About the Cartographers and Mapmakers

Accurate cartography is a complex science and before the advent of satellite technology, it required considerable expertise in several branches of mathematics, to say nothing of surveying, astronomy, and (frequently) history. The names of early modern cartographers were therefore often included in the titles of the maps they produced, both as a way of claiming their work and as a selling point for the accuracy of the map. Many cartographers were also engravers and cut the plates for their maps themselves. As a result, many of the maps in the Venable collection can be linked with specific cartographers and engravers.

This exhibit includes twenty maps produced by fifteen mapmakers from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. All but two of the mapmakers are cartographers or engravers in their own right. Alvin J. Johnson and Samuel Augustus Mitchell were not trained in either cartography or engraving, but were instead founders of successful publishing companies that specialized in mapmaking. Their special skill lay in developing a system for producing maps on a large scale, marking the beginning of the industrialization of mapmaking.