How It’s Uniqueness Made Pictorial Maps Highly Popular

In the middle of the twentieth century, pictorial maps or more commonly known as illustrated maps or bird’s eye view maps gained popularity because of their uniqueness. Unlike traditional maps, illustrated maps were made from myths, legends, and environments including jokes and hidden gems. They did not have any scientific or geographical accuracy.

The Harvard Map Collection is a throve of illustrated maps and collections that were assembled by artists and enthusiasts. Included in the collection were 50 of Ernest Dudley Chase’s own copies of maps that he printed to represent his own career. Chase’s illustrated maps highlighted his natural aptitude at creating greeting cards with small, inset vignettes of famous people and landmarks.

Because of the popularity of pictorial maps, many freelance artists delved into the intricacies of pictorial cartography. George Annand’s maps stood up among the pictorial maps because of their precise and acute selection of details and legibility. However, Annand has to revise his larger maps so that they would appear smaller for books and magazines due to his publisher’s demands.

Most of the pictorial maps were predominantly from the United States although there were also maps from outside the country. They ranged from the work of artists creating maps for tourism agencies to more established artists like Miguel Gomez Medina.

One of the more notable maps in the Harvard Map collection is the MacDonald Gill’s 1914 Wonderground Map of the London Zoo. In the pictorial map, Gill has combined the famous poem of William Blake where there was a humorous exchange between a tired giraffe and a boy who offered some of its food. It also included the parent’s punchline: Dear Tom, do you now see that is he is fed up? If you will scrutinize the details, you will be rewarded with some hidden gems that make the pictorial map truly unique.

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