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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.

View Boston Rare Maps Catalog 3, Reformers & Visionaries, Scoundrels and Incendiaries: 250 Years of Persuasive Mapping



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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 […]

$3,500
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Designed by Bureau of Naval Personnel Training Aids / U.S. Government Printing Office, Nav War Map No. 4 / THE NORTH PACIFIC AREA. Washington: Bureau of Naval Personnel, Navy Dept., 1944.

Striking U.S. Navy map of the North Pacific in WWII

A mammoth and colorful propaganda map of the North Pacific issued by the U.S. Navy near the end of World War II. This impressive, separately-published poster highlights events across the North Pacific, beginning with the Japanese strikes of late 1941 and early 1942. The attack on Pearl Harbor is highlighted, for example, by a depiction of […]

$1,500
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Second map in Valentine Seaman article on yellow fever in 3rd edition of volume I of Medical Repository

The Medical Repository, with groundbreaking yellow fever maps by Valentine Seaman

A scarce volume of early American medical history. With an important article by Valentine Seaman featuring two all-but unknown thematic maps of yellow fever outbreaks in Manhattan, generally accepted as the earliest published epidemiological maps and preceding Snow’s work on cholera by half a century. The Medical Repository was the first American medical journal, founded […]

$5,000
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GREENHAM WOMEN AGAINST CRUISE [:] CRUISE THREATENS PEACE AND BREAKS THE LAW [:] 9th Nov ’83 take President Reagan to Court in the USA. NP, ND, but England, ca. Oct. 1983.

The Greenham Women protest the deployment of cruise missiles in England

A rare 1983 persuasive map by the English anti-nuclear group Greenham Women Against Cruise Missiles, highlighting the deployment of American ground-launched cruise missiles around Great Britain. In 1979 the Carter Administration agreed with its NATO allies to deploy several dozen ground-launched cruise missiles to the RAF air bases at Greenham Common and Molesworth, Great Britain, […]

$450
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R. M. Chapin 1943 "Global Combat" map for Time Magazine

R. M. Chapin map of Allied offensives, drawn for Time Magazine

A striking 1943 poster depicting options for Allied offensives against the Axis, drawn by Robert M. Chapin for Time magazine. The poster features side-by-side maps of the European and Asia-Pacific Theatres on a stereographic projection, giving the viewer the sense of seeing the Earth from space. The theatres of war are, in a sense, carved […]

$750
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[ Kaiser Wilhelm ] A. Delaye, LE RÈVE DU FOU[:] THE MADMAN’S DREAM. Paris: Ch[arles?] Delaye, 1914.

Kaiser Wilhelm as a madman

A vivid and all-but unrecorded French pictorial map attacking Kaiser Wilhelm early in the First World War. Illustrator Delaye depicts the Kaiser in a pose reminiscent of Frankenstein, lurching toward western Europe with his hands outstretched, dripping blood, while his right boot reaches toward the French possessions in North Africa. A bright-red Germany serves as […]

$1,950
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SPK [or] PSK, CONFIANCE… SES AMPUTATIONS SE POURSUIVENT MÉTHODIQUEMENT (“Have Faith… The Systematic Amputations Are Continuing.”) [Paris, 1941 or 1942.]

Amputations from the Churchillian octopus

An iconic propaganda poster, published in German-occupied France and depicting Churchill as a badly-wounded octopus. Confiance was intended to undermine support for both the British and Free French forces in the early years of the Second World War. It features possibly the ugliest octopus ever rendered in print, bearing the face of Winston Churchill rendered […]

$2,250
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Louis Delton Fancher / Plampin Litho. Co. Inc., A Food Map of the United States showing the part played by each of our States in supplying the Nation’s larder. [New York:] The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., 1932.

Spectacular pictorial food map of the United States

A mammoth, vibrantly-colored and spectacular pictorial food map of the United States, published by The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.—better known as A&P—to promote its carnival exhibit at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. The map depicts the country in outline, with each state packed with illustrations depicting its most important food products. Vermont for […]

$1,600
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[Title of recto translating to “Vietnam in Battle” / title of verso translating to “The Power of People’s War is Incomparable; The Tet Offensive Victory is Earth-Shaking.”]. Beijing: Ditu chubanshe (Cartographic Publishing House), distributed by Xinhua shudian, February 1968.

Vivid Chinese Communist propaganda poster celebrating the Tet offensive

A Communist Chinese propaganda poster featuring two persuasive maps of Vietnam and touting the supposed success of the Tet Offensive. Published in February 1968 during or just after the Offensive. Launched on January 30, 1968 by the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) acting in coordination, the Tet Offensive was a massive surprise […]

$950
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Robert M. Chapin, Jr., EUROPE FROM MOSCOW [:] ASIA FROM IRKUTSK. New York: TIME Inc., March 10, 1952.

Striking map by Robert M. Chapin highlighting the Communist threat

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 […]

$750
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