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Old Maps: A Fascinating Source of
Hours of Fun
When was the last
time you looked - really looked - at an old map. They're very
different from more modern maps, because now that we have the
technology to photograph and accurately measure things like heights
and distances, we can make more precise maps that accurately
represent what's located at a given site.
This wasn't always the case, and by looking at maps from hundreds of
years ago, we can see how much this field has changed.
Older maps don't just demonstrate how a city or other space has
grown over time; they also demonstrate how changes in conceptions of
space have materialized. A far cry from the old designation of "here
there be dragons," which can be found on ancient mariner's maps in
the unexplored regions of the ocean, modern maps show what's present
clear to the bottom of the sea, in the forms of chasms and
underwater mountain ranges.
In contrast, maps of old cities such as London or Edinburgh can
reveal much about how the cities grew up over time. In London, maps
can demonstrate the way that each smaller hamlet or village grew up
to form the metropolis we know today, and they can show how each
group of people moving in contributed to the culture and style of
the modern city's character. Conversely, a city like Edinburgh
demonstrates its growth with maps that trace first, settlements at
the top of Castle Rock, then later on the expansion of the city
across the man-made lake where Princes' Street Gardens now resides,
and into the New Town, with its grids and wide, Georgian streets.
Collecting old maps takes a certain amount of patience, knowledge,
and investment capital, since these artifacts are usually quite
fragile and often have a price tag that matches their age and
historical importance. Although map-collecting is not a field which
everyone feels happy entering into, students of history, politics,
and social geography should consider referring to maps when reading
works that take place in different times, since these maps represent
how the subjects of such period-related research saw their world, in
the most literal of interpretations.
There are plenty of stores in major cities where old maps can be
found and purchased; all that's needed to find them are a few
careful searches on the internet and the time and patience to visit
the physical locations of the stores to make purchases.