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Treasure map

A renowned collector of historic cartography has teamed up with ESRI Press in Redlands to explore history through the eyes of mapmakers of the time. “Cartographica Extraordinaire: The Historical Map Transformed,” leads readers through the evolution of mapmaking as new lands are explored and charts the progression of cartographic art and science from early surveyors’ rods and chains to modern satellite imagery.

Along with exquisite reproductions of maps, authors David Rumsey of San Francisco and Edith M. Punt of Redlands weave the stories of the mapmakers themselves into the context of the historical times.

Among the maps, one shows California as a separate island. In addition, the book contains a historical map dating to 1880 that reveals the topography of Los Angeles and San Bernardino.

Readers learn not just how and when a great continental wilderness was tamed but also how the evolution of cartography has profoundly affected the ways in which we understand the land on which we live today.

From a 1736 atlas depicting California as an island to a Civil War bird’s-eye view of military positions on the southeastern seaboard, the reproductions from the renowned David Rumsey Map Collection and text illuminate early American history from a uniquely geographic perspective.

Cartographica Extraordinaire” opens in the eighteenth century with the rise of the trigonometric surveys that laid the foundation of modern mapping.

“The appeal of an old map speaks for itself. What is less clear, perhaps, is the nature of its importance to the cartography being created today, to sophisticated mapping and remote sensing technologies … to, specifically, geographic information systems, or GIS,” Rumsey writes.

“In one respect, this book is an attempt to see the digital wizardry of GIS not as a break from the past and old mapping traditions, but intrinsically and essentially as part of those traditions, as another branch in a family tree. We can, in other words, enjoy the old map not just as a work of art and an interesting story, but as the progenitor of concepts that characterize GIS and fuel its development.”

Driven by the desire to provide widespread public access to his collection of rare maps, globes, atlases, and other geographic curios and to preserve the fragile originals, Rumsey began digitizing the collection and launched the site in 1999. The online collection contains more than 10,000 high-resolution digital images. The site is free and updated monthly.

Rumsey’s combined interest in historical mapping and computer technology led him naturally to ESRI, an innovative California-based company recognized as the leader in GIS technology.

“It is the conjunction of old and new technologies that is the heart of Cartographica Extraordinaire,” says Jack Dangermond, president of ESRI. “Technology has transformed modern mapmaking, but the cartographers of today clearly see their roots in these historical maps. This publication is a tribute to those early pioneers who not only explored the land but who also continued to invent new ways of describiting it.”

Co-author Punt, a cartographer, writer, and editor for ESRI Press, was the lead cartographer of “Salton Sea Atlas” (ESRI Press, 2002) and has worked on numerous government and private sector mapping projects. She was the recipient of the National Georgraphic Award in Cartography in 1996, and is a resident of Redlands.