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NEWS AND COMMENTS - 1990
Changes This Year
For some unknown reason, the price listing took up more space this year. As a result, the zip-code listing of U.S. dealers has been omitted, though it may reappear from time to time. The alphabetical listing of U.S. dealers is, of course, still here. Other changes are minor. For largely technical reasons, canal maps and railroad maps no longer appear under those categories in the geographical index, but now appear solely under their appropriate region. A few interesting new categories have been established in the geographical index, including games and jigsaw puzzles. The first map of Atlantis that I can recall listing appears this year. Since there is debate whether that island empire was in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, or Plato's imagination, I have included it in the miscellaneous category.
Old Maps and Old Airplanes
In October 1988, a rare A-20 Havoc bomber of World War II vintage crashed at an air show in Texas. Hundreds of such airplanes have been lost in the last 25 years, and some have become "extinct." This has prompted several groups to propose issuing an "endangered species list" of aircraft which would not be permitted to be flown by their owners. Collectors are incensed, claiming that many of these planes would not exist today if buffs had not nursed back to health countless rotting piles of aluminum and rubber found in barns and junkyards around the world. Likewise, some maps are discovered and rescued by collectors, while others are lost in fires and accidents. It would be interesting to debate whether collectors and dealers have done more harm or good over the long run, but it might be just as well to postpone that particular debate for a few decades. I wonder if, in the distant future, librarians will issue an "endangered map list" prohibiting collectors from owning certain choice maps.
Wenceslas Hollar Vindicated
It is always gratifying when old maps and views are employed outside their normal purview. Recent excavations in London at the site of the old Globe Theatre of Shakespeare fame confirmed the shape as shown in a 17th-century engraved view by Hollar, who engraved many maps and views. His work is not well known because many of his prints were separately published, and hence scarce. See page vi of the 1984 Price Record for his (probably accurate) view of Oxford.
For years we have been told that American kids know nothing about geography. I was therefore delighted to see a new study showing that in geography American children are not the world's stupidest. A soviet study of 10 nations ranked them as follows: Sweden, West Germany, Japan, France, Canada, U.S., Britain, Italy, Mexico, and lastly, and most ignorant, the U.S.S.R. (NY Times, 5 November 1989) The poor ranking of the Soviet Union is no surprise, since education there is incredibly provincial. They are taught that World War II was fought on Russian soil, with the west standing idly by. The standing of the U.S. is nothing to gloat over, since the questions were trivial. Geographical ignorance bodes ill for the future of the rare map market. Children who know not where countries are will buy not when they get older. Pretty scary.
Bring Back Upper Volta!
This was the provocative title of William Safire's On Language column of October 22. Instead of his customary schoolmarmish harping about "correct" English usage, he dealt with place renaming, provoked by the renaming of Upper Volta to Burkina Faso (said to mean "country of incorruptible people"). Burma recently became Myanmar, and Saigon is now Ho Chee Minh City. He asks, "with the spelling jerked around to please the local dictators; why should you and I kowtow?" A good question. He proposes "Safire's Law of Nation-Naming," which would limit countries to one name change per century. He also raises the question of why some countries like Deutschland and Norge are awarded English names like Germany and Norway. He detects a subtle racism. European countries get their own English names, while remote 3rd, 4th, and 5th-world countries like Kampuchea and Myanmar get only one name (which always seems hard to remember). Of course, compared to map buffs, Safire and his ilk are wimps. We have to know centuries of name changes, and in several languages. Bring back Biledulgerid!
North Dakota (almost) Vanishes!
A legislative resolution to allow the people of North Dakota to vote on dropping the North was defeated 36 to 15 in March. Tourism promoters were worried that the "unimaginative, unattractive, ordinary" adjective gave a false impression that the state was a windswept arctic wasteland. A newspaper in neighboring Montana sponsored a contest to help the North Dakotans in their search for a new name. The winner was Manitsacolda.
Periodicals of Interest to Map Collectors
The Map Collector. Published quarterly, with articles on early maps and map collecting, and also advertisements by dealers. Map Collector Publications, Ltd., 48 High St., Tring, Hertfordshire HP23 5BH, England, £24 per year.
Mapline. A quarterly newsletter with brief articles, news of the map world, and reviews of books. Mapline, The Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton St., Chicago, IL 60610, $8 per year.
AB Bookman's Weekly now has one issue per year devoted to cartography, travels & exploration. Box AB, Clifton, NJ 07015.
David C. Jolly
Appeared in Volume 8 (1990).
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