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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.

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