#9 Map: “The Age of Man”

Frederick De Wit’s Double Hemisphere Polar Map, c 1668

According to one of my favorite sources, the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word world comes from the Proto-Germanic wer, meaning “man” (as in werewolf), and ald, meaning “age.” Thus, world can be translated into “The Age of Man.”

And that’s exactly what German cartographers Stephan Hormes and Silke Pest call the world in their “Atlas of True Names.”

By “true names,” the pair are referring to the original, literal meanings of place names in English. The atlas, published by the pair’s company, Kalimedia, consists of five maps—Europe, British Isles, Canada, USA, and the World—and includes such places as Boar’s Head Lake (Lake Huron), Children of the Sun (Spokane), Navel of the Moon (Mexico), and Land of the Strong Ones and Land of the Really Strong Ones (Turkey and Turkmenistan).

Others have written about the maps, and most mention the mapmakers’ reference of Middle Earth in Kalimedia’s description:

Once the names have been taken back to their roots and translated into English, it is immediately apparent that our world has an extraordinary affinity with Middle Earth, the mythical continent where the events of Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ are played out.

Middle Earth’s evocative “Midgewater”, “Dead Marshes” and “Mount Doom” are strikingly similar in nature to Europe’s “Swirlwater”, “Darkford” or “Smoky Bay”, as revealed by the Atlas of True Names.

I don’t think that begins to do justice to the wonderfully foreboding literal names of the British Isles. I can easily imagine a group of Hobbits setting out from their shire near Raven Breach in search of Mount Malicious in the Land of Darkness.

The maps can be purchased at Omnimap.com, starting at $9. There’s also a 39″ x 27″ wall poster of the world map available (for $24 at Mapsonline4u).

The map’s authors admit that their translations are not definitive, and they often lean toward more interesting or fanciful options. But each map includes a list of all names with their etymology—so argue away.

All of this makes “The Atlas of True Names” a great conversation starter. And that’s why this set is my newest addition to “8 Maps and Globs That Will Change Your Perspective of the World.”


[photo: “Old Map,” by Enrique Flouret, used under a Creative Commons license]


An Upside Down Globe: The Wait Is Over, Now the Waiting Begins

6476736633_2787abca7b_zWhen I wrote “8 Maps and Globes That Will Change Your Perspective of the World,” I decried the lack of an upside-down globe and suggested that Bellerby & Co. Globemakers might be able to help out. Peter Bellerby read the post and commented, “An upside down globe was actually in future planning!” and added, “Pictures to come soon, just been working on finishing the design today!” Well, five months later, Mr. Bellerby, true to his word, announced in his blog “Exactly Why We Made an ‘Upside-Down Globe.’” He also included a link to an article from Al Jazeera America, “How the North Ended Up on Top of the Map.”

In this month’s issue of United Airlines’ Hemispheres Magazine, Chris Wright tells of his visit to Bellerby and Co., where he saw a bespoke upside-down globe, commissioned by a Brazilian law firm. Rotating and repositioning all the place names, says Mr. Bellerby, was “a challenge.”

Even trickier, perhaps, was coming to terms with the way the new world looks. “It’s crazy,” Bellerby says, his nose inches away from the upward-pointing Cape of Good Hope. Also, unless you approach the globe on your hands and knees, a lot of the interesting stuff is hidden away.

“There’s so much going on in the Northern Hemisphere,” says Bellerby, pointing to a barren expanse of blue. “Even the Antarctic, which is amazing, is just a lot of white.”

I had checked on Mr. Bellerby’s progress after a comment a few days ago from a reader named Lori: “I, too, have been searching for an upside-down globe! I am amazed that nobody has made one. The world is waiting for this.”

Well, Lori, the wait is over, because the upside-down globe is here, not just for a law firm in Brazil but for all of us.

Actually, though, for most of us, the wait continues. Take a look at “The Upside Down Curve,” and you’ll see that it’s an impressive—and expensive—piece of art. Even the base was “designed by the team who made the accommodation pods for the British Antarctic Survey” and is “brought to life by heritage technicians from Aston Martin.” So with its price of £14,950 ($25,000), I’ll still be waiting for quite some time . . . for the exchange rate to collapse or for a dramatic increase in my disposable income.

Mr. Bellerby tells Wright in his article, “The idea of selling a globe with a mistake is my biggest horror.” That must mean that his studio is filled with not-quite-perfect attempts at perfection. So if I could get just a small piece of a discarded upside-down gore, that would be enough for me. I would frame it and display it proudly. Oh, Mr. Bellerby, that would make the minutes go by more quickly as I anticipate a complete upheaval of the global economy or a million-dollar inheritance from the secret rich uncle I’ve never met.

I can dream, can’t I? And I can wait. And I can think.

When I originally wrote about an upside-down globe, I closed with the phrase, “It’s got me thinking.”

I’m still thinking. This time, I’m wondering what would happen if a typical globe and a reversed globe were placed side by side. Would the result be something like this?

(Chris Wright, “Up Is the New Down: A Master Globemaker Turns the World on Its Head,” Hemispheres, April 1, 2014)

[photo: “Untitled,” by GraceOda, used under a Creative Commons license]

8 Maps and Globes That Will Change Your Perspective of the World

8280671002_19c064bddf_nLast week, out of the blue, my 7-year-old son said, “Guess what?”

(He doesn’t really want me to guess. When I try, I’m always wrong.)

“Guess what? The earth doesn’t have an upside down.”

Of course, he’s right. But you wouldn’t know it if you look at our maps and globes. Isn’t north up and south down? How else would you explain Upstate New York, Manhatten’s Upper East Side,  Sub-Saharan Africa, and Australia’s location “down under”?

And, of course, north is better than south, since up is better than down, right? According to a 2011 study, that seems to be the perception in the US. The results, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, show that 72.5% of participants in the study would rather live in the northern half of a hypothetical city, because, they assumed, that’s where the more affluent people live. And when the map was flipped, with south at the top, participants no longer saw the northern half as better, since it was now on the bottom.

Also, side to side, we all know where the center is. It’s Europe. So Saudi Arabia is in the Middle East and Japan is in the Far East. Just look at any map, and you’ll see it’s so.

Well, not any map, just most of them . . . at least in the West. But the West doesn’t make up the whole world, or even most of the world.

When I was in Taiwan I saw a wall map centered on Asia. It makes sense, since the Mandarin word for China is Zhongguo, meaning “Middle Kingdom.” That map opened my eyes to seeing the world in a different way.

So here are five maps to help us all see our global neighborhood differently. Each is available for purchase online, though some are quite pricey. Display these and listen to the conversations begin.

  1. Upside-Down Maps

    These are more than just regular maps flipped bottom to top. What makes them special is that all the names and notes are printed right-side up on north-down images of the countries. Get them from Maps.comODT Maps, and Metsker Maps.

  2. Center-Shifted Maps

    These two Pacific-centered maps (physical and political) from Maps.com put the Western Hemisphere on the right. And their Asia/Europe-centered map even has the gall to split North America in two.

  3. Azimuthal Maps

    An azimuthal map puts you at the center, showing the world spreading out from that center in all directions. This means that distances can be measured from you—the center point—to anywhere on the globe using a straight line (unlike with traditional rectangular maps). It also means that the farther away from the center, the more distortion there is. (This map is truly egocentric). ODT Maps offers a USA-centered and an Africa-centered map, as well as custom-made maps centered on any city in the world.

  4. Imaginary-Underground Maps

    Contemporary artist Chris Gray has produced a creative collection of maps showing an imaginary global system of subway lines. Versions include Asiocentric, Eurocentric, and Antipocentric (Asia-centered and upside-down).

  5. Earth at Night Maps

    These cool maps are actually compilations of nighttime photos taken from space and show clusters of light from cities around the globe. Two renditions, with different results, are at National Geographic and PosterRevolution.

  6. City Lights Globe

    This globe puts the “earth at night” map on a sphere. It’s an automatically rotating daytime globe that, when the lights dim, illuminates the cities of the world. Available at Innovatoys. Waypoint Geographic’s Earth by Day and Night, at World Wide Globes, is a similar globe that lights up when turned on.

  7. Replica Globes

    Authentic Models has a line of reproductions that mimic famous and beautiful globes from years gone by. The physical world hasn’t changed, but the borders and place names certainly have. Each of these globes, available at OnlyGlobes.com, is a lesson in history. Replica globes show us the world the way it used to be seen.

  8. Upside-Down Globe

    I was sure that someone would have made one of these, but alas, I couldn’t find one. Too bad. The closest thing I could come up with is the inflatable Astronaut View Globe from Jet Creations—available at Ultimate Globes. It is, as the name suggests, what the world looks like from space. Since there’s no printing on this globe, you could easily turn it south side up, which is actually the way NASA’s famous “Blue Marble” photo was originally taken (as shown here).

Maybe I’ll have to get somebody to make an upside-down custom-made globe for me. Maybe Mr. Bellerby, of Bellerby & Co. Globemakers, can give me a hand. (Update: see An Upside Down Globe: The Wait Is Over, Now the Waiting Begins)

(My favorite quotation from this video is “The whole way of making anything using a sphere as its base, as its centerpiece, is fraught with different problems and issues because you’re multiplying every error by pi.”)

All this has got me thinking: What else do we in the North and West take for granted? For instance, in my post Les Images de France 5, the creators of the TV idents describe their images this way: “Everything travels from left to right,” and “this is of course about moving forward.” Why is rightward movement usually associated with progress? Is this because we read from left to right? If so, then is it the same in cultures that read right to left, such as in Arabic-speaking countries? Or is progress, for them, a right-to-left thing?

It’s got me thinking.

Bonus Map #9: The Atlas of True Names
This set of maps, from German cartographers Stephan Hormes and Silke Pest, renames places with their original literal meaning. See my later post for a full description.

(Sanette Tanaka, “Study Points to Bias toward a City’s North Side,” The Wall Street Journal, July 4, 2013)

[photos: “World Grunge Map,” by Nicolas Raymond, used under a Creative Commons license; “The Blue Marble from Apollo 17, courtesy of NASA]