A persuasive map is one that is designed to make a point, that is, to alter the viewers beliefs or perhaps even spur them to action.  The archetypal use of persuasive maps is for the purpose of political propaganda, such as the “Gerrymander” map, but they can address a wide range of subjects. In fact, we have handled persuasive maps in diverse fields such as advertising, moral education, social science, anti-nuclear protest, women’s suffrage, tourism, and even oil fraud!

The techniques of the persuasive mapmaker are many and varied.  To give just a handful of examples: Spatial distortion can emphasize the heights of mountains to make them appear more impressive for would-be tourists.  Arresting imagery can create an indelible visual metaphor for an enemy or ally.  Selective coloring can emphasize a threat or, for that matter, minimize it.

But a map need not necessarily distort reality to be persuasive.  Consider this map from the Civil War era, which makes use of careful shading to suggest how the pervasiveness of slavery varied across Virginia’s counties.



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1755 Anti Gallicans Map

The Anti Gallicans Map of North America

An iconic propaganda map, the 1755 Anti Gallicans Map is the most extreme cartographic statement of British imperial claims in North America at the outset of the French and Indian War. The Society or Order of Anti Gallicans was organized in 1745 or -46 in response to the renewed hostilities with France, known now as King […]

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Color printing. [Jacques-Fabien] Gautier [D’Agoty] / Gautier fils (engraver), CARTE ABR[E]GEE du CANADA levee sur les lieux par M.*** resident a Quebec année 1754. Paris: [Gautier], 1755.

18th-century cartographic color printing, by Gautier D’Agoty

A rare and fascinating thematic map of northeastern North America by a French artist, printer, anatomist and crackpot geologist, remarkable also as an early example of color printing. A former pupil of Jacob Christoph Le Blon, and a pioneer in color-printing, Jacques Fabien Gautier D’Agoty (1717-1785) improved on the methods of his teacher by developing […]

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1797-98 French cartographic cartoon celebrating victories under the Directory and foreshadowing the rise to power of Napoleon.

Wonderful cartographic satire foreshadowing the rise of Napoleon to power

A wonderful French cartographic cartoon celebrating victories under the Directory and foreshadowing the rise to power of Napoleon. Owned in partnership with Barry Ruderman Antique Maps. The image depicts Napoleon at right, along with Generals Pichegru, Jean Moreau, and Hoche. Three of the four men hold pieces of a map of Europe, which has been […]

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A remarkable allegorical atlas

First edition of this extremely rare allegorical atlas, remarkable for its structure, intellectual cohesion and state of preservation. The atlas consists of a suite of ten allegorical maps, here interspersed throughout a six-volume collection of anecdotes, jokes and amusing stories. The first volume includes a General Map of the Moral World, followed in succeeding volumes […]

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Massachusetts invents gerrymandering

A rare broadside documenting the 1812 redistricting controversy in Massachusetts, and a precursor to the “Gerrymander,” one of the most infamous images in American political history. In early 1812 Massachusetts Republicans engineered a radical redistricting of their state, designed to disadvantage the Federalist majority in the upcoming state senatorial elections. It did so by spreading […]

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The original Gerrymander

A rare and spectacular broadside satirizing one of the most toxic yet enduring features of American politics. In 1812 Massachusetts Republicans led by Governor Elbridge Gerry engineered a radical redistricting, designed to disadvantage the Federalist majority in the upcoming state senatorial elections. The legislation was enormously successful, and in that year’s election the Republicans’ majority […]

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A vicious anti-Napoleon broadside including an engraved cartographic satire and with text in Dutch, German, English and French.

A vicious anti-Napoleon broadside

A vicious anti-Napoleon broadside including an engraved cartographic satire and with text in Dutch, German, English and French. On his Persuasive Maps web site, PJ Mode offers a thorough description of a similar broadside, which differs in being English-only. “This is an English-language version of the “corpse-head” or “hieroglyphic” map, “the most widely-known of all the […]

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[ Dartmoor Massacre ] W[illiam] Carnes (artist) / G[eorge] G[irdler] Smith (engraver), Massacre OF THE American PRISONERS OF WAR at DARTMOOR PRISON on the 6th OF APRIL 1815, by the SOMERSETSHIRE MILITIA. Salem, MA, ca 1815.

Striking Dartmoor Massacre broadside

An exceedingly rare and visually compelling broadside engraving of the Dartmoor Massacre, in which imprisoned American sailors were tragically killed long after the formal conclusion of the War of 1812. Though little known today the terrible events at Dartmoor Prison spawned outrage in the United States. During the War of 1812 this prison in Devon, […]

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Map demonstrating the “Impolicy of Slavery”

A rare thematic map delivering an economic argument for the abolition of slavery in the British Empire.   PJ Mode provides a most helpful explanation of the map and its maker: “This polemic map argues that import prohibitions and high duties on sugar were artificially inflating prices and inhibiting manufacturing in England. It was published by J. […]

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