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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.



53 results, ordered by Publication Date

Items Available for purchase

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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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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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 […]

$750
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Lisa Hoffman, American Dream [:] Black Rock City, NV [:] August 25-September 1, 2008. Burning Man Project: NP, 2008.

Map of the Playa at Burning Man 2008

A rare brochure distributed to participants in Burning Man 2008, the theme of which was “American Dream.” One side of the brochure features a pictorial map of the Playa, with the design conceit of a picnic table—that most American of spaces!–covered with ants. The reverse is a bare-bones guide to Burning Man logistics and a […]

$295
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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 […]

$850
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The Daily Liar War Map

Unrecorded Daily Liar War Map

A zany and extraordinarily rare satirical pictorial map of Europe during the First World War, issued by the publisher of the The Daily Liar. For all its horrors—or perhaps because of them—20th-century warfare has been a rich source of satire… think for example of Hogan’s Heroes, Catch-22, and M*A*S*H. One subgenre that took off in […]

$2,500
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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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U.S. Government Printing Office, Nav War Map NO. 2 [:] THE SOUTH CHINA SEA AREA. Washington, D.C.: Navy Department, 1944.

Spectacular “Nav War Map” of the South China Sea

A spectacular propaganda map of the South China Sea, issued in 1944 by the U.S. Navy.   The map emphasizes the strategic significance of the South China Sea region as a source of raw materials, including “almost all of the world’s quinine; nine-tenths of the world’s rubber; one-half of the world’s tin and tungsten; and […]

$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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