A Map Like You’ve Never Seen Before

If you picked up my blog recently you may not have seen some of my earlier pieces where I defined the rules for a comparative view. Here’s a rundown.

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Infographic describing Adam and Charles Black's Physical Geography. (Photo own work)

The Purpose
A comparative map (I use comparative map, comparative view, and simply comparative, interchangeably) is a map designed to show and compare the principal features of the planet, be they mountains, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, or islands. Is a comparative actually a map? Insofar as a map is a reductionist picture of the Earth, absolutely! Generally speaking, comparative views were published in school and home atlases for the general reader, either as stand alone pieces or as a part of another map.

The Arrangement
The way features are arranged on a comparative is important. Rather than being arranged as they appear on the Earth’s surface, they must be arranged by height, length, or whatever characteristic is to be compared. Further, the features must be arranged so as to appear like a single mountain range, etc. Some high level grouping is OK, by continent or hemisphere, but not at the individual feature level.

Sorting is critical as well. It is the quality that imparts the comparative nature of the genre. Without it, the reader sure would have a tough time determining relative sizes. Common sorting styles are simple gradient, pyramid, and trough. Whatever the style, the piece must use an accurate scale!

The Extras
The extras that cartographers include in comparatives are a great treat! Sometimes it’s a balloon, sometimes a bird or mountain climber. Rivers comparatives often show lakes, deltas, and adjacent cities. These help to provide a sense of scale to the piece and embed a little extra information. Most importantly, they provide some delightful 19th century whimsy.

Want to learn more about comparative maps? Download my free ebook!

© Peter Roehrich, 2016

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