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BRM2712 Porcineograph_detail2The pictorial map style is one of the oldest—and one of the newest!—genres of mapmaking, and also one of the most collectible.

Arguably pictorial maps appeared even in the ancient world, for example on the Madaba mosaic map, which depicts the cities and village of ancient Palestine as tiny vignettes and includes a scattering of decorative flora and fauna. Likewise medieval mappaemundi, huge maps of the world (as then known!) drawn and painted on parchment, often feature pictorial elements such as cities and towns (with Jerusalem invariably at the center), the Garden of Eden, flags and/or tents representing kingdoms, and real and imaginary animals and mythic beasts. Some of these quasi-mythic elements were retained on early printed maps; for example, the world map in Hartman Schedel’s 1493 Liber Chronicarum (aka the Nuremburg Chronicle), features in the left border images of monstrous creatures first “described” by Herodotus, tiny heads representing the Winds, and three half-length profiles of Noah’s sons Shem, Ham and Japhet.

During the 18th-19th centuries pictorial elements, without disappearing entirely, fell out of fashion among many of the leading mapmakers in England, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Many maps came to have a relatively “stripped-down” aesthetic focusing almost solely on geographic data, with decorative elements, if any, confined to cartouches. Consider for example this map of the British capture of New York City in 1776, this navigation chart of Plymouth Bay from the Atlantic Neptune, and this 1857 map of Texas.

The pictorial map began to re-emerge as a genre in the late 19th century, as a new stream of “popular” (lowbrow?) mapmaking, intended to educate, influence opinion or simply entertain, diverged from the tradition of “empirical” or “scientific” map making. Some of the earliest examples was the comic map of Europe issued by Paul Hadol during in 1870 and the unforgettable Porcineograph produced here in the United States. By the 1920s pictorial map making was in full swing, both in the United States and abroad, with maps appearing in books, board games, magazines, newspapers and on matchbooks, menus and stamps, as well as being separately published.

For the collector pictorial maps have at least two great advantages: First, their variety is essentially infinite, with maps produced all over the world and extending to just about every conceivable area of human interest. Second, though prices have appreciated in recent years, they remain relatively affordable: even most of the “great” pictorial maps are priced at a fraction of the cost of iconic maps of earlier periods, and most maps of the genre are accessible to collectors at just about any price point.



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Delightful playing board for a geographic game

A charming board for a geographical game, featuring a pictorial map of Europe, the Near East, and Asia with dozens of pictorial vignettes depicting major cities, landmarks and images such as “Finlander attacking a bear” and “Perils of the whale fishery.” Neither the spinner nor the rare booklet of instructions are present, but the web […]

$2,250
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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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Prepared by The Educational Services Section Bureau of Naval Personnel / U.S. Government Printing Office, Nav War Map No. 6[:] We fight a GLOBAL WAR. Washington: Navy Department, 1944.

Striking Second World War map of ” Global War “

A mammoth and colorful pictorial map of the world issued by the U.S. Navy near the end of World War II. This impressive, separately-published world map was produced to emphasize the vast scale on which the U.S Navy operated during the Second World War. It gives particular attention to the Navy’s role in protecting the […]

$1,950
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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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Prepared by The Educational Services Section Bureau of Naval Personnel / U.S. Government Printing Office, Nav War Map No. 5 [:] SOUTHWEST PACIFIC. Washington: Navy Department, 1944.

Spectacular Nav War Map of the Southwest Pacific

A spectacular pictorial map of the Southwest Pacific, issued in 1944 by the U.S. Navy. The map highlights events beginning with the Japanese offensive of late 1941 and early 1942, identified by sweeping orange arrows. American counteroffensives are shown by light blue arrows, beginning with the 1942 landings on Guadalcanal, with the limits of American […]

$1,500
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Beatles map [:] John Paul George Ringo. Liverpool: City of Liverpool Public Relations Office, [1974.]

Beatles Map of Liverpool!

An extremely rare poster-size Beatles Map highlighting The Fab Four’s many connections to Liverpool and promoting that city as a tourist destination. Rendered in the graphic style of the Beatles’ animated film Yellow Submarine, this pictorial map highlights areas of Liverpool where the Fab Four were born, lived, studied and performed. It also features Penny […]

$1,750
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[F. E. Cheeseman], AVIATION CAVALCADE. Milwaukee, WI: Albert Richard, 1944.

F. E. Cheeseman’s Aviation Cavalcade

Aviation Cavalcade is an exuberant pictorial map highlighting American might near the end of WWII… published to promote, of all things, a men’s clothing company in Milwaukee!  The map depicts a huge range of American military aircraft—real and imaginary–dominating the skies over an oddly-rendered north polar projection of the world, with nary an Axis plane […]

$1,750
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Dodd, RAMBLES THROUGH OUR COUNTRY. AN INSTRUCTIVE GEOGRAPHICAL GAME FOR THE YOUNG. Hartford: American Publishing Company, 1881 or a bit later.

Rambles Through Our Country … a spectacular pictorial map of the United States

An early and spectacular example of American pictorial mapping, Rambles through Our Country is a simple educational game requiring players to complete a “grand tour” of the United States. The game is played on a board featuring a spectacular chromolithographic map of the United States. The map bears 200 numbered stations beginning with Hartford—where the […]

$3,500
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[F.E. Cheeseman], Pigskin Panorama: ALBERT RICHARD FOOTBALL MAP. Milwaukee, WI: Albert Richard, 1939.

The American football scene in 1939: Albert Richard’s Pigskin Panorama

Pigskin Panorama is an exuberant and decorative Art Deco-style pictorial map of the American football scene in 1939, when the college game was still dominant. The map uses vignettes of football players in action poses to show the locations of hundreds of collegiate teams around the United States, all color coded by conference. The border […]

$850
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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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