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.

22 results, ordered by Publication Date
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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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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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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1863 Progress of the Union Armies broadside

1863 propaganda broadside with map of Progress of the Union Armies

A powerful 1863 broadside marshaling recent events, statistics and a striking persuasive map to demonstrate recent progress of the Union armies in the field and forcefully rebut Copperhead attacks on the Union war effort. This broadside was probably issued at a high point for the Union in the late Summer of 1863, following among other […]

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1878 Colton missionary map of the world

Mammoth 1878 Missionary Map of the World on cloth

A mammoth and colorful 1878 missionary map of the world printed on linen, highlighting the global reach of the Protestant missionary movement.   This enormous banner features a double-hemisphere map of the world, with national boundaries delineated by dashed lines and major cities identified. Areas served by Protestant missions are underlined in green for American […]

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Franklin Leavitt map of the White Mountains

A wonderful and scarce pictorial map by the renowned White Mountains cartographer, adventurer and poet Franklin Leavitt. By the mid-19th century the transmission of the Romantic ethos across the Atlantic, the rise of a middle class with disposable income, and the development of rail links with coastal cities transformed the White Mountains into a major […]

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Puck cartoon satirizing the Benjamin Harrison Presidency

A splendid cartographic cartoon lampooning the flood of Republican office seekers after the 1888 election of Benjamin Harrison to the Presidency. The image has President-elect Benjamin Harrison emerging from a skylight in the roof of his home and using a telescope to look out over the dozens of aspirants scattered about the country (While Harrison’s […]

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A spectacular promotional bird’s-eye view of Mount Washington and the White Mountains, issued by the Boston & Maine Railroad.

Iconic bird’s eye view of Mount Washington

A spectacular promotional bird’s-eye view of Mount Washington and the White Mountains, issued by the Boston & Maine Railroad. By the early 20th century the Lakes and White Mountain regions of New Hampshire were major tourist destinations, with a well-developed network of hotels and resort towns and villages. With the proliferation of the automobile some […]

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1904 Russo Japanese War propaganda map

Unrecorded anthropomorphic map from the Russo Japanese War

A previously unrecorded Meiji 37 or 1904 anthropomorphic propaganda map celebrating Japan’s victory in the Russo Japanese War.  This map was issued in May 28 of 1904, immediately following Japan’s successful bombardment and siege of Russian-held Port Arthur (Dalian).  This is the second of four Japanese anthropomorphic maps associated with the Russo-Japanese war, predated only […]

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