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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.



83 results, ordered by Publication Date

Items Available for purchase

E. McD.  Johnstone / Dickman-Jones Co. Lith., THE UNIQUE MAP OF CALIFORNIA. San Francisco: Southern Pacific Company and the State Board of Trade of California, [ca. 1888.]

The Unique Map of California

A very scarce map of California, combining attractive color, imagery, thematic and persuasive elements to yield a decorative and promotional tour de force.   This remarkable promotional map depicts each California county, along with its acreage, primary agricultural products and extractive industries.  Superimposed on the map are no fewer than 20 pictorial vignettes emphasize both the […]

$8,500
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ARMOUR’S FOOD SOURCE MAP[:] THE GREATNESS OF THE UNITED STATES IS FOUNDED ON AGRICULTURE. [Chicago?] Armour and Company, 1932.

Armour and Company makes the case that meat packing matters

A vibrant persuasive map of the United States by meatpacking giant Armour and Company, making the case for the strategic importance of its industry. Founded in the 1860s by Philip Danforth Amour (1832-1901), Armour and Company was a meatpacking pioneer, using refrigeration, assembly-line methods, canning and economies of scale to become the industry leader. For […]

$1,500
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Earl Purdy / Division of Information Federal Public Works Administration, PWA REBUILDS THE NATION. Washington, D.C.: Public Works Administration, [1935-39?]

Vibrant government poster promoting the New Deal and the Public Works Administration

A delightful Depression-era propaganda map issued by Federal Government to promote the contributions of the Public Works Administration, one of the major programs in FDR’s New Deal. The PWA was established by the 1933 National Industrial Recovery Act and was tasked with spending billions on major public construction projects to generate employment and help stabilize […]

$3,000
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Paul Paige, a map of CAPE COD. East Brewster, Mass.: Paul Paige, [ca. 1940?]

Vibrant pictorial map of Cape Cod

A delightful pictorial map of Cape Cod featuring bold design and vibrant color. It highlights the Cape’s fundamental virtues as a vacation destination, including “500 miles of shoreline[,] 300 miles of beaches[,] 1000 miles of highway[,] as many miles of byways[, and] 300 lakes.” The details identify towns and villages; sightseeing destinations; and, by means […]

$495
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[David] Horsey, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO RONALD REAGAN. Seattle: Seattle Post Intelligencer, 1982.

1982 David Horsey map of The World According to Ronald Reagan

An entertaining 1982 persuasive map by David Horsey offering a liberal caricature of Ronald Reagan’s Cold Warrior world view. The map uses a pictorial style to depict the United States and Soviet Union wildly out of scale with the rest of the world. Reagan in full gunfighter regalia stands astride a hypertrophied California, while Leonid […]

$1,400
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Mary [Jane] Ronin, THE UNITED STATES[:] The Land and the People. [No place: U.S. Department of State, 1958?]

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 […]

$450
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Designed, drawn and coloured by Edwin Olsen and Blake Clark, The COLOUR of an OLD CITY[:] A map of Boston decorative AND historical. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1926.

A magnificent Boston pictorial map … Clark and Olsen’s 1926 Colour of an Old City

  Impressive in size, vibrantly colored, and rich in both information and wit, Clark and Olsen’s Colour of an Old City is arguably the finest pictorial map of Boston. This charming map was the product of a collaboration between Blake Everett Clark (1900-1979) and Edwin Birger Olsen (1902-1996), two young American draftsmen & architects.  According to Stephen Hornsby’s […]

$1,500
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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 […]

$1,500
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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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