Map envy
Some thoughts from Judith Schalansky's Atlas of Remote Islands

Subtitled "Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will," this book should have swept me off my feet--but didn't. The book is adored by many in the design and cartographic fields, garnering some awards. And it is, I cannot deny, cute, and a nice piece of book design work. The method of geolocation through a simply displayed triangulation scheme, while a little obscure, eventually comes into focus as a clever little device.
I did, though, find the text to be somewhat disjointed. Of course, the book is 50 mini-essays about 50 topics that are really disparate and related only in their physical manifestation. 
And how can I even say anything mildly disparaging about a tome that devotes two entire pages to Tristan de Cunha, that most isolated South Atlantic rock, 2700 miles from the nearest anywhere... that most ignored of all destinations? And I do adore Schalansky's cartomilitancy...
"It is high time for cartography to take its place among the arts and for the atlas to be recognized as literature."
Now, in the course of the preface, she drops the most tantalizing bombshell... she teases us with her report of a former teacher's collection of early map works, student work, refining their skills at cartography...
"A few years ago, my typography professor showed me an enormous book that she had stored in a huge map chest. I had already seen some of her collections: old poetry albums, watercolors of ribbons and varieties of sausage and cakes... But then she brought out a folio of crumpled silk paper wrapped in blue marble sheets... Each smooth, yellowed page was full of geometric constructions: crosses, boxes, single, double, triple; broken lines and solid lines; plain, cursive and decorative lettering, abbreviations, arrows and symbols, patches of watercolor and the most delicate cross-hatching. All the protagonists of the cartographical narrative were individually listed and practices in this volume--down to the black and white lines of the borders and the scale measures. Sometimes the stroke of the quill was a little clumsy, but in other places it was so perfect that is seemed barely possible it could have been made by a human hand. The folio was a bound collection of topographical drawings from the apprenticeship of a French cartographer between 1887 and 1889, as the title's ornate majuscule proclaimed."
This is a book that should be published. The idea of this manuscript has bored its way into my brain like some science fiction death worm, and I so, so want to spend time with that book. Anyway, thats my two cents worth.

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