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The Mysterious Island

The title of this post does not refer to the science fiction novel of the same name by Jules Verne. It refers to the phantom island Frisland which was commonly shown on maps of the North Atlantic Ocean during the 16th and 17th centuries. Frisland never existed, however, cartographers believed that the island was real […]

Propaganda Maps to Strike Fear, Inform, and Mobilize – A Special Collection in the Geography and Map Division

Filled with heavy topics of war and occupation, War map: pictorial and propaganda map collection 1900-1950 contains maps and messages that frequently are pointed, unapologetic, and echo the anger and desperation of nations at war. The collection of 180 maps typifies how cartographs were used to influence popular opinion and garner support for military and political efforts […]

Sailing the Early Seas with Portolan Charts

The collections of the Library of Congress include thirteen early nautical or portolan charts published between 1320 and 1734.  Cartographic historians and map librarians are familiar with these early charts.  But what, exactly, is a “portolan” chart?  This post will attempt to address a few of the basic ideas revolving around these early nautical charts. […]

Constellations in Bronze

Below is an image of the constellation Perseus holding the head of Medusa, famous for her serpentine hair.  This chart is from a Russian celestial atlas published in 1829.  I became aware of this unusual atlas while searching for new acquisitions for the collections of Geography and Map Division.  This led me to learn more […]

A Unique View of Saxony’s Silver Mines

Who says you can’t go Baroque from mining? On the contrary, many European regions, states, and principalities owed their prosperity to mining.  Among them was the Electorate of Saxony, long a state of the former Holy Roman Empire.  Saxony’s Ore Mountains, or Erzgebirge, were particularly blessed with silver, serving as one of its main sources […]

U.S. Bases in Thailand During the Vietnam War and Agent Orange

Over the years of this writer’s service at the Library of Congress, veterans and their families have sent me questions about maps that show the locations of U.S. forces in Thailand during the Vietnam War. Chief among the reasons that they have sought this information is because some American personnel were exposed to Agent Orange […]