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NEWS & COMMENTS - 1987

Price Increase and Back Volume Availability

It has finally become necessary to raise the price slightly from $31.50 to $34.50.  This amounts to ten percent over a period of four years, much less than the rate of inflation.  Those considering ordering back volumes should know that there are enough copies in stock to meet demand for the next few years with the possible exception of Vol. 1 (1983) of which there are enough copies to last about another year.

The Vinland Map Rises Again (Possibly)

It will be remembered by some that Yale's "Vinland Map," supposedly done in 1440 and showing part of America, was pronounced in January 1974 to be a fake.  The basis for that judgment was testing done on 29 samples of ink.  Those tests revealed that the pigment contained titanium dioxide of a type first available in 1927.  There is an old saying that if one dislikes a pronouncement by experts, one should wait a while.  That dictum has again proven true.  In 1985 the map was flown to the University of California at Davis, and (carefully) placed in their cyclotron.  The map was bombarded with protons, and the resulting X-rays indicated that titanium dioxide was present in quantities 5,000 to 10,000 times less that the 1974 results.  The expert who did the earlier analysis stands by his conclusions, and the controversy threatens to escalate.  Interested readers will find further details in IEEE Spectrum, June 1986, p. 70.

Ancient Mapping of Antarctica Falls (Hopefully)

In 1985 I mentioned an article in EOS (and a summary in the New York Times) which lent support to the late Charles Hapgood's theory that Antarctica was mapped in ancient times.  My critique of the early mapping theories appeared in the Fall 1986 issue of Skeptical Inquirer (Box 229, Buffalo, NY 14215, $20/year, $5/single issue).  That periodical is published by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP).  They usually deal with topics like ESP, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, or the Shroud of Turin, rather than the history of cartography.  However, some have argued that the early mapping would have required advanced technology, and must have been done by space-aliens or refugees from Atlantis, bringing the issue within CSICOP's purview.

Metric System Holds Fast (Unfortunately)

Last year I mentioned my letter in Nature suggesting that the metric system be abandoned. Nature published seven letters in response.  My reply to the metrifiers appeared in the June 26, 1986 issue.

Maps in Poetry

Occasionally one is surprised to find mention of an early cartographer in an unexpected place.  The Supper Superstition, a poem by Thomas Hood published in 1839, concerns a family eating a seafood dinner.  Suddenly their meal is interrupted by a ghost claiming to be their seafaring son shipwrecked recently in the English Channel.  The shade warns them that the sea creatures they are about to eat may have been scavenging near the site of the wreck, and tries to describe its location:

Just give a look in Norey's chart,
The very place it tells;
I think it says twelve fathom deep,
Clay bottom, mix'd with shells.

The reference is, of course, to John W. Norie (1772-1843), a noted London chart publisher.

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, £25 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, $6 per year.

AB Bookman's Weekly now has a special annual issue devoted to cartography, travels & exploration.  The June 9, 1986 issue contained articles on The Literature of Voyages and Explorations, The Origins of the English Map Trade 1670-1710, The Maps of the Wheeler Survey of the West, The Historical Cartography of the American West, The Pre-Atlas 'Atlas' of Antonio Lafreri, and The Role of Women in the Development of Cartography.  P.O. Box AB, Clifton, NJ 07015, $5/single issue, $60/year.

David C. Jolly
Appeared in Volume 5 (1987).
 

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