Maps are not just diagrams of the route from A to B - from the earliest times they have helped us make sense of our world, from the very local to the global. Simply organised as a progression through time, each map is not only a beautiful work of art in its own right but also tells us about our changing perception of the earth. Sometimes, of course, maps tell lies and there are examples represented here that are meant to alter or influence our understanding of the world around us. There are maps of oceans and continents charted by heroic adventurers sailing into the unknown, at sea for years in tiny ships. For every example of a beautifully embellished map that has survived there must have been scores of cartographers who perished at sea or in 'unknown parts'. Maps are not just about understanding and representing the physical world: they have an administrative use in demarcating national boundaries or individual plots of land, a social use in showing who lives where, a military use in depicting the layout of enemy positions, a political or propaganda use in showing one country or faction at an advantage over others.
All are represented in this book, a history of the world in images from around the globe and from every epoch.
Peter Barber is a diplomatic historian by training and became responsible for maps in the Department of Manuscripts in the British Library shortly after joining in 1975. In 1987 he transferred to the Map Library as Deputy Map Librarian and succeeded Tony Campbell as Head of Map Collections. He has published extensively on medieval world maps, on British mapmaking in the 16th century, on the British Library's cartographical and topographical collections, and on map use and the relationship between mapping and government in the early modern period. He is Fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries, the Royal Historical Society, and the Royal Geographical Society. He is an honorary editorial board member of Mapforum.