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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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Extremely rare 1902 promotional map of Harris County Texas

A separately-issued, detailed and extremely rare promotional map of Harris County Texas, published at a transitional moment in the region’s history. The map was published in the immediate aftermath of two epochal events in the history of southeast Texas: the catastrophic Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and the discovery of oil at Spindletop in 1901, which […]

$4,500
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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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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 […]

$4,500
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Main Administration of Geodesy and Cartography, ПОЛИТИЧЕСКАЯ КАРТА МИРА / РАССТАНОВКА СИЛ НА МЕЖДУНАРОДНОЙ АРЕНЕ [“Political Map of the World [:] The Alignment of Forces in the Global Arena.”] Leningrad: Political Division of Naval Bases and Naval Academies, Jan. 1, 1970.

Warsaw Pact propaganda map emphasizing the imperialist threat

A fantastic propaganda map, issued at the height of the Cold War and using geopolitical statistics and other simple persuasive techniques to overstate the threat posed to the Warsaw Pact countries by “imperialist” forces. The map was produced by overprinting geopolitical statistics on a standard-issue Russian-language world map. A table at top center lists 14 […]

$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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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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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 […]

$3,750
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Walter Vrooman, Map of New York City SHOWING CONRETE SOCIALISM IN RED, AND PRIVATE ENTERPRISES IN WHITE, 1895. [Removed from but accompanied by a copy of Vrooman’s GOVERNMENT OWNERSHIP IN Production and Distribution, Being an account of 337 now existing National and Municipal Undertakings in the 100 Principal Countries of the World.] Baltimore: Patriotic Literature Publishing Co., 1905.

Walter Vrooman promotes Concrete Socialism

Walter Vrooman (1869-) was a socialist reformer best known as a leader of the Ruskin Hall Movement, which was committed to the ideal of providing low-cost higher education for the working class. After helping found the Ruskin Hall (known today as Ruskin College) in Oxford, England—a calculated “in your face” to the University–in 1900 Vrooman […]

$2,900
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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 […]

$2,250
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HERE ARE THE KAISER’S WAR PLANS / National Security League’s Warning to Thoughtful Americans.... HOW GERMANY WANTED THE WORLD TO LOOK / A Graphic Explanation of Why There Is a War. New York: National Security League, [1917.]

World War One propaganda map advocating American intervention

A dramatic World War One propaganda poster, published in the Fall of 1917 to prod the American public into entering the conflict. The poster features a large map with regions held or allegedly coveted by Germany colored a vivid red, suggesting a tide of blood washing over the world. Below the map 36 statements from German “leaders […]

$1,500
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