Christmas gifts for geologists: maps

Other suggestions: [Beverages] [Cameras] [Tough Gear]
All geologists like maps: I’ve argued before that geological maps can be regarded as works of art, because of the way that they force you to think about the ground beneath your feet in new ways. Even if they’re not all as pretty as the great-grandad of them all.


Maps of all scales, from whole countries to a couple of valleys, are available from your friendly, neighbourhood geological surveys. Whilst providing a geological map of the surrounding area or a favourite hiking spot could be regarded as undue and unnecessary encouragement, it’s possible that if we already know what’s up the top of that muddy and precarious hill, we might feel less need to drag everyone else up it so that we can take a look . Well, possibly.

Of course, I’m sure I’m that I’m not alone in thinking that all maps are pretty cool, even ones where the land is all one colour. I’m particularly fond of old, historical ones, be they afflicted with warped geographies and sea monsters, like this world map by Ortelius:


or somewhat more precise attempts, like James Cook’s 1770 chart of New Zealand, a copy of which is one of my favourite souvenirs from my time there.


There are also old local maps which chart the growth of your hometown from farm to village to urban sprawl….


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Comments (4)

  1. chezjake says:

    Yes, yes! More maps, please. I’ve been collecting maps of all kinds since I was a kid back in the 1940s.
    I’m not sure who first said it, but (paraphrasing) a good map conveys more information in less space than any other type of document.

  2. Chris says:

    I too love the old maps. I’ve also got a particular interest in orreries – those mechanical solar system models – although I’m going to have to save for many years in order to buy one. And a house into which one would fit as a centrepiece.
    There’s a blog called Strange Maps that has some really interesting maps on it. Give it a look.

  3. Chris – it’s maybe a geologist thing, but I couldn’t agree more – and yes, maps of any kind. A couple of my great great great uncles (would have to calculate the correct number of “greats”) were engravers of maps and nautical charts in the first half of the 19th century. I have some of their maps but only a photocopy (which my Dad got via the British Library) of “Welland’s New Plan of London” – it adds a bit a drama to our hallway. And presents, absolutely – you should see what my wife got me for my 60th (I’ll just mention Murchison)

  4. ScienceWoman says:

    Someone once gave me a notebook made of outdated British topo maps of the Middle East (after the first gulf war, I believe). With great reluctance, I eventually used most of the notebook, but I think I still have a couple sheets with the legends on them.