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Rhumb Lines and Map Wars: A Social History of the Mercator Projection

By: Mark Monmonier

242 pages, 78 b/w illus

University of Chicago Press

Hardback | Oct 2004 | #148880 | ISBN: 0226534316
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NHBS Price: £16.50 $22/€19 approx

About this book

Mercator's projection, which allowed for easy navigation of the high seas with rhumb lines: clear-cut routes with a constant compass bearing allowing for true direction. But the projection's popularity among nineteenth-century sailors led to its overuse, often in inappropriate, non-navigational ways - for wall maps, world atlases, and geopolitical propaganda.

In Rhumb Lines and Map Wars", Mark Monmonier shows that controversies that have ignited as soon as different projections--and there have been many--emerge, each attempting to make a flat map of a ball's surface more like reality. Some of these show the globe distorted into the shapes of lampshades, inverted triangles, hearts, half-eaten doughnuts and rounded zigzags, as weird as dreams. Politics, nationalism and international prestige caused these wars. Monmonier thinks that such arguments overrate the power of maps. He writes well and simply."--Roy Herbert, "New Scientist"
--Roy Herbert"New Scientist" (11/06/2004)

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