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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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10 War Department Newsmaps from 1945, focusing on the pivot to the Pacific Theatre

Ten War Dept. Newsmaps from 1945, focusing on the pivot to the Pacific

Ten striking propaganda Newsmaps published by the U.S. War Department during the Second World War, covering roughly the period between the surrenders of Nazi Germany and Japan. Unusual in being accompanied by their original War Department mailing envelope. This run of Newsmaps is not continuous, but all were issued between May 7 and August 13, […]

$2,500
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Bruno / Imp. Paul Dupont, LIRE LA BASTILLE Journal Hebdomadaire Illustré ANTIMAÇONNIQUE [“Read La Bastille, the Illustrated Weekly Anti-Masonic Newspaper”]. Paris: [Paul] Copin-Albancelli, ND [but ca. 1906].

Octopus map reflecting French anti-Semitism at the turn of the 20th century

A spectacular albeit noxious French persuasive map using the octopus motif to promote anti-Semitism and anti-Freemasonry. As in other European nations, French anti-Semitism has a long history, most famously manifesting itself in the Dreyfus Affair of the 1890s and collaboration with Nazi deportation of Jews during the Second World War. In the public mind, Jews were […]

$4,500
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U.S. Government Printing Office, [Nav War Maps 1 through 6.] Washington, D.C.: Navy Department, 1944.

Striking Second World War “Nav War Map” of the Mediterranean

A mammoth and colorful “Nav War Map” of the Mediterranean issued by the U.S. Navy near the end of World War II. This impressive, separately-published propaganda map was produced in 1944 to highlight the strategic importance of the Mediterranean, which “offers many approaches to Fortress Europe.” It also emphasizes Allied successes there during the Second […]

$1,200
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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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R[obert] M[acfarlane] Chapin, Jr., THREE-WAY DOOM. [New York:] Time, Inc., April 2, 1945 [but a bit later.]

R. M. Chapin map of the bombing of Japan in 1945

A striking poster published in the waning months of the Second World War, showing what was left of the Japanese Empire being decimated by American bombers attacking from three directions. The map is a much-enlarged version of one printed in the April 2, issue of Time magazine. Mapmaker Robert M. Chapin (fl. 1937-1970), Chief Cartographer […]

$650
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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 […]

$1,750
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1912 United States of Guggenheimerica

Cartoon map taking aim at the Guggenheim mining empire

An unusual and mildly anti-Semitic cartographic cartoon from 1912 taking aim at the power of the Guggenheim Family and their purported corrupt dealings in Alaska. The cartoon depicts the United States in outline, towered over by eight of its industrial titans. East of the Mississippi are Morgan, Rockefeller and Carnegie, glaring across the river at […]

$350
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Mary Ronin's 1958 pictorial map celebrating American diversity

Mary Ronin pictorial map celebrating American diversity

A colorful and upbeat pictorial map of the United States celebrating the “great diversity in its land and its people.” Drawn by Mary Ronin and published by the Department of State for the United States pavilion at the Brussels Universal and International Exhibition, better known as Expo 58. I quote at length from P.J. Mode’s […]

$750
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