Striking map by Robert M. Chapin highlighting the Communist threat

Robert M. Chapin, Jr., EUROPE FROM MOSCOW [:] ASIA FROM IRKUTSK. New York: TIME Inc., March 10, 1952.
Printed in color halftone, 25”h x 39”w plus margins. Folds as issued, else excellent.

A pair of striking persuasive maps by Robert M. Chapin highlighting the Communist threat to Western Europe and South Asia.

The maps use an unusual projection, simulating an astronaut’s-eye views of Europe as seen from perhaps a few hundred miles over Turkey, and of Asia as seen from somewhere over the Pacific. On the map of Europe, the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries are tinted a vivid red (of course!) and loom threateningly over the nations of Western Europe. On the map of Asia, the Soviet Union and Asia, both in red, theaten to overwhelm India and the other countries of South Asia. Both maps feature a hammer-and-sickle centered on Moscow, cleverly repurposed as a compass rose. The explanatory text at lower left reads in part:

“… as the maps on these two pages show, the view from inside Russia looking out is a pleasing vista of past opportunities promptly cashed in on and future prospects that may pay big dividends—if the capitalist West goes bankrupt.”

P.J. Mode points out Chapin’s liberal use of innovative persuasive mapping techniques involving color, perspective and scale:

“This cold war map shows the threat of the Soviet Union in Europe and Asia. The perspective of the map of Europe, and the progression of colors from dark to light, make it look as if Soviet tanks could simply roll downhill into the heart of Western Europe.

“The same is true for the map of Asia. Moreover, because the earth is tilted away from the viewer, distances at the top of the map have been foreshortened. For example, the distance from Paris to Lisbon on this map appears to be about the same as the distance from Moscow to Leningrad, when in fact it is more than twice as great. This increases the apparent threat to Western Europe.” (P. J. Mode)

Robert MacFarlane Chapin
The maps were drawn by mapmaker Robert MacFarlane Chapin and originally appeared in the TIME magazine for March 10, 1952. Chapin graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1933 with a degree in architecture. Finding little demand for his training during the Depression, he took a job as a retoucher of photos at Newsweek, where he somehow learned to draw maps. In 1937 he was lured away to run the map department at Newsweek rival TIME, where he worked for the next 33 years. He and his team were extremely prolific, particularly during the Second World War, when they produced four, five and six maps per week to keep up with breaking news. After the War Chapin remained at TIME for another quarter century, during which period he produced numerous maps, including many addressing aspects of the Cold War, a titanic “us vs. them” struggle to which his bold style and liberal use of red were well suited. “The Time-Chapin association, extending over almost two decades, has been one of the major pillars of American journalistic cartography. Chapin maps have established a pattern and style for modern newsmagazine cartography.” (Ristow, p. 384)

Chapin’s maps were enormously popular, and they were often enlarged and reprinted in poster format for distribution to schools. The present example was in the artist’s possession until his death and was acquired from one of his descendants.

Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Collection, #1349. Background on Chapin from Susan Schulten, “Journalistic Cartography,” History of Cartography, Volume 6: Cartography in the Twentieth Century, esp. pp. 706-717 (but esp. 713); Norberto Angeletti, TIME: The Illustrated History of the World’s Most Influential Magazine (excerpted at[3]; and Walter W. Ristow, “Journalistic Cartography,” Surveying and Mapping 17 (1957), pp. 369-90 (but esp. 384-387).