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Van Ermen, Eduard, The United States in Old Maps and Prints. Wilmington: Atomium Books Inc., 1990. ISBN-1-56182-015-6. 11½ x 15 inches, 144pp., illustrated, cloth. (1013 Centre Rd., Suite 300, Wilmington, DE 19805, $60.00)

This book is essentially a narrative of the exploration and settlement of the United States illustrated with maps.  The illustrations are large, in color, and very sharp.  For example, the long legends on Bowles' edition of the Lewis Evans map of the Middle Colonies are quite legible, Other illustrations include a selection of Ortelius, Blaeu, Homann and Seutter maps.  Bradford, Colton, and a few other cartographers round out the illustrations for the 19th century.  There is also a fine illustration of the rare Huske North America, an important but seldom reproduced map.  In addition to the main narrative text, each illustration is accompanied by a brief bibliographical description (including accurate dimensions) and a few background remarks.  The narrative was written in a very enjoyable style.  My only criticism is that the figures move faster than the narrative.  Thus maps of the 19th century are juxtaposed with 18th-century text.  That isn't very serious, but it's about the only criticism I can come up with.  One odd fact mentioned in the book is that a topographical map may have 100,000,000 bits of information, which works out to 12.5 megabytes, or about 2,500,000 words.  Although not all maps may contain as much information as a topographical map, this does explain why it is possible to spend hours studying a single map.  As a curious sidelight, the jacket notes that this book was printed in Jodocus Hondius' birthplace.  Because of the very high quality of the illustrations and the interesting text, I suspect this book will appeal to most Americana collectors and dealers.  I recommend buying it before it goes out of print.  Atomium Press, by the way, is not a house organ of the Department of Energy.  The name comes from a structure built for the 1958 Brussels World's Fair.

David C. Jolly, 1992
 

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