Off the Map

Maphead out in paperback TODAY!

April 17th 2012

When Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings was seven years old, he bought an atlas: it was his passion during the day, and at night it was his teddy bear, tucked under his pillow. He says he was a weird kid. I identify with that–I was kind of a weird kid myself, now I’m a huge map nerd. That’s where we intersect, me and Ken.  Where we hugely diverge is that he’s a best-selling writer/famous polymath, and I’m a gnome-like manuscript map-and-globe maker.  No grudges, though:  in fact I urge you all–map nerds and generalists alike–to read his wonderful & amusing book Maphead, now available in paperback. For a little preview, listen to a 9/21/2011 interview with Jennings on NPR’s Fresh Air, or read his blog, Ken Jennings: Confessions of a Trivial Mind.

Maps on Stamps

April 16th 2012

Did you know maps on stamps is a thing, has been for years? And did you know there is a  CartoPhilatelist Society? Surprising sub-cultures under every rock.  I really like this trio of German maps, and the cancellation marks only add to their charm. Here’s the story: “The town of Ingolstadt was first mentioned in a document of Charlemagne in 806. In 2006 Germany issued a stamp to commemorate the 1200th anniversary of Ingolstadt, picturing a portion of a map published by Philipp Apian (1531-1589) in 1563,” says Dan of, a website with zillions of beautiful and amusing maps on stamps, including a section of map-on-stamp fails. Next up, maps on the heads of pins.


Who's the proud teacher!

April 11th 2012

Here’s a hand-drawn map by Betsy Booz, who attended one of my workshops. The problem with teaching a one-day workshop is that it’s nearly impossible for me to accomplish more than provide basic direction, and nearly impossible for attendees to design and complete a map in one shot: that’s why I’m going to teach three-session workshops from now on. Hazel Jarvis, featured recently, took her idea home and painted a map on canvas; Betsy, who lives here in town, returned to my studio for a couple of little refresher sessions. Her nostalgic map, executed in colored pencil and pen on watercolor paper, shows the camp she and a friend attended when they were kids–in fact, she made the map as a gift for this friend.  At home, Betsy worked on the map in leisurely fashion, weighing design options, and ended up providing a key beneath the round map to identify salient locations. Note her interesting use of negative space on either side of the map at the top, and her use of the map convention called “breaking borders.”

Highland Fever a la Ciao Domenica

April 9th 2012

Sunday Taylor has once again featured a map of mine in Ciao Domenica, her exquisite blog about literature, travel, gardens, and the beauty of life.  Sunday used my recent Scottish Highlands map (you’ve seen it!) as a departure for a lovely and literary commentary on travel and the associations certain place names evoke. She included four photos taken by Meg Moulton, my fellow hiker and sister-in-law. This photo shows a beautiful scene just north of Loch Lomond. For this post and others, visit

Civil War Map Exhibit, NYC

April 9th 2012

Torn in Two: 150th Anniversary of the Civil War. Ronald Grim–Curator of Maps for the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library–has created an exhibit of remarkable maps through which you can glean the history of the conflict. The exhibit opened in Boston last fall, but now has arrived at the Grolier Club in New York City: it will be there through April 28th, 2012. At 2:30 pm on Saturday, April 14th, join the New York Map Society for a (FREE!) tour of the exhibit led by Ronald Grim–note the particulars on the Map Society’s “Meetings” page.  The exhibit is great, and so is the Grolier Club: read its history here.

A Map by Hazel Jarvis

April 4th 2012

Enough of my maps–here’s a wonderful map by Hazel Jarvis, who attended one of my round map workshops last spring. Wow, I’m a phenomenal teacher, right? Alright, full disclosure: Hazel Jarvis is an accomplished and inventive painter in her own right–visit her website,The Art of Hazel Jarvis. Furthermore, she teaches painting at her lovely home studio and at The Garden Education Center of Greenwich; if I lived in Fairfield County, I’d be tempted. While I can’t claim to have taught her a thing about painting, I did provide the pointers  she needed to create this map, which is, by the way, 16″ in diameter, acrylic on canvas. But you don’t have to be an artist of Hazel’s caliber to make a great map–if you attended one of my workshops, and want to share your work, speak up!