As a book editor, I’ve learned to rely pretty heavily on the dependable Chicago Manual of Style. Once in a while, though, I run into an esoteric subject that Chicago just doesn’t cover well. Maps—both in terms of working with a cartographer to create a map and in terms of citing old maps—are one such subject, and they deserve special attention because they have both visual and textual considerations and because they can serve a wide spectrum of functions: in some books they give geographical context by telling readers the locations of unfamiliar places, whereas in others, like guidebooks, they can be critical navigational tools.
In my early days at D&M, one of the more senior editors asked me to copy edit some map labels to be sent to a mapmaker. “So just make sure that the formatting is correct,” she told me. “For instance, bodies of water should be in italics—you know that, right?”
I didn’t, at the time, and a few years later, when I was putting together an editorial wiki for the company, which included our style guidelines, I wanted to add a section specifically about maps. I pored through Chicago and searched online but couldn’t find a particular authoritative source that stated the bodies of water = italics convention. I ended up listing it as a house style but never stopped wondering where that came from.
Recently I sent the question to the Canadian Cartographic Association, and the president, Gerald Stark, a cartographer for the Government of Alberta, not only wrote me an incredibly thorough response of his own but also forwarded my query to the CCA membership. Below is a summary of some of the members’ contributions to the discussion.
Type considerations on new maps
Writes David Forrest, senior lecturer at the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences at the University of Glasgow:
In terms of map design generally, there are no definitive specifications that must be followed, except in a few specific cases such as hydrographic charts. Some map topics, such as topographic and geological maps, have developed “conventions” over the years, but these need not be slavishly followed, and topographic maps, even at the same scale, vary greatly around the world.
The use of italic for water names is such a convention, but you can find many maps which don’t. The main thing is that variations in letterform are used to enhance the classification of features on the map. Labelling everything in the same typeface is generally poor, but it does depend on the individual map, the number (and density) of names and what the map is for.
In a book the important thing would be to have a consistent approach throughout—much like most atlases do—but the choice of type styles may depend on whether one is trying to give the map a modern look or an historical look, for example.
On another point, in the caption for historical map illustrations, one thing really useful, but often absent, is a note of the size of the original, or the % reduction (e.g. shown 55% of original), as scale is one of the most critical factors in map design.
Henry Castner, author of Seeking New Horizons: A Perceptual Approach to Geographic Education and editor of A History of the Cartography of Russia up to 1800, writes:
In book editing, I suspect most of your maps are unique special-purpose and thematic maps for which the purpose of the map overrides some perceived need for design consistency. So depending on the purpose for labelling the water area(s), for example, it may be that large bold letters are required in one case, and small inconspicuous ones in another. In other words, an editor has much greater freedom in designing special-purpose and thematic maps as long as attention is given to the visual tasks involved and the role each map element plays in their execution. The worst sin in map designs in books, in my experience, are maps that don’t locate the places mentioned in the narrative.
So there you have it. Typographic considerations for a map depend on the map’s purpose in the book and the need for consistency within a book. If you are a publisher that works frequently with mapmakers, defining a house style for type on maps may be the way to go.
That said, if you need a place to start, check out the conventions used by national topographic mapping bodies. Gerald Stark writes:
Most national mapping programs have well-established standards for map design (e.g., United States Geological Survey; Natural Resources Canada—National Topographic Series; Ordnance Survey of the U.K.). Maps produced by these agencies do provide guidelines for producing topographic maps.
Of particular interest is a link Stark gave me to the Atlas of Canada discussing type design on maps.
For further information about map design in general, Stark recommended several books; since they’re not specific to type style on maps, I won’t include them here, but if you’re interested, get in touch with me, and I would be happy to pass along his list.
I don’t know that I agree with David Forrest’s assertion that a map’s scale of reduction is absolutely necessary to state in a citation—again, because maps serve different functions when reproduced in a book. If a map is included purely for illustration and not for navigation, an indication of a map’s reduction may be interesting to a cartographer but not needed for the general reader. Which segues beautifully to…
Another area that Chicago doesn’t discuss in detail is map citation. Although in many cases they can be considered art or photography and may be cited as such, their inherently informative nature usually demands more bibliographic detail, especially if the work in which they appear is meant to serve as a reference.
My query to the Canadian Cartographic Association and to the David Rumsey Historical Map Association about proper map citations brought back a number of online guides, all of which pretty well cover print and digital maps:
- “Maps and Atlases: Citing Maps,” North Carolina State University Libraries
- “Citing Maps,” Ohio Wesleyan University Libraries
- “Guide to Citing Maps and Atlases,” McMaster University Libraries
Alberta Wood of the Association of Canadian Map Libraries and Archives also generously shared with me a draft of best practices in map citation; when her document has been formally approved, it will be posted on the ACMLA site.
The CCA members also recommended two print guides. The first is
Kollen, Christine, Wangyal Shawa, and Mary Larsgaard. Cartographic Citations: A Style Guide, Second edition. Chicago: Map and Geography Round Table, American Library Association, 2010.
It’s a thirty-two page handbook covering everything from manuscript maps, single-sheet maps, and atlases to remote-sensing imagery and computer spatial-data files. I found a copy at the UBC library; it’s comprehensive and easy to use, and it has a helpful glossary defining cartographic terms. Its raison d’être is clear from its introduction: “The majority of general citation guides and style manuals either do not include any information on cartographic materials or only provide guidance on how to cite a single stand-alone map or as figures in an article or book.” It is meant as a supplement to standard style and citation guides. You can buy it here for $20, but given its very specialized focus, I would say that it’s worth the investment only if you know you’ll be working with cartographic citation frequently. For most purposes, the online guides are as much information as you need.
The other recommended print guide is
Mangan, Elizabeth U., ed. Cartographic Materials: A Manual of Interpretation for AACR2, Second edition. Chicago, Ottawa, and London: Anglo-American Cataloguing Committee for Cartographic Materials, 2006.
This reference isn’t so easy to find: the only copy in the city that I could track down is in the UBC library’s reference staff area and hence unavailable for borrowing. In fact, when I went to look at it when I picked up Cartographic Citations, the reference staff was in a meeting, and I couldn’t even get access to it. Further, it’s pretty big, at 400 pages, and it carries a $138 price tag. Because Cartographic Citations is more than adequate for most editors’ purposes, I’d suggest going for that one, if you work often with maps, or leaning on the online sources.
What Mangan’s Cartographic Materials may provide specific guidance on is historical maps. I’ve had the privilege of working for several years on Derek Hayes’s magnificent historical atlases, for each of which he has had to compile a detailed catalogue of all of the maps that appear in the book. We have the odd disagreements about the format of these citations, he being more inclined to preserve the style of the original and I being partial to clarity and consistency. We’ve found a compromise we seem to be comfortable with—matching the case of the title given on the map, unless it’s in all caps, in which case we use title case. We do add punctuation for clarity if punctuation is implied but not actually written at the end of a line (for example, adding a comma if the title of a map has “Vancouver” on one line and “British Columbia” on the next). However, there are lingering questions, like when, if ever, it’s acceptable to truncate the very long title of a historical map, and where. And if a historical map appears to have several titles, how to decisively identify the map’s “main” title.
Paige Andrew, maps cataloging librarian at Pennsylvania State University Libraries, refers me to Rule 1E3 and Appendix G, “Early Cartographic Material” in the second edition of Cartographic Materials. When I return Cartographic Citations, I’ll take another shot at checking if Cartographic Materials is available to see if we can settle these issues once and for all.
If it isn’t already clear, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of helpful responses from the Canadian Cartographic Association membership. Thanks to all of them, I’ve been able to clear up some of my confusion surrounding editorial considerations in cartography.