Mapped with a purpose by Andrew Janes.
From the post:
A few years ago, a colleague asked me for help in finding a map. What he wanted, he told me, was a fairly up-to-date map that showed Great Britain at ‘a normal scale’.
After laughing briefly at him, and then apologising for my rudeness, I plucked a road atlas from one of the bookshelves in our staff reading room. Fortunately, this seemed to fit the bill perfectly.
With the benefit of hindsight, I think that there are two morals to this story:
1. What is obvious to one person is not obvious to another. Like any good researcher, my colleague should have tried to explain what he wanted in a less ambiguous way. Equally, like any good public services archivist, I should have helped him to shape his request into something more sensible.
2. There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ map. The features and attributes of any map (including its scale) depend on its purpose. Why was it made and what was it intended to be used for? Two maps of the same place made at roughly the same time, but for different reasons, can look quite unlike one another.
Andrew illustrates his point with three maps of Nottingham made during the early 20th century. Vastly different even to the unpracticed eye.
The maps are quite fascinating but I leave to you to visit Andrew’s post for those.
Andrew then concludes with:
If you want to look for an old map and you think that The National Archives might have what you want, the map pages on our website are your best starting point.
When searching, bear in mind that a map showing the right place at the right date may not suit your needs in other ways. In other words, think about ‘what’ and ‘why’, as well as ‘where’ and ‘when’.
Those are some of the same rules for writing and reading topic maps.
I say “some” because Andrew is presuming a location on a particular sphere, whereas topic maps don’t start with that presumption.