The Evolution Of Map Printing

Sunday, December 2, 2012
The history of Cartography has been in the centre of the map making industry for the longest time. This makes detailing modern day maps even more efficient in terms of accuracy. Cartographers have worked diligently over the years to ensure that map making is virtually flawless. A modern day map is made in such a way that it allows for excellent legibility and accuracy. This has not always been the case as the print and map making industry have greatly evolved hand in hand to their current form.
The history of printmaking has seen it develop from early methods such as stencils to the more intricate ones which allow more elaborate maps to be made. The modern techniques have all been as a result of a long process which has seen milestones reached and surpassed. Lithographic printing was widely regarded as the most famous map making technique in ancient times. It's a form of planography printing; this is a process involving printing from a stone surface on which a design is drawn using greasy tools. On the greased out image on the stone is where ink is applied using a roller. After this stage it is then transferred onto the printing surface.
This method was known to produce a relatively large amount of copies with just a single specially designed stone. The duration of the maps made from this technique were limited to the material the printed surface was made from. Another drawback is that the designed map could not have all the details a modern one has. After the simple lithographic age was over, the need arose for a more detailed map. The immediate answer to this predicament came in the form of Chromolithography. This method is similar to lithography but allows for a lot more detailed results. Map makers made the breakthrough after it was realized that it was possible to paint over a lithographic image without distorting the quality of the original. This enabled designers to come up with more refined maps as different stone images could be painted over each other. This subsequently gave the map more intricate detailing and went a long way in ensuring accuracy was achieved. The above examples are very laborious and map printers had to find a way to cut the work load when carrying out this important function.

It was with the discovery of printing in Gutenberg, Germany as well as in Caxton, England that technical knowledge had advanced to the point where more than one copy of a document could be generated. Sometime in the 16th century Gerard Mercator had discovered a major breakthrough in cartography. Mercator's Projection was a cylindrical map drawing, which became the standard map used for nautical purposes. During the 17th century however, a family of from Amsterdam, the Blaue's, determined to print and publish the first Atlas of the world. Such was the work of the Blaue family, that it has never been surpassed or even rivalled. Unfortunately a fire destroyed these prints and only a few had been rescued which were distributed between the various cartographers of that time.
Herman Moll was a cartographer as well as an engraver for both Christopher Browne and Robert Morden. During the 1690's he published his first important singular work known as the Thesaurus Geographicus. The success of that publishing largely determined his resolution on printing his own maps.
Frederik De Wit, was also a notable cartographer from Holland. His first charts were engraved and published in 1645. He was also well known for his cartographic images of city maps (Rijsel and Doornik). De Wit's atlas first came into being during 1662. He managed to expand his portfolio rapidly publishing no less 158 land maps and 43 charts.
As the 18th century brought about the Industrial Revolution, an increase in affluence allowed many to purchase and invest in maps and atlases. as the popularity for maps grew, so did the demand for more up to date accuracy instead of the over-the-top adorned maps and prints that were a characteristic of the work of many cartographers for centuries before. During the 18th century maps which had been previously engraved on copper were being engraved on steel instead. As steel is stronger than copper these maps could be produced in larger quantities. Thomas Moule was a very successful map-maker during the 19th century. His best known works are of exceptionally decorated county maps of England. His were steel engraved maps, which were published for the first time between 1830 and 1832. Many maps during the 19th century became more factual rather than ornamental.
Modern printing methods have made mass production of maps a fairly attainable feat. This has been made possible by the continuous advancement of technology relating to the printing industry. Furthermore modern maps are the most elaborately detailed than ever to hit the market. The inclusion of photographic media in maps is a trend made popular in modern times. It simply is more effective from the map reader's perspective. Modern advances in the field such as the introduction and perfection of photogrammetry have made it extremely easy to print accurate maps. It uses special cameras to easily turn landscapes into maps. This is then printed out into many copies and distributed at a relatively cheaper cost when compared to the history of printing from before.
The printing press is the driving force behind modern techniques. Coupled with extensive cartographic research has made it possible for very accurate depictions of landscapes to be produced. Maps printed in modern times are done so in an accurate scale enabling navigators to follow them, allowing them to appreciate the history of mapmaking to an even greater extent. This rich history has seen the industry evolve from employing ancient methods to the more recent advanced techniques.


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