2014 – 2015 Meetings

Date: September 18, 2014
Title: Printing Renaissance Maps, Volvelles, and Scientific Instruments
Speaker: Suzanne Karr Schmidt
Location: Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

You may think “paper engineering” as seen in pop-up books is a relatively recent development, but five-hundred years ago, printers often crafted woodcuts that could be deployed in several dimensions to serve as sundials, compasses, astronomical instruments and globes. Maps themselves are a kind of scientific instrument, and some of the great cartographers of the sixteenth century (including Peter Apian, Sebastian Münster, and Caspar Vopel) designed and engineered such paper devices. Suzanne Karr Schmidt, Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago, has studied such “movables” extensively, and will share some of the highlights with us.

Date: September 27, 2014
Speaker: Michael Blanding
Title: The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps
Location: Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

Forbes Smiley III, a once-respected map dealer, pled guilty in 2005 to stealing 97 rare maps worth $3 million from libraries across the country. Smiley’s crime spree, which included two maps from the Newberry’s collection, ended when he accidentally dropped an X-Acto knife in Yale University’s Beinecke Library. Author Michael Blanding will discuss what drove Smiley to do what he did. The commodification of cartography and the American pursuit of status converge in Blanding’s The Map Thief. This “Meet the Author” event is presented by The Newberry and is free and open to the public.

Date: October 10-12, 2014
Title: Chicago International Map Fair
Location: Lewis Tower of Loyola University, Chicago

In lieu of a regular October meeting, members of the Chicago Map Society are invited to take part in the second annual Chicago International Map Fair at the Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA). The museum is located across the street from Chicago’s fabled Water Tower and steps away from Michigan Avenue For ticket information, a list of exhibitors, hours, location, and other information, please visit the fair’s official website at Chicago International Map Fair.

Date: November 21, 2014
Speaker: Jake Coolidge
Title: Past Practices, Contemporary Applications: A Digital Cartographer’s Experiments in Hand-Drawn Mapping
Location: Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

An independent Chicago cartographer and CMS member, Jake will reflect upon his recent experiences drawing large, geographically complex regions by hand, a practice that brings into sharp relief the many decisions at the core of the cartographer’s craft—generalization and abstraction, label placement, the symbolization of features, among others—in an era where geographic information systems can automate many of these tasks and obscure the process from the map designer. Jake uses hand-drawn mapmaking to reconnect with these processes in a tangible way, while invoking pre-digital maps made in the mid-twentieth century, both venerable (for example, the landform maps by Erwin Raisz and the globe-view maps of Richard Edes Harrison) and whimsical (such as the maps of Middle Earth by Christopher Tolkien and the Turzak and Chapman map of Chicago). The historical maps that have provided inspiration as well as guided Jake’s design decisions and (still-evolving) techniques will be discussed.

Date: December 18, 2014
Title: Annual Holiday Gala and Members Show-and-Tell
Speaker: Members of the Chicago Map Society
Location: Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

Continuing our tradition of a December “Member’s Night,” you are invited to bring and speak about an item in your personal collection. In the past, we’ve enjoyed hearing about maps, atlases, globes, and cartifacts old, new, borrowed, and blue (yes, we have seen blueprints). You will be given five minutes to talk about your item, will be able to display it on an easel or table, and can use our projector if that will help. We’ll also have an especially full smorgasbord of holiday treats for your dining and drinking pleasure.

Date: January 22, 2015
Title: Road Mapping on the Margins
Speaker: James Akerman
Location: Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

The free automobile road map was among the most iconic and widely distributed genres of 20th-century cartography, produced by oil companies, automobile clubs or state authorities. At the margins of the road-map mainstream is an archive of road maps published by county and municipal authorities, roadside attractions and other local economic interests. Drawing on the Newberry Library’s unsurpassed collections as well some items from his own collection, Jim will help us explore the charms, and understand the politics and economics of some more ephemeral and less familiar guides to American highways and byways

Date: February 19th, 2015
Title: Indigenous Navigations: Native American Trail Marker Trees
Speaker: Dennis Downes
Location: Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

Indigenous peoples, including Native Americans, have always been consummate travelers, whose trade and social networks crossed the continent. Few are aware, however, of the various techniques used to mark routes, including bending tree saplings. These distinct and durable markers known as Trail Marker Trees are a natural navigational method that still exists today.

Dennis Downes has traveled widely throughout the United States and Canada collaborating with Indigenous communities and learning about their involvement with these trees. In consultation with Native American experts and historians, Dennis has made it his lifelong dedication to identify, research, and protect these living landmarks. Richly illustrated with maps and numerous photographs of these distinctive markers, his talk raises awareness about Native American travels and navigational methods. Dennis will also be available to sign copies of his 2011 book Native American Trail Marker Trees: Marking Paths through the Wilderness, a groundbreaking work on this subject.

This Chicago Map Society lecture is proudly co-sponsored by the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies and the Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for the History of Cartography, both at the Newberry Library.

Date: March 19th, 2015
Title: 1500: The Year of Seven Distinct World Views
Speaker: Wesley Brown
Location: Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

Remarkably, there was one time in history, around 1500 AD, when eight very different types of maps were being produced. Although some were contemporary printings of ancient maps, all were being made to represent geographical information for contemporary use and study, not as ancient specimens but as contemporary ways to understand geography. They are 1) Greek and Roman maps, 2) maps of Claudius Ptolemy, 3) classical Islamic Maps, 4) Biblically based European maps, 5) portolan charts, 6) maps of European Renaissance, 7) Chinese maps 8) Asian Indian maps. The presenter will explain each of these forms of maps, their time of use, and show illustrations of original examples from his collection.

Wes Brown has been a collector, student, and writer on old maps for thirty years. He collects in two areas: (1) the earliest world maps up to the year 1540 and (2) the maps showing the exploration and settlement of Colorado and the Intermountain West. A Denver resident, he co-founded the Rocky Mountain Map Society in 1990, and has served the Library of Congress and the Denver Public Library.

Date: April 16, 2015
Title: Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps
Speaker: Chet Van Duzer
Location: Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

From dragons and serpents to many-armed beasts that preyed on ships and sailors alike, sea monsters have terrified mariners across all ages and cultures and have become the subject of many tall tales from the sea. No wonder that early cartographers felt the need to depict such creatures on their maps, whether swimming vigorously, gamboling amid the waves, attacking ships, or simply displaying themselves for our appreciation. Long a subject of fascination to collectors and map aficionados, these beasts are now, for the first time, getting the scholarly attention they deserve. Chet Van Duzer will cast a critical eye on the sea monsters that appear on early maps.

Copies of Chet’s beautifully designed reference work with the same title will be available for purchase and signing.

Date: May 28, 2015
Title: The Handcrafted Digital Map
Speaker: Dennis McClendon
Location: Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

The revolution in digital mapmaking has given us a profusion of data that can sometimes overwhelm the principles of good map design. Dennis McClendon of Chicago CartoGraphics will talk about the challenges of mapping with enormous datasets, and how a composite approach is sometimes the best way to produce good-looking and meaningful maps.