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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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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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[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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VOTES FOR WOMEN A SUCCESS [:] NORTH AMERICA PROVES IT. New York: New York State Woman Suffrage Party, Sept., 1917.

Votes for Women a Success

A clever handbill arguing for the expansion of voting rights for women in the United States, using a clever persuasive map to highlight the expansion of suffrage across the states. By 1900 only four states (beginning with Wyoming in 1869) had granted women the vote, and the suffrage effort was flagging. But a new generation […]

$750
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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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