The late Prof. Brian Harley was a distinguished historian of cartography, as well as the catalyst for a travelling exhibit of historic maps intended to mark the 500th anniversary of Columbus' first voyage. This excellent catalog, while designed to accompany the exhibit, can stand alone thanks to its 116 illustrations and lucid text.
The catalog is arranged chronologically with entries divided into four sections: "The World Before Columbus," "The Way To The Indies," "Searching For An American Identity," and "Colonial Cartography." There is a good bibliography and an excellent list of references regarding individual maps. The latter is especially helpful to those wishing to learn about particular maps in greater depth.
Catalog entries are well chosen to show historical developments. Of particular interest are several maps of Aztec or Incan origin, expanding the catalog beyond the Euro-centric approach of the past. Each description is a short essay, typically one or two pages long, which explains the map's significance on many levels (geography, politics, symbolism, etc.) and nicely puts it into historical context.
Professor Harley's inclusion of non-European material is admirable, however his multi-culturalism verges on anti-Europeanism. Despite the effort to judge 16th century people by the standards of late 20th century western academics, there is much to be gleaned from this work, and it is recommended for anyone interested in the history of the New World.
Jon K. Rosenthal, 1994
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