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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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A fully-realized 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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[ Nuclear materials ] NUCLEAR THREATS TO THE BAY AREA. Point Reyes Station: Pelican Alliance for Safe Energy, 1981.

Nuclear materials threaten the Bay Area

A rare 1981 persuasive map highlighting the pervasive presence of nuclear materials in civilian and military facilities around the San Francisco Bay Area.  It was published by the Pelican Alliance for Safe Energy, an anti-nuclear group based in Point Reyes and active from the late 1970s into the mid-1980s. “If you live in the Bay […]

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Willard Glazier / Rand McNally & Company, MAP ILLUSTRATIVE OF CAPTAIN WILLARD GLAZIER’S Voyage of Exploration to the Source OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER Drawn from Delineations by his Indian Guide CHE-NO-WA-GE-SIC. Chicago, [1881-84?]

Willard Glazier discovers the true source of the Mississippi… or not

A very rare early 1880s persuasive map by first-rate scoundrel Willard Glazier, depicting his alleged expedition to the “true” source of the Mississippi River at “Lake Glazier”, known then and today as Elk Lake and but one of several small ponds feeding Lake Itasca. This remarkable map depicts the upper reaches of the Mississippi extending […]

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