before Internet maps, the teaching of geographic maps

The representation of our planet cannot be anything but a sphere exactly shaped like the large spheroidal ball which carries us in space. No map on a flat surface, however carefully drawn, can take the place of a globe. It is impossible to give to a plane figure the caracter of truthfulness, which a representation of the Earth must have, especially for children whose inquisitive minds cannot be satisfied by technical explanations of the projection of maps.

Before a map representation on the flat a large area , confusion of thought is inevitable, and impressions are wrong; and they are wrong in proportion to the extend of area of which the map is supposed to give a drawing. The reader remains perforee misled, especially when the map deals with distant countries whose form he is not familiar with. The very map which ought to be his guide deceives him, and, worst of all, he can’t know what is the nature of the errors which he has to correct. He consequently and naturally lapses into indifference towards the diversely shaped reproductions put before him.

Knowing that he cannot get on truthful map, he does not care what forms he looks on. One method of projection enlarges the central part of the map, another outlying districts,  a third one draws out the peninsulas as if they had been passed through the rolling-mill, a fourth will, on the contrary, apread them, as if every part of teh Earth surface were a shhet of elestic matter which could be at will pulled out or shrunk in all directions.


In the study of every map it would be necessary to take into account the error introduced in every one of its parts by the projection of the network; but however accustomed to mental calculation, however well trained in the study of maps, the reader cannot help being influenced by the foreshortened outlines which he considers. The image kept in one’s mind is always wrong, and sometimes the very geographer who is most accustomed to map reading is the person whose brain is most helplessly muddled as to forms of natural features.


  • Noam

    a good review : Internet maps have a story, to put in the nutschel

  • Alan Houston

    Interesting post. Thats right : technicals of mapping are necessary in the two worlds.The difference is that in the age of Internet, all users can make their own mapping : this is web 2.0 !

    • Tim

      i’m totally agree with you. Even if the web 2.0 philosophy has fallen, the just dot it – in a maoist point of view – was not permit in the XiX’s or XX’s centuries

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *