Cartography Pornography - January 15, 2012

Cartography:  car·tog·ra·phy /kärˈtägrəfē/
Noun:   The science or practice of drawing maps.
Synonyms: mapping

I, Vanessa Hahn, am a cartophile. 

Old World Map in my Entryway
I love maps! Maps are intriguing, beguiling, and sexy.  My collection of maps is hung on the walls of my office and at home.  While older maps are my passion, finely crafted modern maps still make me irrationally happy. This passion I have for maps has extended to personalized checks with an old world map motif, journal covers, atlases, and a small collection of globes.  The great thing is that my love for maps is shared by many people. There are museums(1) that cater to people of my ilk.  National Geographic has a neat online application where you can create your own custom maps.

My fascination with maps started when I was a little girl.  My mother married my stepdad Bill.  He didn’t like to stay in the same place for very long.  He is like that to this day.  We moved around a lot during the time they were married.  We lived as far east as Texas, as far north as Washington, as far south as Mexico, and all over the State of California.  My mother and stepdad divorced when I was 9 years old, and we relocated back to my hometown of Santa Maria, California.  The constant state of upheaval inspired both a wanderlust and a desire for permanence.  I saw myself in my own home with a family, but I also saw myself traveling.  It was at this time that my old globe became a focal point.

This globe to the left is the closest
I could find to the globe I had.
We had an old globe that moved around with us.  Back then, I lived in a fantasy world of books and my imagination.  I would twirl the globe around its base, point out my finger to stop it, and wherever my finger landed, that’s where my story would take.  (Honestly, I probably spent a long time spinning the globe WHILE reading some of my books.)  I remember writing a short story in sixth grade where my protagonist was going to travel to France from England to slay the last of the dragons.  I found the ports of Portsmouth and Le Havre on my globe and wrote them into the story as the places where he would take a boat to travel to France. 

I love cartography as well.  I don’t practice any more, but at 8 years old, it was a regular pastime.  I would take a piece of paper and spend hours drawing the shorelines of various land bodies.  I wanted to get the proportions just right so it looked exactly like the image on the globe.  I would incorporate these drawings into my stories, emulating the maps Tolkien created for Lord of the Rings.  I wish I still had copies of these stories. Most have them has not survived into my late 20s.

When my stepdad Bill and mother separated and ultimately divorced, I would receive letters from him that recounted tales of world travel and meeting famous people.  As a child, I believed my dad to be as worldly as Indiana Jones. I would look to see if I could find the city where he lived on my globe or in any of the atlases I had in my school books.  (I later found out that he did not travel to all the places he said he did.) 

Maps will continue to inspire a host of emotions in me.  I will continue to collect them.  I only recently stopped because I told myself that I would not collect any more until I get the two incredible world maps I have rolled up framed and hung.  A special mention should go to David Imus, creator of the award-winning The Essential Geography of the United States of America (article).  Previous winners of the Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CaGIS)’s award have been National Geographic (three times), the Central Intelligence Agency Cartography Center, and the U.S. Census Bureau.  Mr. Imus’ love of maps and over 6,000 hours of work have paid off and hopefully inspired a lot of younger cartographers.  See it here.

1.      1) The Map & Atlas Museum is relatively nearby, and I still haven’t been there.  It’s located at 7825 Fay Ave, Suite LL-A, The Merrill Lynch Building, La Jolla, CA 92037;  Jarrod and I are planning a trip.


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