Society for the History of Discoveries

Carlucci, April and Barber, Peter, eds. Lie of the Land: The Secret Life of Maps. London: The British Library, 2001. 64 p. ISBN 0712347518. $19.95. 

This is a catalog to a map exhibition at The British Library (BL) in London from June 2001 to April 2002, organized by former Map Librarian Tony Campbell and current Map Librarian Peter Barber and their support staff. Barber and April Carlucci, who is also from the BL, are its editors.

The focus of the show was on the subjectivity of maps, seeking to illustrate the premise that there is “much more to maps than meets the eye” (p. 8), with 133 diverse cartographic exhibits from the extensive collections of the BL. The exhibition and its catalog, containing over forty selected high-quality color and black-and-white reproductions, are divided into four distinct, yet related parts: “Drawing the Line,” dealing largely with the question of boundaries; “Whose world is it anyway?” on peculiar worldviews; “Spinning the world” about cartographic deception; and “Take a closer look,” regarding specific messages individual maps can carry. 

The images are excellent and include older and newer examples, ranging from a 1941 ethnic map of Slovakia to 1944 British prisoner-of-war camps “escape maps” to a fictitious manuscript late-sixteenth century map of Antarctica to an 1840 painted map of China by the renowned Japanese artist Hokusai. The global and more ancient-more modern mixes and concise explanatory texts in this catalog are but some of its strengths. It concludes with a full listing of the 133 items originally shown.

Dennis Reinhartz
The University of Texas at Arlington

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