Human Cartography: Maps That Define the Mind (Brain Pickings)

02POPOVA_SPAN-articleLargeOne of my favorite (and most interesting) people I follow on Twitter is Maria Popova. Ms. Popova is the brain child of Brain Pickings. She is a self-described “interestingness hunter-gatherer and curious mind at large,” who also writes for Wired UK and The Atlantic, among others, and is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.

Ms. Popova describes Brain Pickings as follows.

Brain Pickings is a human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why, bringing you things you didn’t know you were interested in — until you are.

Because creativity, after all, is a combinatorial force. It’s our ability to tap into the mental pool of resources — ideas, insights, knowledge, inspiration — that we’ve accumulated over the years just by being present and alive and awake to the world, and to combine them in extraordinary new ways. In order for us to truly create and contribute to culture, we have to be able to connect countless dots, to cross-pollinate ideas from a wealth of disciplines, to combine and recombine these ideas and build new ideas — like LEGOs. The more of these building blocks we have, and the more diverse their shapes and colors, the more interesting our creations will become.

Human Cartography: Maps That Define the Mind [SOURCE]

The Kingdom of Wisdom, the Isle of Knowledge, and other whimsical geographic representations of the human condition


I love maps. There’s something about cartography that lends itself to visualizing  much more than land and geography. I have previously blogged about Charles Minard’s map of Napoleon’s Russian Campaign of 1812, Henry Beck’s map of the London Underground, and John Snow’s map of the 1854 Cholera epidemic in London.

The Kingdom of Wisdom
In 1961, Norton Juster wrote The Phantom Tollbooth, a timeless children’s classic and one of our essential children’s books with philosophy for grown-ups. It tells the story of a bored little boy named Milo who one day receives a magic tollbooth that transports him  to a fantasy land called The Kingdom of Wisdom. Though at first he gets lost in the Doldrums, a grey place where  thinking and laughing are not allowed, he goes on to incredible  adventures before returning to his own room as magically as he had left  it.
This map by mid-century American cartoonist Jules Feiffer, who illustrated the book, depicts the marvelous land that Milo finds himself in as he follows his own curiosity.
Isle of Knowledge
Last week, delicious new work by designer Marian Bantjes (whose latest book, I Wonder, is among the most ambitious and beautiful visual communication volumes ever published) made the rounds–and for good reason: Isle of Knowledge is a beautifully illustrated map of “the ‘known’ beyond which lie  monsters,” created for the second installment in Bantjes’s column for U.K.  illustration magazine Varoom on the theme of “Knowledge.”
bantjes_knowledge1.png bantjes_knowledge2.png bantjes_knowledge3.png bantjes_knowledge4.png
The map is clearly–whether consciously or not–inspired by the Phantom  Tollbooth map, which is perfectly fine: With the concept of combinatorial creativity in our DNA, we deeply believe that all creative work is derivative, everything is a remix, and good ideas come from other good ideas.
Map of an Englishman
English artist Grayson Perry’s 2004 Map of an Englishman portrays his mind in a mock-Tudor etch of an imaginary island,  surrounded by the “seas” of his perceived psychological flaws–desires, vanities, prejudices, fears. The island itself is vaguely brain-shaped, turning the map into a kind of cartographic phrenology of the self.
mapofanenglishman.png Image courtesy of Grayson Perry and The Paragon Press via BBC
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Carte de Tendre
Carte de Tendre (Map of Tenderness) is a 17th-century French map by the writer  Madeleine de Scudéry depicting the peaks and valleys of amorous pursuit, from the River of Inclination to Lake of Indifference to the Great  Spirit. With its undetermined itinerary that offers you multiple routes  to Tenderness, it’s part map, part choose-your-own-adventure narrative  for love.
The Empire of Love
We first featured this extraordinary antique German map of Das Reich der Liebe (The Empire of Love) more than three years ago, and it remains an  absolute favorite. Created by Johann Gottlob Immanuel Breitkopf in 1777, it’s a pinnacle of sentimental cartography, as detailed and obsessive  as love itself.
If you don’t sprechen Sie Deutch, here’s the gist:
  • GABIET DER JUGEND = Land of Youth (Forest of Love, Kiss Field, Flirting Game,  Charm Castle, Stream of Wishes, Worry-Free, Joy’s Home, Beautiful House, Source of Joy, Sweet Look, Wisecrack Place, Rich River, Warning Castle)
  • GABIET DER RUHE = Land of Rest (Nightcap, Grandfather City, Equanimity, Manly Place)
  • GABIET DER TRAURENDEN LIEBE = Land of Mourning Love (Anger’s Home, Flood of  Tears, Whim Mountain, Complaint Place, Hopeless Mountains, Loathing,  Strict Place, Swamp of Profanity, Desert of Melancholy)
  • GABIET DER LUSTE = Land of Lust (Illness Valley, Weak Home, Intoxication Field, Lechery, Hospital)
  • GABIET DER GLUCKLICHEN LIEBE = Land of Happy Love (Lust Wood, Answered  Prayers, Pleasant View, Enjoyment, Tenderness, Good Times, Affection  Farm, Satisfaction, Compliance Mountain, Fountain of Joy, Marriage  Harbor, Reward City, Peace of Mind, Bliss Town)
  • GABIET DER HAGESTOLZE = Bachelor Country (Stupidity Town, Rejection Place, Irritation,  Indifference, Place of Contempt, Reprehensibility, Old Age Mountains,  Separation, Hat, Obstinacy, Wrangler Hall, Exasperation Heath, Hamlet of Death, Sea of Doubt)
  • GABIET DER FIXEN IDEEN = Land of Obsessions  (Place of Sighs, Desire Town, Unrest, City of Dreams, Bridge of Hope,  Disloyalty, Sweet River of Tears, Little Town of Instincts)

Many of these maps can be found in these seven must-read books on maps, particularly in the excellent You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination–a treasure trove of imaginary and imaginative cartographic explorations of self-conception.

I encourage you to visit Maria’s Brain Pickings site or follow her on Twitter. A tasty treat awaits you.



This post also appears on Brain Pickings.
Images: Courtesy of Brain Pickings

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