Monday, April 30, 2012

Map of the Week 4-30-2012:A Modern Scotophobic Map

The modern version of the Scotophobic Map (from the April 14th 2012 cover of The Economist), which so many in Scotland (and elsewhere) found highly offensive and not funny at all.  Thanks to Holly Porter-Morgan and Greg Mason, who each sent me the link to the article. 

Notwithstanding my recent post on (lighthearted?) ethnic and national stereotyping maps, ( isn’t often that you see a “serious” map released to the public that is so blatantly biased and insensitive, especially one on the cover of a serious and well-respected publication like The Economist.  Nevertheless, there it is. 
          Scotophobic maps are nothing new.  They have a long, if ignominious history in the UK. According to Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey, the “Scotland situation” was one of the main instigators of the military mapping endeavor that became known later as the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain, the wonderfully comprehensive and detailed map collection that hikers, tourists to the UK, residents, and map lovers everywhere revere so much.  After Scotland’s union with England in 1707 to form the United Kingdom, there was (still) a considerable amount of rebellion amongst the Highland and Island clans, and the English had a very difficult time subduing them since they didn’t know the ins and outs of the geography and had no proper maps of the area.  The Scottish clans definitely had the advantage here, and knew all the mountain fastnesses of their kingdom from which they could attack or to which they could retreat, and have a better than fair chance of being undetected by the enemy forces.  This was an untenable situation for the English – they did not relish the idea of being led around on wild goose chases over difficult terrain only to be ambushed in the end - and hence a comprehensive mapping of Scotland was undertaken, to level the playing field in their favor and remove some of the element of surprise enjoyed by the Scottish rebels.  So it was not in response to a potential invasion of their enemies from across the Channel that worried the English and prompted the military mapping, but a problem within their own realm with their own newly-minted countrymen.  These maps were termed “King George II’s Scotophobic maps” since the primary impetus for their creation seemed to be fear and dislike of the Scots. 

Detail of a map showing Glasgow, by William Roy, as part of the Military Survey of Scotland 1747-1755, which was primarily prepared in order to open up the Highlands to movement of military troops and equipment and for building an extensive road network to connect the new forts built by the English in Scotland, all in response to the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745-1746.  William Roy in later life worked with the famous Cassini de Thury of the Paris Observatory on the geodetic connection between Paris and London by triangulation. From  

Ben Nevis mountain. Roy used a scale of 1:36,000 (one inch to 1,000 yards) and instituted the now-standard color scheme for geographic features (brown for roads, green for woodlands, blue for water, red for buildings and developed areas, yellow for cultivated fields, and buff for moors).  In these maps, they used hachurs rather than contour lines to indicate elevation, although maps produced later do include the use of contour isolines, which was a new technique at that time.  For more on the influence of Roy’s maps on future cartographic style in general and on the Ordnance Survey maps in particular, see

Even though England and Scotland have been politically joined for over 300 years now (longer than the USA has been an independent country, by way of comparison) there is still a certain amount of separateness to these two components of the UK, which is evidenced in the culture, language, attitudes, and perceptions of the two peoples, not to mention the important differences in the physical, economic, and built landscapes.  With talk of Scottish Independence and the very real possibility of this happening at some point in the near future, the response, pro and con, has been interesting.  One of the responses has been this article and map in The Economist
The subject of the map on the cover of The Economist is “Skintland,” aka Scotland.  All of the place names have cleverly been revised to reflect the supposed current broke state of Scotland, and the ensuing economic meltdown if Scotland becomes independent.  Edinborrow for Edinburgh, Inamess for Inverness, Loanlands for Lowlands, Highinterestlands for Highlands, Pie in the Sky for the Isle of Skye, Poortree for Portree, Null for Mull, etc. 
Perhaps the most inflammatory name substitution is the one changing Arbroath to Arebroke.  Arbroath has a highly significant and even talismanic place in the history of Scotland and Scottish independence.  In April of 1320 a delegation of the Scottish Parliament (headed by the Abbot of Arbroath, who was also Scotland’s Chancellor) wrote a letter to the Pope, called the Declaration of Arbroath, which affirmed in no uncertain terms the independence of the Scots, and the right of Scotland to defend itself when attacked.  It rather controversially made the point that independence rested with the Scottish people, rather than with the King of the Scots, implying a contract of revoke-able consent between King and people, as opposed to the usual assumption of the King having a God-given right to rule.  The declaration was in response to an invasion of Scotland by Edward II of England, and its purpose was to assert Scotland’s right to exist as an independent kingdom, and to get the Pope’s support of a Scotland free of further English interference and invasion (and to hopefully get the Pope to lift the excommunication of Robert the Bruce – King Robert I - who had defended Scotland against England’s incursions).  The Pope did provide his support to Scotland, for what it was worth, and issued several Papal Bulls exhorting for peace between the two nations.  This was probably not because the Pope was such a great lover of freedom, but rather because he was interested in gaining Scottish support (and money and manpower) for the mounting of his new Crusade to the Holy Lands, which Scotland would not be able to provide if the threat of an English invasion was still in the cards. 
The most famous passage in the document, and one which appears in the new Scottish Parliament building as well as written in large letters on a wall in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh is “...for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule.  It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.” 

The English translation from the Latin of the famous passage from the Declaration of Arbroath, as it appears written on a wall in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh
The predicted economic meltdown of Scotland is actually not a commonly held opinion here in Scotland, and many believe that it is England who will suffer most economically if Scotland breaks away.  But similarly to other nations where one part of the country is perceived as being an economic drain on the whole, Scotland is seen by many in England as being a welfare state and not contributing their fair share to the nation.  If you read some of the readers’ comments to the article, you will see that is anything but the case.  I am used to this sort of rhetoric in New York City: the upstate New Yorkers are always accusing us city folk of siphoning off all the state’s tax revenues to support the city’s welfare moms when in actuality it is NYC that is the prime economic generator of taxes for the state, and we don’t get back nearly our fair share in taxes from the state, compared to what we contribute.  We never should have let the state capital be located up there!  (Only kidding!  Only kidding!  I love upstate, and used to live in the Finger Lakes region many moons ago.)  But I digress.  As usual. 

The Economist article that accompanies the cover map – “It’ll Cost You – Scottish Independence would come at a high price”:

A pretty good (and exhaustive!) rebuttal: “A Unionist Lexicon: An A-Z of Unionist Scare Stories, Myths, and Misinformation,” at
This article painstakingly goes through all the possible myriad objections to Independence, and knocks them off, one by one (some more successfully than others!).  It also contains an interesting bit (about a third of the way down) on the myth of the political/geographic enclaves that might have to be formed in the Orkneys and Shetlands, whereby they would remain part of the UK.  Fascinating stuff.  It’s not every day we get to witness the possible disintegration/dissolution of a kingdom.  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Map of the Week 4-23-2012:Ultima Thule

Map of the Island of Thule, (spelled “Tile” on this map) in Scotland, by Olaus Magnus, 1539.  This is a detail of his much larger Carta Marina – a map of the ocean showing the Northern Lands.  For many years, it was commonly thought that Thule was one of the Hebrides Islands in Scotland.  Notice the whales (Balena, Orca) in the foreground.  The Hebrides are still famous for their whales, seals, and sea otters, and there are lots of opportunities for whale-watching boat trips.

            As far as we know, there is no actual place called the Isle of Thule.  It was a captivating idea, started in long ago times, perhaps 2,500 years ago or more, and carried on up to the recent past (maybe until about 300 years ago).  Thule represents a kind of a mythical place at the ends of the earth, as these ends were imagined at the time.  But by about 300 years ago, most of the earth had been explored, documented, “discovered,” or whatever other word you would like to use that is not pejoratively implying that the indigenous people of those parts hadn’t already “discovered” their own lands.  And so, over the years, the location of the Isle of Thule kept slipping further and further north, as more and more lands became known to western civilization.  Originally thought to be one of the Hebrides off the western coast of Scotland, it was later thought to be one of the Orkneys to the north of Scotland’s mainland, or one of the Faroe Islands to the northwest, or even Iceland or Greenland, further and further north and west. But for centuries, really up until the early 1700's, there were parts of the Scottish Highlands and the Western Isles that were "less well known to the people of England than either of the Indies," and writers still wondered whether the Hebrides were the mystical lands of Ultima Thule, according to Rachel Hewitt's account in Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey, (2010).  Ultima Thule was described as "those regions in which there was no longer any proper land nor sea nor air, but a sort of mixture of all three of the consistency of a jelly-fish in which one can neither walk not sail, holding everything together."
Eventually, it was realized that Thule didn’t exist, similar to the discarded concept of a huge southern continent linking southern Africa and Asia, and making the Indian Ocean an inland sea, as popularized by Aristotle and Ptolmey.  Terra Australis Incognita, the “unknown lands of the south,” supposedly balanced the land mass of the northern hemisphere, (so that the earth wouldn’t wobble off its axis!) and this imaginary southern continent appeared on maps and globes well into the 18th century.  (Obviously, the 14th century Portuguese explorers who rounded the southern cape of Africa proved that idea wrong, but the name of the imaginary continent was still used as the derivation for Australia’s name, when it was finally “discovered.”)  However, the idea of Terra Australis was not totally discredited until 1814!  But I digress (what else is new.)

An expanded view of the detail above, showing “Insulae Hebrides” (the Hebrides Islands), "Farne" (the Faroes, or perhaps Fair Isle - where Fair Isle sweaters come from), Hetlandia (the Shetlands), and Orcades (the Orkneys). 

In about 320 BC, a Greek geographer, explorer, mathematician, and scientist, called Pytheas, decided to travel from the Mediterranean to “Ultima Thule,” the frozen lands of the most northerly parts of the earth - the ends of the earth, in other words - the ultimate limits of the world, hitherto unknown from direct experience of the Greeks, although they knew of it indirectly from their trade in important commodities such as tin.  Pytheas set out, therefore, to make a journey of scientific discovery, undoubtedly coupled with commercial purposes of opening up the tin market to Greek traders, and to cut out the middle man.  He was most probably the first person from the Greek civilization to visit Scotland; certainly he was the first to record his journey there and pass along his knowledge in written form. 
During the course of his travels, Pytheas also took measurements, estimating the length and breadth of Britain, as well as its coastline circumference, and was accurate to within 400 km of its true distance, (coastline of 7,900 km vs. 7,580 km).  He also calculated latitude along the way with a gnomon (a straight stick stuck into the ground at a 90o angle, with which to measure the length of its own shadow at high noon in proportion to the length of the gnomon, similar to Eratosthenes’ method of calculating the circumference of the Earth in Egypt 100 years later). 
In his book “On the Ocean,” Pytheas entered the latitudes of the places where he used the gnomon, so we have a fair idea of where his travels took him, even though the place names have changed since his day (and in any event he was trying to transcribe local Celtic place names -and sometimes older ones -  into Greek, probably through an illiterate translator, a method that guarantees less than accurate results).  He was, apparently, the first Greek to use the term Britannia for the British Isles.  The last place he seems to have taken a latitude reading was in the Hebrides, which he believed to be the Island of Thule. 
I got interested in Pytheas and the idea of Ultima Thule after reading a book called “The Faded Map: Lost Kingdoms of Scotland,” by Alistair Moffat, where Pytheas and his travels to Thule were mentioned in relation to Pytheas’ interpretation of the standing stones and stone circles in the Hebrides, which would have been already about 2,500 years old at the time of Pytheas’ visit in the fourth century BC, and the civilization of the original builders was long gone or absorbed into subsequent Hebridean populations and cultures.  Pytheas wrote:
“In the region beyond the land of the Celts there lies in the ocean an island no smaller than Sicily.  This island is situated in the north and is inhabited by the Hyperboreans, who are called by that name because their home is beyond the point where the north wind blows.  Worship [of Apollo, by which he probably meant there was a moon cult] takes place in a notable temple which is adorned with many votive offerings and is spherical in shape….They also say that the moon, as viewed from this island, appears to be but a little distance above the earth…The account is also given that the god visits the island every 19 years…At the time of this appearance of the god he both plays on the lyre and dances continuously the night through from the vernal equinox until the rising of the Pleiades.” 
The moon does run through an 18.61-year cycle at a particular northern latitude – in the Hebrides – which fits with a lunar cycle of approximately 19 years as reported by Pytheas.  In about 2,900 BC on the Isle of Lewis in the Hebrides, prehistoric farmers came together to build a spectacular temple – the standing stones at Callanish.  This, then, was likely the spherical temple of the Hyperboeans that Pytheas described with such obvious fascination.  From the elliptical circle of outer stones, alignments run from the magnificent inner group to very particular seasonal configurations of the heavens.  One aims directly at the southern moonset, another to the sunset at the equinox, and a third to where the Pleiades first appear.  But every 18.61 years, the moon appears to those standing in the circle at Callanish to move along the rim of the horizon, “dancing continuously the night through.”  The transit can be seen on clear nights between the spring equinox and the first of May.  May 1st, of course, was an important day in the Celtic year – Beltane - the spring celebration of fertility and awakening from the death of winter, dimly retained in our modern holiday traditions as May Day.  Patrick Ashmore, who excavated at Calanais (the Gaelic form of the place name Callanish) in the early 1980s, writes in his book Calanais: The Standing Stones, (2002): “The most attractive explanation [to the question of why Calanais was built]… is that every 18.6 years, the moon skims especially low over the southern hills.  It seems to dance along them, like a great god visiting the earth.  Knowledge and prediction of this heavenly event gave earthly authority to those who watched the skies.”
Even though the people who raised the stones and worshipped there were replaced by other cultures through the intervening millennia, when Pytheas landed in the Hebrides he probably heard stories about the Old People who built the henge.  The then-current occupants of the Hebrides during Pytheas’ visit still used the stones as a temple, laid down offerings, and although they honored different gods, the impressive stone circle still had powers and importance in the lives of the people, even through all the periods of profound cultural change. 
Carta Marina, 1539, by Olaus Magnus.  It is a very large map, about 5 ½ feet wide by 4 feet high.  “Magnus' map of the great northland was a fantastic achievement, its stature undeterred by the liberal use of sea monsters and other fanciful creatures.  The detail in the coastlines (as well as the depiction of currents between Iceland and the Faroe Islands) as well as interior features make these among the most detailed maps of the north yet printed in the 16th century.”  From
The National Geographic website has a nice interactive version of this map, (albeit a smaller map, published in 1572) where you can zoom into all the sea monsters and other illustrations.  Some of the detail is a bit different than on the larger map, and of course, all colored maps in those days were hand-colored, since color printing was not available yet, so each map would have been slightly different-looking in terms of coloration, as well. 

Olaus Magnus, whose actual name was Olof Månsson, was a Swedish geographer and cartographer in the early 16th century.  He was also a Catholic archbishop, at an unfortunate time for him in Swedish history - during the Protestant Reformation.  As a consequence of his failure to renounce his faith and become Lutheran, he forfeited all his lands and was exiled, and subsequently spent most of his life in Rome, which is where the “Carta Marina” was created and published.  This map, this Carta Marina of the Northern Lands in 1539, is an incredible work.  The sea monsters and other drawings illustrating the map and giving it context are amongst the best I have seen, and apparently many of them were innovative at the time, and much copied by later cartographers.  I came across a nice write-up about this on a blog, comparing some of his monsters with other cartographers of roughly the same time period, and demonstrating that Magnus’ monsters were created first, in most cases, and the others copied his drawings, embellishing them further in some cases, and in others simplifying them.

This was a creature called “the Island Fish.”  It was apparently so huge that sailors would mistake its back, cresting out of the ocean, for an island, and sometimes disembark on it.  This little group of mariners has not only disembarked on the fish’s back, but has actually started to make a fire on it!  Imagine their surprise when the beast decides to re-submerge! 

In the interests of full disclosure, I recently returned from a little spring break holiday in the Hebrides, and I can attest to the fact that they truly are a world apart, and a pretty wonderful world, at that.  They may not be Ultima Thule, but I can understand how they might have been mistaken for the ends of the earth. As Kevin MacNeil wrote in The Stornaway Way, about growing up in the Hebrides: “We do not live in the back of beyond; we live in the very heart of beyond.”
And here is an old Scottish folk tale, a sort of a creation myth about how the Hebrides were formed: 
Long ago, back in the mist, there was a giant.  He was building a house in the mountains.  He went down to the shore with a creel and collected a number of rocks for his house, and placed them in the creel.  When it was full he swung it up on to his great back, but the weight was too much and the bottom of the creel broke and the stones fell into the sea as he swung it round, and that was how the Hebrides were formed.  From “And the Land Lay Still,” by James Robertson.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Map of the Week 4-16-2012:North American Dialects Map (with Audio Links!)

Map of North American English Dialects, from The map at the website has links to audio files of people speaking in the dialect.  Thanks, Kristin Grady, for sharing the link with me.  

Some of this blog’s regular readers (and of course those who know me personally) are aware of my affection for, and interest in, regional accents, dialects, patois (or patwah, as we say in Jamaica) and all the little speech idiosyncrasies that differentiate speakers of a particular language and give clues as to where the speaker originally hails from, (or in some cases, where they attended school!).  I don’t know anymore if we can, like Sherlock Holmes was able to do, place a man within ¼ mile of his home just by listening to a few sentences of his speech, but there still are remarkable differences in spoken English in America. 
            This interactive map of North American English regional dialects, (which I admit is more than a bit over-cluttered, and probably not the greatest map, cartographically speaking, but in its defense, it IS trying to portray some very complex information) delineates areas of common regional speech patterns and accents.  It also gives links to actual audio examples of that accent as spoken, and summarizes some of the major trends in the dialect (i.e., letting us know where the word “pen” does not equal “pin,” and “caught” does not equal “cot,” and conversely, where the words are pronounced identically.  Or where “on” rhymes with alternately either “Don” or “Dawn,” which is apparently a big north-south divide.) 
One very fascinating portion of the map deals with how many vowel sounds are present in each dialect.  Apparently, New York City can claim to have the most spoken vowels of any North American English dialect, with 16 distinct ones!  In New York-ese, “bad” does not rhyme with “had,” as it does in most other parts of the country.  We say “Baad.”  My great-grandmother, Maggie Barnacle, actually used to pronounce “bread” with the extra long open “a,” too, like “Braad.”  Other American dialects have only 13 or sometimes 14 distinct vowel sounds. 
Another interesting thing this map shows: the closest to the classic New York City dialect is the one they speak in downtown New Orleans, Louisiana.  Having spent quite a lot of time in New Orleans years ago, I had noticed that, too, and always wondered about it.  Sometimes I would get into a taxi in New Orleans, and ask the driver what part of New York he was from originally, until I caught on that was the way they spoke down there, too, and in all likelihood the driver had never been north of Lake Pontchartrain!  It seems amazing to me that in this one tiny part of the south, totally surrounded by the very recognizable classical lowland southern dialect spoken in most of the rest of Louisiana, eastern (gulfcoast) Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, etc., that there would be some remnant New York-type accent.  The only thing that I could think of to explain it is the fact that New Orleans, like New York City, had a similar influx and mix of immigrants in the late 1800’s and early part of the 20th century, from Ireland, Italy, Germany, etc., all of whom lent their particular accents to the local dialect, and probably in the case of New Orleans, really created the local dialect, due to the large proportion of immigrants to “locals” in the actual city area.    
This is a quote from the forward of one of my favorite books, “The Confederacy of Dunces,” and it’s about New Orleans:  “There is a New Orleans city accent . . . associated with downtown New Orleans, particularly with the German and Irish Third Ward, that is hard to distinguish from the accent of Hoboken, Jersey City, and Astoria, Queens, where the Al Smith inflection, extinct in Manhattan, has taken refuge.  The reason, as you might expect, is that the same stocks that brought the accent to Manhattan imposed it on New Orleans.” 
The dialect is called “Yat,” as in “Where y’at?” a common greeting, for “Where are you at?” which more or less means “How you doin?”  (The proper response to this is “Awrite.”)  Long-time (mainly white) natives of the Ninth Ward, the Mid-City area, and Irish Channel speak with a greater or lesser degree of full-blown Brooklyn-ese.  The accent now-a-days is most pronounced amongst the older population.  It also is present in residents of several of the nearby suburbs, especially those areas where working-class and lower-middle-income white people migrated to from the Ninth Ward during “white flight” in the 1960’s.  Typical of this accent are “tawk” for “talk,” “fiah” for “fire,” “terlet” for “toilet,” “klawth” for “cloth,” “ordition” for “audition,” “noice” for “nurse,” “soydinly” for “certainly,” and other pronunciations of the "deese, dat, dem, and dose" variety that you might be familiar with from watching late-night re-runs of 1930’s and 40’s gangster movies (or ones featuring Jimmy Durante!) set in NYC.   Yat = Brooklyn on Quaaludes.  See “How ta Tawk Rite” at and “The 12 Yats of Christmas” at
I also really like the Vic and Nat’ly newspaper comics by Bunny Matthews, set in the Nint’ Ward. Vic and Nat'ly are the Royal Family of the Yats! (from the New Orleans Times-Picayune)

In general, you are more likely to hear the New Orleans equivalent of “toidy toid and toid, and step on it!” (33rd and 3rd) in New Orleans than you ever will anymore in NYC!  I think about this everytime I go to my eye doctor, whose offices are actually ON 33rd and 3rd in Manhattan, and I snicker a little when I give my destination to the cab driver in my best Queens-ese, although most of the NYC cabbies, it goes without saying, do not speak with NYC accents these days, and so my little joke doesn’t even register with most of them. But just to show you how fluid accents can be, and how susceptible we are to listening and changing speech patterns according to situational circumstances and those around us, I heard myself asking for a "Tametable" at the Glasgow Central Station the other day.  and when I heard myself say it, I was surprised, because it certainly wasn't a conscious decision.  I also have heard myself saying "Aye" instead of "Yes" more than a few times!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Map of the Week 4-9-2012:Grim Reaper’s Road Map

Standardized Mortality Rates for Lung Cancer in Britain.  “Smoking is strongly linked to deprivation.  The map shows a north–south gradient with lower rates in the south.  Scotland, and particularly Glasgow, has the highest rates; Scotland also has the highest smoking rates. Clusters are found in Liverpool and Manchester, in Tyneside and along the north east coast, and in central London.  Within central London, the neighbourhoods covering the cities of Westminster and London, and Kensington and Chelsea – more affluent areas – have lower rates than their neighbours.  The maps for male and female deaths are similar, except for higher rates for men in the West Midlands.” From

Danny Dorling (of World Mapper fame) and his merry band of mappers in the Social and Spatial Inequalities Research Group (University of Sheffield) have assembled an impressive atlas of health in the UK – The Grim Reaper’s Road Map: An Atlas of Mortality in Britain.  (Shaw, Thomas, Smith, and Dorling, 2008).  If you haven’t seen this, it is worth a look, and as usual, the SASI group has developed a novel way of portraying large data sets in an effective and clear manner.  They present the data in a way that is instantly comprehensible at first glance. 
“The Grim Reaper's Road Map analyses over 14 million deaths over the 24 year period 1981-2004 in Britain.  It gives a comprehensive overview of the geographical pattern of mortality in Britain and features:
·         The most common causes of death at different ages
·         10 groups of death mapped - all deaths, and deaths from cardiovascular, cancer, respiratory, infections, mental disorder, transport, suicide or undetermined, homicide and external causes.
·         99 separate causes of death mapped, including individual cancers, suicides, assault by firearms, multiple sclerosis, pneumonia, hypothermia, falls, and Parkinson's disease
·         Each map is accompanied by a detailed description and brief geographical analysis, together with the number of people who have died from that cause, the average age of death and ratio of male to female deaths.”  From 

You can check out a sample section of the atlas at

Notice in the sample maps how the neighborhoods of Glasgow are always some of the worst off amongst the 1,282 “neighborhoods” that the country is divided up into - worse in everything from “All Deaths,” to “assault by cutting” (with knifes or broken bottles), to “lung cancer,” to “pedestrians killed by vehicles,” to “deaths from heart attack and chronic heart disease.”  Just about the only thing for which Glasgow is slightly better off than the south of England is the rate of skin cancer.  And that’s probably because the sun never shines up here! 
         Although I didn't find any explicit explanation of methodology on the website, it appears that a grid of equal-sized hexagons has been used to represent the parliamentary constituencies (electoral districts) of Britain, each hexagon equaling one constituency.  Hence the not quite geographically correct appearance of the country, since in real life each constituency is a different size and shape. The pattern of constituencies likely reflects population numbers, and so the map is a kind of a cartogram, resulting in a bloated Greater London area and a truncated Scotland, on the map. Constituencies are further divided into two halves, to show "neighborhoods."  The black boundary lines around groups of hexagons delineate major urban centers, and the white boundary lines around larger groups of hexagons represent regional and national divisions.  Isn't it wonderful to have all of this health data available at a national level! Consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds, but NOT when it comes to data!

Scotland Constituencies - (I live in the "Glasgow Kelvin" constituency, on the left side of the map, which is a relatively healthy one, although no part of Glasgow looks very good on these maps!)

Cover of the book, available from Policy Press and 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Map of the Week 4-2-2012: World's Largest Atlas

Earth Platinum, the World’s Largest Atlas, just published in a limited edition of 31 copies, at $100,000 each, pictured with Gordon Cheers, who spearheaded the 4-year project. The maps show geographic features  with an usually high amount of detail that is not possible to be shown on an ordinary scale map, including wee villages and mountain footpaths, and, for some odd reason, the location of shipwrecks! 

OK, this is HUGE!  The world’s largest Atlas, beating the previous contender by more than a foot.  It’s 6 feet high and about 9 feet across when opened up, and is the brainchild of Gordon Cheers, who hopes his atlas, Earth Platinum, will become as renowned and influential as the 1660 Klencke Atlas (below). 

The Klencke Atlas, no slouch when it comes to size, is about 5 feet high and 6 feet wide when opened.  It had been produced as a gift from the Dutch to King Charles II of England when the King was restored to his throne after many years of living in exile in Holland. King Charles was apparently a map enthusiast, and the Atlas, produced in the Golden Age of Dutch cartography, contained maps by Blaeu and Hondius, amoung other well-known map-makers of the day.  See for a short clip on the Atlas from The Beauty of Maps BBC series.
See the publisher’s website for full details on Earth Platinum:  

Some info about the cartography that went into the Atlas: 

And let’s not forget the folly of large maps, as per the infamous large map in Lewis Carroll’s “Sylvie and Bruno:”
“And then came the grandest idea of all! We actually made a map of the country, on the scale of a mile to the mile!”
“Have you used it much?” I enquired.
“It has never been spread out, yet,” said Mein Herr. “The farmers objected: they said it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight!  So we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well.”