Glossary of Terms in Map History


¶ card

[map type]
The French carte was adopted into early modern English as “card,” used throughout the Renaissance as a fairly generic term for spatial images. It was in particular used as a variant of chart for marine maps, in which sense “card” continued in use into the first half of the eighteenth century. It seems to have been used by less well-educated mathematical practitioners, mariners, and land surveyors. Now obsolete.

¶ cartobibliography

A bibliographical listing of maps, by region, period, style, maker, etc. Coined ca. 1900 by H. G. Fordham, the term has largely replaced the older ¶cartography4 (MHT). The insistence on using carto- manifests the insistence, under the ideal of cartography, that maps are properly distinct from other kinds of inscriptive texts (books, etc.). But they are not (CIH; Tanselle 1982) and it is more appropriate to use just bibliography.

¶ cartograph

[map type]
A back-formation from ¶cartography in US English. It was initially used in the early twentieth century for a variety of innovative instrumentation related to map making, from alidades for plane tables to photogrammetric stereoscopes. By 1930 “cartograph” was in use in the U.S. for pictorial maps, i.e., images that were plainly maps yet not maps showing locations and landscapes. After 1980, “cartograph” has been similarly used by academics to refer to indigenous maps, statistical maps, and other images maps that lack consistent scale (CIH, 219). Usage of “cartograph” necessarily construes a distinction between real maps and map-like images (the cartographs) that continues to sustain the ideal of cartography.

¶ Cartography

“Cartography” is a modern hybrid of the French carte and the Greek –graphy (description, writing), modeled on the truly ancient word, “geography,” giving cartographie (CIH, 114–20). Early variants in English and German incorporated the respective terms derived from the French carte (chart, charte), giving “chartography” or “chartographie.” After its acceptance in the 1820s, “cartography” sustained a variety of meanings according to both interpretation of “–graphy” and parallels drawn with “geography.” These meanings continue to influence modern usage:

¶ cartography 1

The singular and universal endeavor of map making, i.e., “writing [making] maps.”

¶ cartography 2

Expressing concepts through maps, i.e., “writing with maps.” Generally used in the phrase ¶historical cartography2.

¶ cartography 3

The study of maps, i.e., “writing about maps.” The common name for the modern academic subdiscipline, akin to “geography.” Note that German scholarship used other terms for the organized study of maps, notably Kartenkunde, until the 1960s.

¶ cartography 4

The product of the study of maps: “a cartography,” being akin to “a geography.” Generally replaced since ca. 1900 with cartobibliography.

¶ cartography 5

The world/archive of spatial knowledge: “the cartography,” being akin to “the geography.”



cerography (a.k.a., wax engraving)

A relief printing process, effectively the inverse of etching: a wax film on the matrix is scratched through; the exposed areas are then built up through an electrolytic process. A common technique for commercial mapping in the USA in the late nineteenth and in much of the twentieth century (Woodward 1977).

cognitive map

The internal and intangible neurological structure by which individuals (animals and humans, even insects) retain and access spatial information. This usage of “map” is strictly metaphorical. What the individual creates when externalizing this knowledge is a sketch map.