Ristow Prize




The Dr. Walter W. Ristow Prize, offered annually by the Washington Map Society since 1994, recognizes academic achievement in the History of Cartography. It honors the legacy of the late Dr. Walter W. Ristow, former chief of the Geography & Map Division, Library of Congress, and co-founder and first president of the Washington Map Society.

See previous prize winners here


The winner of the Ristow Prize Competition shall receive the following:
• $1000 cash award
• a one-year membership in the Washington Map Society
• publication of the paper in The Portolan - Journal of the Washington Map Society
• six copies of The Portolan in which the winning paper appears

Publication of the winning paper is a requisite for receipt of the Ristow Prize. It is the responsibility of the winning scholar to work with the editor of The Portolan to prepare the paper for publication. The cash award is paid on verification by the editor that the author has provided the necessary assistance to make publication possible.

A designation of Honorable Mention may be awarded at the judges' discretion. The recipient of this designation shall receive the following:
• a one-year membership in the Washington Map Society
possible publication of the paper in The Portolan - Journal of the Washington Map Society
• if published, six copies of The Portolan in which the paper appears

Publication of a paper designated for Honorable Mention is at the discretion of the editor of The Portolan, and only with the consent of the author. Publication is not a requisite for receipt of that designation.


This competition is open to all full or part-time undergraduate, graduate, and first year post-doctoral students attending accredited colleges and universities anywhere in the world. A number of Ristow Prize winners and Honorable Mentions have come from outside the United States.


Research papers must be related to the history of cartography. Merely using maps to relate an episode in history is not sufficient, unless the maps date from the period of the event, and/or disclose new information about that event, and/or the study of those maps constitutes a major focus of the paper. It may be helpful to review the List of Ristow Prize Winners on this web site to help grasp the variety of papers that have won in past years' competitions.

The papers must be completed to fulfill academic requirements. For example, they may be research papers submitted to fulfill course work, or they may be a portion or adaptation of a portion of a thesis or dissertation. The entrant must be prepared to provide the name and contact information of the professor, instructor, or reader for which the paper was done, and the title of the course. This need not accompany the paper.

The paper must be in English and must be documented in a style selected by the author. Papers must not exceed 7500 words. Bibliography and reference footnotes are not counted in the 7500 word limit. Textual or explanatory footnotes or asterisked remarks are counted in the 7500 word limit and cannot be used to circumvent that limit.

The entrant must submit four unbound copies of the paper. Each copy must have a cover sheet that states the entrant's name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, school and academic status, and title of paper. Each paper must also have a title page containing only the title that appeared on the cover page. This facilitates blind judging of the papers.

Papers which have been previously presented at academic symposia or entered in other competitions remain eligible for the Ristow Prize.

Papers must not, however, have been published, selected for publication, or in contention for publication at the time of entry into the Ristow Prize competition. Serious copyright implications make this necessary. This criterion is not circumvented by a change of title and/or wording to what is essentially the same article that has appeared in another publication. Any circumstance which renders publication of the winning paper in The Portolan impossible will void the selection of that paper as the winning entry.


Judging is performed by three persons with suitable background in the history of cartography. They are often drawn from the membership of the Washington Map Society, and they have included some of the most learned academics, archivists, and collectors of our time. The identity of the judges is not made public.

There are three broad criteria used to judge Ristow Prize entries:
• importance of research (e.g., originality, sources used)
• quality of research (e.g., accuracy, source reliability)
• writing quality (e.g., clarity, organization, and command of cartographic terms)

Each judge works independently to evaluate each paper. It is not a consultative process. Their results are reported to the Ristow Prize chair, who collates them. This collation, and not the opinion of the Ristow Prize Chair, determines the recipient of the Ristow Prize and the designation(s) of Honorable Mention, if any.

Judging is done as quickly as is practical. Papers cannot be sent to the judges sooner than a month after the postmark deadline to ensure that all overseas entries have been received. One or more judges may be traveling or performing research of their own during the summer months. For that reason, results are seldom forthcoming until the middle of the fall semester.


Papers must be postmarked not later than 1 June of each year and mailed to Dr. Evelyn Edson, Ristow Prize Chair, 268 Springtree Lane, Scottsville VA 24590-9511, USA.


When a paper is published, The Portolan may carry a brief (half page) profile of the author, for which biographic information and a recent photo will be requested.

Publication in The Portolan places the winning paper in some of the top academic and intellectual institutions in the world. The Portolan is available at the Library of Congress, British Library, Bibliothèque nationale, and several other national libraries. It is on the shelves of libraries at Harvard, Yale, Brown, Cornell, Oxford, Trinity Dublin, and other outstanding universities. It appears at prestigious private institutions such as the Huntington Library, Newberry Library, and New York Public Library. A complete list of institutional recipients can be found HERE.


Questions may be directed to the chair at eedson@pvcc.edu or the above address.


The Walter W. Ristow Prize Results

1994 Ristow Prize Winner

John Hamer, Graduate Student, University of Michigan

Worlds Apart: Norman Mappaemundi in England and Sicily

1994 Second Place

Brendan Ford, MS Geography Candidate, George Mason University

The History of Modem Mapping in Fairfax County, Virginia

1994 Third Place

Aaron B. Retish, Undergraduate, University of Wisconsin

A Foreign Perception of Russia: An Analysis of Anthony Jenkinson's Map of Russia, Muscovy, and Tartaria

1995 Ristow Prize Winner

Stephanie Anne Roper, PhD Candidate, University of Kansas

Image Is Everything: English Maps of Colonial North America as Promotional Tools, 1530-1660

1995 Second Place

Martin Coulter, Undergraduate, University of Aberdeen, Scotland:

John Wood's Plan of the Cities of Aberdeen, 1828

1996 Ristow Prize Winner

Stephen C. Pinson, PhD Candidate, Harvard University

Repressed Mimesis: Jomard and the ‘Monuments de la Geographie’

1996 Honorable Mention

David Hays, Graduate Student, Yale University

Antiquarian Cartography and the Origins of the Palazzo Barberini in Seventeenth Century Rome

1997 Ristow Prize Winner

Philip J. Stern, Undergraduate, Wesleyan University

Notwithstanding the Efforts of the Ancients and the Wishes of the Moderns: The Authority of

Cartography in the Origins of the Modern British Exploration of Africa


1997 Honorable Mention

Stephen Tseng-hsin Chang, PhD/MPh Candidate, University of Reading

The Portuguese Maritime Discoveries Along the South East Coast of China in the First Half of the Sixteenth Century: A Cartographic View, 1513-1550

1998 Ristow Prize Winner

Kenneth Mitchell, Graduate Student, University of Minnesota

Juan de la Cruz Cano y Olmedilla's Mapa Geografico de America Meridional

1998 Honorable Mention

Lucy Chester, PhD Candidate, Yale University

Mapping Imperial Expansion: Colonial Cartography in North America and South Asia


1998 Honorable Mention

Lisa Davis-Allen, PhD Candidate, University of Texas at Arlington

The National Palette: Painting and Map-Coloring in the Seventeenth-Century Dutch Republic


1998 Honorable Mention

Jennifer Turnham, PhD Candidate, University of Minnesota

Mapping the New World: Nicolas Sanson's 'Amerique Septentrionale' and French Cartography in the Seventeenth Century

1999 Ristow Prize Winner

Neil Safier, PhD Candidate, Johns Hopkins University

Mapping Myths: The Cartographic Boundaries between Science

and Speculation on La Condamine's Amazon, 1743-44

1999 Honorable Mention

Kenneth Mitchell, Graduate Student, University of Minnesota

Mapping the French Empire: Jean Boisseau's 1643 'Description de la Nowelle France' (Note: Mr. Mitchell won the Ristow Prize in 1998.)


1999 Honorable Mention

Jilly Traganou, Post-Doctorate Scholar, Tokyo Keizai University

Geographic Representations of the Tokaio from Edo to Meiji Japan

2000 - No prize awarded

2001 Ristow Prize Winner

Dimitris K. Loupis, PhD Candidate, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey

Piri Reis' Book on Navigation and a Geography Handbook:

Ottoman Efforts to Produce an Atlas during the Reign of Sultan Mehmed IV (1648­-1687)

2001 Honorable Mention

Michael Kimaid, PhD Candidate, Bowling Green University

From That Last Point, The Line Is Less Exact: The Problem of Cartography Prior to the Louisiana Purchase


2001 Honorable Mention

Tine Ningal, MSc Candidate, International Institute for Aerospace Survey and Earth Sciences (ITC), the Netherlands

A Case Study of Transition From Mental Map to Web-Based Mapping in Papua­New Guinea for Cartographic Education

2002 Ristow Prize Winner

Gary Spurr, MA Candidate, University of Texas at Arlington

Maps of Conquest: Indian and Spanish Maps of MesoAmerica


2002 Honorable Mention

Rushika February Hage, PhD Candidate, University of Minnesota - Minneapolis

The Island Book of Henricus Martellus: Charting Lands Known and Unknown

2003 Ristow Prize Winner

Ben Sheesley, PhD Student, University of Wisconsin-Madison

A Humboltian Science Framework for William Whewell's Maps of the Oceanic Tides


2003 Honorable Mention

Yongtao Du, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Contesting Spatial Order: Merchant Geography in Late-Ming China


2003 Honorable Mention

Mitia Frumin, PhD, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Russian Navy Mapping Activities in the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean (Late 18th Century)

2004 Ristow Prize Winner

Veronica Della Dora, PhD Candidate, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Mapping Science and Myth on the Holy Mountain:

Renaissance and Enlightenment Visions of Mount Athos

2005 Ristow Prize Winner

Ruth E. Watson, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

The Decorated Hearts of Oronce Fine: The 1531 Double Cordiform Map of the World

2005 Honorable Mention

Mark Fink, University of Texas at Arlington

Charting the Enlightenment: An Interpretation of Edmond Halley’s 1728 Chart of the Atlantick Ocean


2005 Honorable Mention

Robert Sherwood, University of Texas at Arlington

Humboldt’s Politics of Mapping: Alexander Humboldt’s Essay and General Chart of the Kingdom of New Spain

2006 Ristow Prize Winner

Gavin Hollis, University of Michigan

Give me the map there”: King Lear and Cartographic Literacy in Early Modern England

2006 Honorable Mention

Jinny Gunston, University of Portsmouth, England

The Cowdray Engraving of the Siege of Boulogne, 1544. Analysis of a sixteenth century artifact. Combining historic documentation with modern technology


2006 Honorable Mention

Avan Stallard, University of Queensland, Australia

Navigating Tasman’s 1642 Voyage of Exploration: Cartographic Instruments and Navigational Decisions

2007 Ristow Prize Winner

Wesley J. Reisser, MA Candidate, George Washington University

Mapping the Peace: The American Inquiry and the Paris Peace Conference, 1918-1919

2007 Honorable Mention

Laura Ambrose, PhD Candidate, University of Michigan

Mapping "Travail" in Seventeenth-Century English Travel Guides

2008 Ristow Prize Winner

Diantha Steinhilper, PhD Candidate, Florida State University

Mapping Identity: Defining Community in the Culhuacán Map of the “Relaciones Geográficas”

2008 Honorable Mention

Alexander Hidalgo, PhD Candidate, University of Arizona

The Space between Us: Indigenous Mapmakers in Colonial Oaxaca


2008 Honorable Mention

Jason W. Smith, PhD Candidate, Temple University

Lighting the Path of the Mariner: Hydrography, Empire, and the U.S. Navy, 1898-1905

2009 Ristow Prize Winner

Matthew D. Mingus, PhD Candidate, University of Florida

Postwar Cartography and the Struggle to Build (and Destroy) the World Picture: A Few Case Studies

2009 Honorable Mention

John A. Legrid, MS in Geography Candidate, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Republic to Empire: The Use of Cartographic Imagery in Augustan Rome


2009 Honorable Mention

William Peake, University of Adelaide, Australia

How Historical Events Influenced the Map Content of the Atlases Published by Johnston and Stanford and the Events Determining These Decisions

2010 Ristow Prize Winner

Megan Barford, University of St. Andrews, Scotland

From “Terra Australis Incognita” to Whales and Shipping Routes: Cartographic Representations of the South Pacific, 1760-1860

2010 Honorable Mention

Emma Thompson, Skidmore College

The Sea Monsters of Olaus Magnus: Classifying Wonder in the Natural World of Sixteenth Century Europe

2011 Ristow Prize Winner

Kevin E. Sheehan, PhD Candidate, Durham University (England)

Utility and Aesthetic: The Function and Subjectivity of Two Fifteenth Century Portolan Charts

2011 Honorable Mention

Julie McDougall, Doctoral Student, University of Edinburgh

British School Atlases: Influence on Style and Map Content, c. 1870 – c. 1930

2012 Ristow Prize Winner

Thomas A. Weiss, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Texas, Arlington

MapAnalyst and Geographic Information Systems: Keys to Unlocking New Paths of Research in the History of Cartography

2012 Honorable Mention

Erin Maglaque, D.Phil Candidate, Oxford University

Writing Sentences with Toponyms: Archiving and Narrating the Colonial in the Cornaro Atlas

2013 Ristow Prize Winner

Justin T. Dellinger, PhD. Student at the University of Texas, Arlington

La Balise: A transimperial focal point

2013 Honorable Mention

Galia Halpern, a PhD. candidate in Fine Arts at New York University

Fantasies of Plenitude: The Textual and Graphic Space of India in the Middle Ages

2014 Ristow Prize Winner

David Fedman, PhD. candidate at Stanford University

Mapping Armageddon: The Cartography of Ruin in Occupied Japan

2014 Honorable Mention

Anouk Vermeulen, PhD. Student, St. Andrews University in Scotland

Landscapes in Stone and Bronze: A New Interpretation of Four Monumental Formae

2015 Ristow Prize

No prize awarded.

2016 Ristow Prize Winner

Ana del Cid Mendoza

PhD Architect

Professor of Urban History at E.T.S. Arquitectura, Universidad de Granada (Spain)

Orientalist cartographies: Granada and the Alhambra

2016 Honorable Mention

Valeria Manfrè , Post-Doctoral Research Fellow “Juan de la Cierva,” Art History Department, Faculty of Philosophy and Literature, University of Valladolid (Spain)

Theater of War – Mapping the Military Campaigns in Sardinia and Sicily: The Atlas of the Marqués de la Mina (1717-1720)

2017 Ristow Prize Winner

Lauren Bouchard Killingsworth

an undergraduate studying History and Biology at Stanford University

Mapping Public Health in Nineteenth-Century Oxford

2017 Honorable Mention

Koca Mehmet Kentel, Ph.D candidate, and an urban and environmental historian of the late Ottoman Istanbul, writing his dissertation at the University of Washington.

Navigating the British Empire through Geographical Board Games in the Nineteenth Century


2018 Ristow Prize Winner

Rheagan Eric Martin

PhD. candidate at the University of Michigan

Jacopo de' Barbari and the Limits of Knowledge

2018 Honorable Mentions

Jacob Singer, Wesleyan University

Exercises of Imagination and Speculation: Mapping the Unknown American Northwest in the Mid-Eighteenth Century

Gregory McIntosh, doctoral candidate at the University of Lisbon

What I Tell You Three Times is True: The Problem of the Dating of the Kunstmann I Chart