponed the meeting, Congress approved a short-term appropriation to keep the Government open. What a bunch of kidders.
Another Note: We had a brief government closure in mid-January; as we go to press, it is behind us. Unfortunately, the continuing resolution which ended it expires at midnight on 8 February 2018 – one week before this WMS meeting on 15 February. If the meeting is cancelled or postponed, we will send out another notification.




Thursday, March 8, 2018 – 5 PM – Madison Bldg – LoC:  Dr. John Hessler, Curator of the Jay I. Kislak Collection of the Archaeology and History of the Early Americas at the Library of Congress, Geography & Map Division, will speak on Mapping Indigenous Spaces: The Rare Codex Quetzalecatzin comes to the Library of Congress. The Codex Quetzalecatzin, is an extremely rare, colored Mesoamerican map and one of the most important indigenous manuscripts from the earliest history of the Americas to become available in recent years. As is typical for an Aztec, or Nahuatl, codex of this early date (circa 1570-95), it relates the extent of land ownership and properties of a family line. It shows genealogical information and land ownership for the Nahuatl "de Leon" family from 1480-1593.


It covers southern Puebla from the church of Todos Santos, Ecatepec (now suburb to the north east of modern-day Mexico City), and Lake Texcoco (now the National Reserve "El Caracol") to the church of Santa Cruz Huitziltepec, Pue, at the lower right, with the lower portion of the map crossed by what appears to be the Atoyac River in northern Oaxaca. Relief is shown pictorially. Acquired by the Library Congress in 2017 from a private owner in Europe, this important piece has now been made available to the public (digitally) for the first time in more than one hundred years. The lecture will explain the acquisition by the Library of the Codex, its history, and new research on its origins and use.




Thursday, April 12, 2018 – 5 PM – Madison Bldg – LoC:  Mark Monmonier will discuss Patents and Plato: Map-Related Patents in General, and One Clever Inventor in Particular. Map historians have paid little attention to patents even though over 300 patents for devices intended to promote the use of maps and map information were issued by the U.S. Patent Office from the mid-19th century through early 20th century.


This talk will review the principal areas of invention and highlight one emblematic entrepreneur, John Byron Plato (1876-1966), whose 1915 patent for a method that assigned rural residences a unique address led to the Index Map Company.  Mark Monmonier is a Distinguished Professor of Geography at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. He specializes in toponymy, geography, and geographic information systems. His popular written works show a combination of serious study and a sense of humor. Most of his work is published by University of Chicago Press.




Friday, May 4, 2018: Annual Dinner: Dr. Max Edelson, Associate Professor, University of Virginia, Featured Speaker

The Washington Map Society Annual Dinner will be held on 4 May 2018 at the banquet facility at Maggiano's in Tysons. Max Edelson, associate professor of American History at the University of Virginia, will speak after dinner on his recent book The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence. After the Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years’ War in 1763, British America stretched from Hudson Bay to the Florida Keys, from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River, and across new islands in the West Indies.


To better rule these vast dominions, Britain set out to map its new territories with unprecedented rigor and precision. Dr. Edelson’s new book depicts the contested geography of the British Atlantic world and offers new explanations of the causes and consequences of Britain’s imperial ambitions in the generation before the American Revolution. These maps show, as never before, how Britain’s bid for supremacy helped launch the quest for independence. His talks have been popular with map and non-map-oriented audiences alike. (Photo taken in local Starbucks, Springfield, Virginia; nice to see the book in some non-traditional places.)




There will be an Open House at the home of a WMS member to view nearly 100 maps framed and hung in his home. His collection has two main foci: Age of Discovery and Early Colonial Americana. The former includes maps of the world and continents by Schedel, Waldseemuller, Fries, Ruscelli, Ortelius, Munster, Blaeu, and Braun and Hogenberg. His Early Colonial Americana includes maps of Virginia, Maryland, and DC, including those by Jansson, Speed, and Fry-Jefferson. Beverages and hors d'oeuvres will be served. More information will be made available as the date draws nearer.




In January, Dr. Koot presented Biography of a Map in Motion: Augustine Herrman's Chesapeake. Herrman’s cartographic masterpiece, Virginia and Maryland as it is Planted and Inhabited, is one of the most extraordinary maps of colonial British America.


Created by a Bohemian nobleman, merchant, planter, and diplomat named Augustine Herrman, the map depicts the Maryland colony and some adjacent areas in detail, capturing their waterways, coastlines, and communities. It was made in exchange a large land grant from for Cecil Calvert, 2nd Lord Baltimore. Calvert strongly felt that a map of this sort was needed to promote his new colony. It was printed in four parts by William Faithorne of London and measured a robust 37.5 x 32.25 inches. The map is often cited as an important early map of the region, but oddly enough, it is seldom seen or discussed. This is probably because there are only five known copies in the world, one of which is at the Library of Congress and was on display the evening of the talk. Koot has a recently published book which tells the map’s story in fascinating detail, Biography of a Map in Motion: Augustine Herrman’s Chesapeake.  A video edition of this talk is available for viewing on the WMS web site in the Members Only Section




Several months ago, we began posting a video of our WMS monthly presentation, complete with a close-up of their slides. Any WMS member can view any talk by registering for the web site, signing in to the Members Only section, and following a few (reasonably) simple instructions. Now that we have a few kinks worked out, we are delighted by how watchable and enjoyable they are. We have found, however, that quite a few members still don’t know about this new feature, which could greatly expand their pleasure in belonging to WMS, especially if they don’t live in the immediate DC area. (Special offer for home viewers only: You are welcome to wear your PJs and eat popcorn while you watch these videos. The Library of Congress has asked us not to offer this same benefit for viewers on their premises.)




15th Annual Alan M. and Nathalie P. Voorhees Lectures on the History of Cartography, 28 April 2018; Library of Virginia, 800 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA.  The 2018 Alan M. and Nathalie P. Voorhees Lecture on the History of Cartography features guest speakers Dr. Martin Gallivan on The Map of Virginia: Algonquian and English Cartography in the Seventeenth Century Chesapeake and Dr. Buck Woodard on Mapping Colonialism: British Cartography of Indigenous Lands. Both men are anthropologists by training. Dr. Woodard was director of the American Indian program at Colonial Williamsburg and is now lecturing at American University. Dr. Gallivan teaches at William and Mary. There will also be an accompanying exhibition of 17th-Century Virginia maps from the Library’s collections.


While the lectures do not begin until 1:00 pm, there are several other activities offered including map appraisals by Old World Auctions, and tours of Special Collections (reservations required). An “Online Maps Resources” workshop will be offered at 11:00 am by the Library of Virginia’s senior map archivist, Cassandra Britt Farrell. Box lunches are offered for advanced purchase only. The Voorhees Lectures always draw a crowd of WMS members, since they are so close to the DC area (even with the dreaded Interstate 95 in between).

Register at:




From March 21, 2018 through May 26, 2018, Washington Map Society member J. C. McElveen will curate an exhibit of his maps and books entitled Westward the Course of Empire: Exploring and Settling the American West at the Grolier Club of New York. The exhibit, in the 2nd Floor Gallery, will feature some maps and travel narratives from the 17th and 18th centuries, but the focus of the exhibit will be on exploring and mapping the American West in the 19th Century, from Lewis & Clark to the Pacific Railroad Surveys. The Grolier Club of New York is America’s oldest and largest society for bibliophiles and enthusiasts in the graphic arts.  Founded in 1884, the Club is named for Jean Grolier, the Renaissance collector renowned for sharing his library with friends.  The Club’s objective is to foster the literary study and promotion of arts pertaining to the production of books.


47 East 60th Street
New York, NY 10022
Hours: Monday – Saturday 10 am to 5 pm
Exhibitions are open to the public free of charge


Mystic Seaport: The Vikings Begin: Treasures from Uppsala University, Sweden
May - September, 2018 -- Mystic, Connecticut
This exhibit will feature the Vinland Map, the document that ignited a controversy in 1965 as it purported to show the Vikings reached and mapped a portion of the New World long before Christopher Columbus. Experts concluded it is not legitimate, but it still has much to tell us about issues of authenticity and the origins of modern America. This exhibition will place the Vinland Map on display in the U.S. for the first time in more than 50 years, allowing those who have followed the saga to see its primary evidence for the first time. Mystic Seaport will engage historians, archaeologists, scientists, and other leading experts to share the Map's story, and discuss its out-sized role in modern American history. This exhibition is made possible in collaboration with the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.


Image is by Yale University Press, Yale University, Public Domain


Note: Many more events are listed on the web site known simply as Cartography Calendars, operated for many years by WMS member John Docktor. Go to (note relatively new address) and select the page you wish to see, i.e., Calendar of Meetings and/or Calendar of Exhibitions.




Dr. Matthew Edney, Director of the History of Cartography Project, University of Wisconsin – Madison; Osher Professor at University of Southern Maine; Resident Wizard at the Osher Map Library; widely published author; and long-time WMS member; has begun a blog on FaceBook titled Mapping As Process. As Matthew explains, “This is ‘serious stuff,’ not postings of fun maps and things, for which there are already plenty of blogs and FB feeds out there.” Note: this includes our own WMS FaceBook page, which Matthew has wisely chosen not to compete with. He already has some content online, and “I hope to have a post up on the flawed concept of "thematic map" [soon]. Enjoy! And tell your friends!”




On 4 January 2018, the History of Cartography project, supported materially by so many WMS members, published this happy bulletin:

Great news! We submitted Volume Four to press on January 2nd!


This means that production can begin on Cartography in the European Enlightenment, which will contain 479 entries written by 207 contributors (totaling about one million words) and 954 full- color figures. It is a massive undertaking. We expect that the published volume will appear in 2019—hopefully by July of that year for the ICHC conference in Amsterdam. We know many of our followers have contributed in some way—thank you for helping us reach this milestone!

This 15” tower is a printed copy of the full Volume 4 manuscript, with thumbnails of the reference images.




The Washington Map Society follows the closing decisions of the Federal Government. If they are closed due to bad weather, our meeting will be canceled. If bad weather develops on the day of our event, and the Government authorizes early release, we will probably still be forced to cancel. (If the Madison Building is closed, there’s not much we can do.) We will attempt to send a blast e-mail in that case. Please check your email before coming to a meeting when bad weather is predicted. You can also check the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) web site at Finally, you can call the OPM status hotline at 202-606-1900.
A Word of Warning, Revised: Predicting snowfall in the DC area is an imperfect science at best, possibly because it’s done by one federal enclave, two states, and the federal government. By the time they meet to resolve their differences, it’s summer. Anyway, once in a great while we have cancelled meetings and then not a single flake of snow fell. That is always disappointing and irritating, but it doesn’t happen very often, and this is still the most workable system we have come up.



Cartographic Quotes:

"A map does not just chart; it unlocks and formulates meaning; it forms bridges from here to there, between disparate ideas that we did not know were previously connected.”

Reif Larsen

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet

(The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet was the debut novel of American author Reif Larson, published in 2009. It follows the exploits of a 12-year-old genius cartographer, who receives an unexpected phone call from the Smithsonian announcing he has won the prestigious Baird Award. Life as normal (if you consider dinner table conversations about mapping normal) is interrupted and a wild cross-country adventure begins, taking T. S. from his family home just north of Divide, Montana, to the museum’s hallowed halls.)



(Note: For better or worse – probably the latter – most written content in Latitudes is the work and wording of editor Bert Johnson, unless specifically noted to be the work of someone else. Bert can be reached at Lay-out, much of the graphics, and transmission is done by Eliane Dotson, Vice President and Program Chair of WMS.) 


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