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#1
Philip Marlowe

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I'm attempting to familiarize myself with the history of cartography around the first half of the 20th century, particularly the 1940s, for a story I'm working on. I'm interested in the processes and techniques a cartographer would have gone through in the production of an atlas of that time. Specifically, I'm keen to know whether they were more often the results of a single individual or a team, but general background should also prove extremely useful.

However, I'm not sure where to start my research. Most online sources I've come across have been too broad for me to glean much information. Any books you could recommend or history you could impart on the subject would be much appreciated.

#2
Dennis McClendon

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The first one I'd look at is

Chamberlin, Wellman. The Round Earth on Flat Paper: Map Projections Used By Cartographers. This is a profusely illustrated 1947 book published by National Geographic about various map production techniques. I'm sure there were shorter articles published in the magazine from time to time, as new editions of the society's atlas were released.

I believe that there were at the time a wide variety of production techniques used in various countries, from copper engraving to ink on vellum with hand lettering to wax engraving, as described in

Woodward, David. The All-American Map

So to some degree it will depend on what agency in what nation your character worked for. British pen-and-ink practice, for instance, is covered in

Monkhouse, F.J., and H.R. Wilkinson. Maps and diagrams : their compilation and construction (the 1952 edition). I think there would have been U.S. Army manuals covering topographic map production during World War II, because they had to train thousands of new cartographers in a big hurry.

I would also look at these books:

Wilford, John Nobe. The Mapmakers: The Story of the Great Pioneers in Cartography from Antiquity to the Space Age

Buisseret, David, ed. From Sea Charts to Satellite Images: Interpreting North American History through Maps

History of Cartography Project

and talk with Angie Cope at the American Geographic Society collection of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee library about what contemporary sources might be found there.
Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
chicagocarto.com

#3
Melita Kennedy

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I'm attempting to familiarize myself with the history of cartography around the first half of the 20th century, particularly the 1940s, for a story I'm working on. I'm interested in the processes and techniques a cartographer would have gone through in the production of an atlas of that time. Specifically, I'm keen to know whether they were more often the results of a single individual or a team, but general background should also prove extremely useful.

However, I'm not sure where to start my research. Most online sources I've come across have been too broad for me to glean much information. Any books you could recommend or history you could impart on the subject would be much appreciated.


Not quite what you want, but while looking up another article several years ago, I came across:

H.S.L. Winterbotham, "Teaching the Fair Sex to Draw Maps", Empire Survey Review 7:30-35, 1944.

I have a photocopy only.

Try to get a copy of an early edition of Elements of Cartography?

Melita

#4
Philip Marlowe

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Thank you for the helpful response. These sources sound like they'd be a perfect fit, especially the National Geographic - it just so happens that 1947 is exactly the year I had in mind. Hopefully I can track some of these down. My local library has "The Mapmakers", and some are available on Amazon, so we'll see.

A little more background: The character in question is British, working at a university. I have him in charge of an atlas the university is printing, but I'm worried about the details. Would he have a team working under him? Would he be able to do the bulk of it himself? That sort of thing.

Again, thanks for the help!

PS. That Winterbotham article sounds awesome, if only for the ridiculously quaint historical viewpoint.

#5
natcase

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What Dennis said.

What we think of as a unified field was anything but in the early 20th century. So you may find it more productive to pursue study of particular producers. The Newberry Library in Chicago, for example, has the Rand McNally archives, a major potential source for study of the era.

JB Harley wrote an excellent history of the Ordnance Survey, and a similarly interesting (though slimmer) book exists for John Bartholomew's, published for its 150th anniversary.

And presumably when the 20th-Century volume of the History of Cartography comes out, all questions will be answered :)

To address the specific question, an atlas was the product of a large team of workers. The physical techniques were in transition during this 50-year period, from hand-drawn lithography and wax-engraving towards offset printing using film separates derived in large part from scribe-coated originals at the end of the era. In any case, there were specialists devoted to most every step of the process(es). Many of the techniques for creating precisely registered color artwork before the age of Illustrator (and even in the early days of that often!) were painstaking and cumbersome and required large pieces of photomechanical equipment.

Hope this is helpful.

Nat Case
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#6
Dennis McClendon

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Both the (UK) Society of Cartographers (founded 1964) and the British Cartographic Society (founded 1963) are small, collegial organisations who could put you in touch with folks who actually did this kind of work in postwar Britain. The Society of Cartographers has a listserv where you might enquire as well.

Undoubtedly there were British magazine or newspaper articles explaining to a general audience how mapmaking was done, and the Monkhouse book describes techniques in some detail. I am not sure whether there were any professional journals specifically in cartography that far back, but Monkhouse frequently cites articles in the Geographical Review (US) and various papers and proceedings of the Institute of British Geographers.
Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
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#7
Francis S.

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I'd add into the lists above with:

General Cartography by Erwin Raisz, 1948, a treasure trove of techniques and tools;

Mapping the World, Ralph Ehrenberg, 2006, with short texts on how particular maps were put together;

Mapping by David Greenhood, 1964 (previous editions of 1944 and 1951 were called Down to Earth: Mapping for Everybody);

Cartographic Production and Design, J.S. Keates, 1973 (London); and

A great book about the famous London map store Stanfords called The Mapmakers: A History of Stanfords by Peter Whitfield, 2003 (London).

Good luck!
Francis Stanton
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#8
Charles Syrett

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Great list, Francis! A few of those already grace my bookshelves. Another gem is:

Elements of Topographic Drawing, Sloane and Montz, 1943. Very practical drawing manual, pre-scribing. Hand lettering, hachuring, etc. I still get goose bumps looking at this one. B)

Charles Syrett
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