Last Sunday I visited the Magnificent Maps Exhibition at the British Library. The exhibition has been hugely popular and I can see why- I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. The amount of information within the maps means I want to make a second visit. My favourite map overall was the Klenke Atlas for its sheer size (1.75 by 1.9 metres) and also the level of detail within its pages. The Frau Mauro World Map was one of the most interesting and it takes a while to get your head round due to its south facing orientation. Steven Walter’s “The Island” (image above) and the propaganda maps (especially the “Tea Revives the World” map) were highlights among the more contemporary maps featured.

I am not convinced that contemporary GIS will ever fully replace the beauty of hand-drawn maps. In a world full of spatial data, detailed, high quality, cartography is often put aside in preference to the speed and convenience of default colour palettes and layouts.  Magnificent Maps serves as a reminder that the visual portrayal of spatial data can be just as detailed and useful on paper (or parchment in many cases) as the electronic maps we have become accustomed to.

The exhibition closes on the 19th September 2010 and there are additional events throughout the summer (more info).

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