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The Big Map Blog
April 4, 2011 4:07 PM   Subscribe

The Big Map Blog – Five-hundred enormous historical maps; all downloadable in their highest resolution. With a new map every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 1,700 to go! [via mefi projects]
posted by carsonb (43 comments total) 166 users marked this as a favorite

 
Holy cow, I love this. What a wonderful treasure trove. Thanks!!!!
posted by zarq at 4:09 PM on April 4, 2011


Just to reprise my comment from the Projects page -- this was obviously a lot of work and I'm grateful to jjjjjjjijjjjjjj for doing all of it despite the lack of any apparent benefit.
posted by theodolite at 4:15 PM on April 4, 2011


Words to live by:

"Take a deep breath, hold your thumbs, count up to fifty and USE LARGE MAPS!" --Gully Jimson, The Horse's Mouth

This is great. Thanks!
posted by chavenet at 4:25 PM on April 4, 2011


Not enough Canada. But very cool nonetheless.
posted by Brodiggitty at 4:29 PM on April 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not enough Canada.

If you have white plaster walls, isn't that like a giant map of Canada all by itself?
posted by orthogonality at 4:30 PM on April 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


orthogonality owes me a new monitor. the old one was ruined by spitted beer.
posted by hippybear at 4:32 PM on April 4, 2011


Hey, there's my town! In 1879! (My neighborhood is up in the woods on the center left side of the map.)
posted by epersonae at 4:36 PM on April 4, 2011


(Oh, I got some Canada for you. And it just so happens I love Canada... so I'll see about pushing something towards the front of the queue.)
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 4:39 PM on April 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Holy cow this is awesome.
posted by brundlefly at 4:47 PM on April 4, 2011


Holy cow.

I once had a housemate who ripped apart his Thomas Guide map of Los Angeles and Orange County and tacked all the pages up on two walls of his room, including the door, in proper order. Over time that Big Map of LA became dotted with thumbtacks and Postits and red and green and black Sharpie tracks as he and others plotted their comings and goings.

That was a cool and useful big map, but it was only one big map. This is lots of big maps.
posted by notyou at 4:54 PM on April 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Outstanding. Especially love Birdseye View of New York and Environs – Bachmann, 1866.
posted by ericost at 4:57 PM on April 4, 2011


Wow, awesome. I hope the data transfer costs don't bankrupt you, multiple-J.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 5:09 PM on April 4, 2011


Hey jjjjjjjijjjjjjj, what do you mean when you note that "a print can be made, but it may have quality issues"?
posted by orthogonality at 5:10 PM on April 4, 2011


And why are the downloadable filenames apparently random strings?
posted by orthogonality at 5:13 PM on April 4, 2011


Heh, the Atlanta in 1871 had me going, "Ah yes, when it wasn't so difficult for outsiders to figure out where the hell they were going."

Seriously, when my husband used to visit me in Atlanta, he'd always complain that just when he thought he'd figured out how to get from Point A to Point B on his own, I'd just end up going a way I'd always gone without even thinking. Drove him nuts.
posted by Kitteh at 5:16 PM on April 4, 2011


orthogonality: I set the (subjective) benchmark for "quality issues" to be fairly strict, but necessarily vague. It just means there's something about the image (some fussy blur, some non-uniform noise that was difficult to get rid of through batch operations, some something) that I thought folks should know about.

As far as the pseudorandom file names: I know nothing about web anything, and that's just an artifact of my ignorance in how I set up the database. I had no idea what .htaccess could do, and I thought that it'd be necessary to keep unpublished posts hidden. By the time a web-savvy friend hipped me to it, that was already how the database was.

posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 5:26 PM on April 4, 2011


This is good! Thanks for posting this, and thanks to jjjjjjjijjjjjjj for the project.
posted by carter at 5:32 PM on April 4, 2011


dammit just when I had started to get work done dammit hot damn this is fuckin' sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet (dammit)
posted by hat at 6:09 PM on April 4, 2011


So how did they get the birds-eye perspective? Were early map makers utilizing hot air balloons?
posted by cazoo at 6:16 PM on April 4, 2011


I love this map of San Francisco from 1847. Nothing but water east of Montgomery Street. Something called Lone Mountain in the background. And just a smattering of buildings on the hillsides. Things do sure change in 150 years.
posted by quadog at 6:19 PM on April 4, 2011


Needs more Rhode Island. Otherwise very awesome.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 6:30 PM on April 4, 2011


Love this. The San Diego 1876 map even has a tiny cowboy chasing cows into what's now Balboa Park.
posted by shinyshiny at 6:37 PM on April 4, 2011


By the time a web-savvy friend hipped me to it, that was already how the database was.

Let me tell you about the "update" statement. No seriously, memail me. Fixing up your db will yield value to me as I download your maps.
posted by orthogonality at 6:40 PM on April 4, 2011


I'd snap up a Baltimore print, if it was available.
posted by spaltavian at 7:11 PM on April 4, 2011


The birds-eyes of the Harbor up to about 33rd? Yeah me too.
posted by orthogonality at 8:00 PM on April 4, 2011


There's another with a free-hand=esque style similar to the Baltimore one, terminals-of-the-chicago-and-north-western-in-chicago.

Hey jjjjjjjijjjjjjj, the image at the bottom of each opage, it's not indicated whether that's a detail or not (in some cases, it clearly is a detail).

It would be great if we could see a low-resolution image of the whole thing. Probably would save you in download costs too.
posted by orthogonality at 8:31 PM on April 4, 2011


Nevermind, that zoom.it thing comes up if I enable javascript.
posted by orthogonality at 8:33 PM on April 4, 2011


Yeah, there goes any free time I'd planned on having in the near future... an amazing resource! Favorited, bookmarked, toolbar-ed, forwarded. THANK you, jjjjjjjijjjjjjj!
posted by drhydro at 10:37 PM on April 4, 2011


This is extremely cool! I love antique maps, so I'll probably try out the printing service provided.
posted by Harald74 at 1:45 AM on April 5, 2011


My god. It's like you can read my mind. I adore the birdseye-style maps (like this one of Lewisville, including the buildings as well), and have actually been wondering what the commonly-accepted term for them was. I have one of my hometown of Brisbane Australia framed in my bedroom, and have wanted similar versions of my other favourite cities for a long time.

I think I love you.
posted by chronic sublime at 2:52 AM on April 5, 2011


This is fantastic stuff. But what's the marker in the ocean off the west coast of Africa?
posted by bentley at 7:42 AM on April 5, 2011


(Oh, I got some Canada for you. And it just so happens I love Canada... so I'll see about pushing something towards the front of the queue.)

Awesome! I will be watching. Used to work in a museum and I loved looking at the old nautical charts. Every little rock that might sink a ship had a colourful name.
posted by Brodiggitty at 8:06 AM on April 5, 2011


I love this. Thanks!
posted by futz at 8:42 AM on April 5, 2011


Wow, thanks to all. I gotta say that the response has been overwhelming, and that I'm real grateful for all the kind words and interest. I guess I knew that there'd be excitement amongst fellow map lovers, but I underestimated considerably how much crossover there'd be. I woke up to a lot of nice emails, I can tell you that.
cazoo: "So how did they get the birds-eye perspective? Were early map makers utilizing hot air balloons"
That's a great question, and one that I remember thinking over for a long time shortly after coming across these maps.

Short answer is "I'm not sure, but I don't think so", but I guess it could've been true in isolated incidences. In the Mountain West you'll see many that were absolutely drawn from the side of a nearby mountain... I could tell you the mountain, in some cases.

I think that they had access to the town plan, used whatever high-ground was available (if any), and used photographs... all with quite a bit of artistic liberty.

This is something that I'm looking forward to researching further. I have a couple soft leads, but would welcome any more info.
orthogonality: "Let me tell you about the "update" statement. No seriously, memail me. Fixing up your db will yield value to me as I download your maps"
Thanks much for the kind offer to share your expertise. I sent you a MeMail.
chronic sublime: "... I have one of my hometown of Brisbane Australia framed in my bedroom..."
I've never seen an Australian birdseye map, and I'd be very interested to learn more about this. If you have the time, could you send me a photo of the map? Maybe any authorship info you can find on the collar? I'd love to learn more about non-U.S. birdseye idioms.
bentley: "This is fantastic stuff. But what's the marker in the ocean off the west coast of Africa"
That one's an odd duck, and I wish I knew more about it. In short: it's a fictive place. It's a birdseye map drawn for a city that doesn't exist.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 9:38 AM on April 5, 2011


Oh, wow, the area where I grew up, too! These birdseyes are fun & very weird. I could spend days poking around these.
posted by epersonae at 10:59 AM on April 5, 2011


From a fellow map enthusiast and (hopefully) future map librarian, thankyouthankyouthankyou!
posted by betafilter at 11:06 AM on April 5, 2011


Philly sesquicentennial! Great.
posted by fixedgear at 11:27 AM on April 5, 2011


Awesome. My house is about an inch outside of about 4 of these, and omitted entirely in another. Birdseye maps seem to have been something of an imprecise art prior to the birth of aviation.
posted by schmod at 11:41 AM on April 5, 2011


schmod: Birdseye maps seem to have been something of an imprecise art prior to the birth of aviation

Or without the aid of a truly photographic memory and a very tall hill.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:21 PM on April 5, 2011


Library Of Congress online collection of panoramic (bird's eye view) maps.
posted by hippybear at 1:28 PM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Good starting point, hippybear. Of special interest (to me, at least) is their section providing brief bios to the birdseye artists.

Just enough info to make me want to know lots more, though. I have on my "to do" list contacting the LoC and trying to find who wrote those bios and what more s/he can tell me about them.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 1:58 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


What I find fascinating about panoramic maps is that they obviously can't all have been done from a vantage point. So with a number of them (maybe most?), there is a lot of artist-ishness going on, incorporating mind's eye envisioning skills, three point perspective, real-life knowledge of places, and all kinds of fascinating projection going on to create the maps. Truly a deep, mastery-level mapmaking demonstration. Or so it appears to me.
posted by hippybear at 3:12 PM on April 5, 2011


Vaguely previouslyAwesome Outsider Cartography, a huge hand drawn map of London, in which I posted a comment about Deth P Sun's Historical Map of San Francisco - the image itself is not very large, but the write-up on how he did it (started with Google Maps) and what he included (forgotten cemetaries, Japanese Tea Garden, the Fire Hydrant that Saved San Francisco, and more).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:25 AM on April 22, 2011


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