Old Map is a New Map

Old maps should be considered unique in its own right. There is almost always something new and unexpected when one is to compare a certain old map from another old one. Today, modern maps that follow a certain process and form result to a traditional output where its general appearance, impression, and characteristic is more or less very similar to each other. Content and significance of data are those of value and given priority when establishing a map. Old maps today are most likely treated and known as “rare maps” simply because of its apparent distinctive style; furthermore, ancient mapmakers are practically liberated to incorporate a design and a particular irregular or uncommon element which makes it quite different with the other similarly old maps created in that same period. It was more of culture that influenced and dictated the processes, patterns, elements, and aesthetics in making a map; thus, unique with respect to the place it was created.

An old map in 1736 entitled, A New Map of the Island of Jamaica, is proof to the uniqueness and difference of map appearance. Geographer Herman Moll was responsible for creating this another interesting old map piece where he used the technique of copper engraving and now was recently translated to hand colour. The explanation of marks on the right uppermost part of the map that indicate where sugar, cotton, indigo and cacao are produced as well as the physical features of the island of Jamaica such as the place names, mountains, rivers, valleys, cliffs, and bays are noticeable but the most unusual and eye-catching are their detailed labels that are protruding and surrounding the entire Jamaica Island. Note that these labels are placed on the water or outside the land. Even though seemingly absurd, Herman however purposively located the labels there to avoid overcrowding of details in the land area of the island. The details of physical features such as the rivers and valleys are already drawn out which leaves almost not enough space for the labels.

Herman was working in London and is famous for his map creations; thus, it may be assumed that this map was made for the use of particular people in England. The creator was deliberate in incorporating with particular emphasis more on the location and distribution of resources and manufacturing sites in the island with little or almost no particular details on Jamaican communities and localities which makes the objective of the map for business reasons, specifically, resource extraction. Herman satisfactorily achieved this demand but further improvisation is necessary. That improvement would be the physical features’ labels. They could be instead placed inside a legend with corresponding marks or different colors overlaid on the island. Labels may be changed also to a more easily read font with an appropriate spacing.

In my opinion, an old map like this may not pass the standards of highly advanced 21stcentury maps but contrariwise, these modern maps perhaps cannot compete with the originality, rarity, and distinctness of the ancient maps.


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