Drawing the Line

Mark Monmonier, Henry Holt and Company, 1995, ISBN 0805025812

In this 12 year old book Monmonier, a professor of geography and the author of numerous books and articles on this subject, has combined both history and mapping design.

This book is a composite of a number of cartographic topics, each of which has been individually discussed in detail elsewhere. As the table of contents indicates, the topics  consist of the author’s views of the controversial Peters projection and the Vinland Map. Also discussed are the topics of topomyms, examples of boundary identification using metes and bounds, plus the theory of continental drift as it relates to mapping.

The following three chapters discuss cartographic issues more relevant to current events such as the use of maps in identifying U.S. political districts based on the census conducted every ten years. The author explains how, in some instances, so called gerrymandering used by both major political parties to gain control of individual political districts can dramatically  affect control of the House of Representatives and resultant laws affecting U.S. all citizens.

The last two chapters which discuss the use of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) for issues like environmental hazards are, in this reviewers opinion, the most informative. Monmonier uses basic GIS overlays and other graphics to show how environmentalists as well as health and human resource scientists can use this technology to identify and map risk.

Those interested in reading a broad overview of mapping techniques both past and present may enjoy this book; however those   already familiar with many of these issues  can expect to find very little new information.

By Chuck Gray
From Society’s April 2008 Newsletter