Mark Monmonier


My Current Projects
Continues the Patents Project by examining the life and impact of the inventor of the Clock System map and rural directory.
“What if I told you that behind every great map is a network and behind every great network is a map?”
Fully updated for the digital age, which offers new opportunities for cartographic mischief, deception, and propaganda
“Thoroughly researched, well written, and richly illustrated with original patent drawings.” – Judith Tyner
“a milestone in the historical study of twentieth-century cartography” – Journal of Historical Geography
“His irrepressible wit shines . . .” – Imago Mundi
“unexpectedly engrossing . . . overcomes all Weather Channel wonkery as a charmingly executed slice of Americana.” – Publishers Weekly
“Well written, engaging, mildly provocative, quirky at times.” – H-Net Reviews in the Humanities & Social Sciences
“An informative and entertaining read on climate change via the science of cartography.” – Weatherwise
“Engaging . . . a trove of giggle-inducing lore.” – Publishers Weekly
“A rewarding study of mapmaking and the uses of maps.” – Scientific American
“Engaging, even-handed introduction to the dark side of mapping technology.” – Physical Science Digest
“An artful and a funny book, which like any good map packs plenty in a little space.” – Scientific American
“Clever title, rewarding book.” – Scientific American
How maps help people avoid and officials plan for disasters.
Encyclopedia Entry
Article in The International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment, and Technology (2017).
Scholarly Screeds
Published on (11 January 2016) and (13 January 2016), DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.3332.7126.
Published on and, 17 January 2016, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.1235.5605.
Glimpse: the art + science of seeing, no. 8 (Autumn 2011): 14-21.
Weiner Schriften zur Geographie und Kartographie [Institut für Geographie und Regionalforschung der Universität Wien], 2004

"Practical and Emblematic Roles of
the American Polyconic Projection"

Weiner Schriften zur Geographie und Kartographie [Institut für Geographie und Regionalforschung der Universität Wien], Band 16 [Festschrift for Ingrid Kretschmer], 2004, pp. 93-99.

SUMMARY. The polyconic projection was an emblem of nineteenth-century American federal cartography. Neither conformal nor equivalent,it minimizes distance distortion on large-scale sheet maps with a local central meridian. The Coast Survey, which published projection tables and a mathematical description in its 1853 annual report, adopted the polyconic projection for its nautical charts as well as for “smooth sheet” plots of raw survey data. The Survey began converting its nautical charts to a more suitable Mercator framework in 1910 but retained the polyconic projection for smooth sheets until digital technology obviated these plots in the 1990s. The U.S. Geological Survey, which adopted the projection in the early 1880s, incorrectly claimed a polyconic framework for its topographic quadrangle maps decades after switching to conformal projections around 1950. The polyconic projection's longevity reflects bureaucratic inertia as well as any map projection's potential significance as a graphic signature. As several small-scale world maps also demonstrate, a projection acquires emblematic value when an organization selects a single cartographic perspective from several plausible yet sub-optimal solutions.

Vienna, MD-VA, 7.5-minute quadrangle map, 1973, incorrectly reports its framework as a polyconic projection.

A four-cone diagram used to explain the principle of polyconic projection. From Deitz and Adams, Elements of Map Projection (1945).

A whole-world polyconic framework centered on the Greenwich Meridian, from Deitz and Adams, Elements of Map Projection (1945).

Festschrift [German = festival + writing]: My article was one of three English-language articles in a special issue of an Austrian journal published in honor of Ingrid Kretschmer, who retired recently after a distinguished career as professor of cartography at the University of Vienna. The other articles were in German.

Here is the German summary of my article:
ZUSAMMENFASSUNG. Die polykonische kartographische Abbildung war ein Symbol der amtlichen amerikanischen Kartographie des 19. Jhs. Sie ist weder konform noch flächentreu und minimiert Längenverzerrungen auf großmaßstäbigen Karten mit einem örtlichen Mittelmeridian. Das Coastal Survey publizierte Abbildungstabellen und eine mathematische Beschreibung im Jahresbericht 1853 und verwendete die polykonische Abbildung sowohl für seine Seekarten als auch für Arbeitskarten. Im Jahr 1910 begann das Coastal Survey seine Seekarten in eine dafür besser geeignete Mercatorabbildung überzuführen, behielt aber die polykonische Abbildung für Arbeitskarten bei, bis die digitale Technologie diese in den 1990er Jahren überflüssig machte. Das U.S. Geological Survey, welches die polykonische Abbildung in den frühen 1880er Jahren für topographische Karten übernommen hatte, wechselte um 1950 zu konformen Abbildungen, bezeichnete das räumliche Bezugssystem aber weiterhin fälschlich als ein polykonisches. Die Langlebigkeit der polykonischen Abbildung spiegelt sowohl administrative Trägheit als auch die potenzielle Signifikanz eines Kartnennetzentwurfes als grafische Signatur wider. Wie auch mehrere kleinmaßstäbige Erdkarten zeigen, gewinnt eine Netzabbildung symbolischen Wert, wenn eine Organisation eine einzelne kartographische Perspektive aus mehreren plausiblen,jedoch suboptimalen Lösungen, wählt.