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

Coast Lines: How Mapmakers Frame the World and Chart Environmental Change

In the next century, sea levels are predicted to rise at unprecedented rates, causing flooding around the world, from the islands of Malaysia and the canals of Venice to the coasts of Florida and California. These rising water levels pose serious challenges to all aspects of coastal existence—chiefly economic, residential, and environmental—as well as to the cartographic definition and mapping of coasts. It is this facet of coastal life that Mark Monmonier tackles in Coast Lines. Setting sail on a journey across shifting landscapes, cartographic technology, and climate change, Monmonier reveals that coastlines are as much a set of ideas, assumptions, and societal beliefs as they are solid black lines on maps.

Whether for sailing charts or property maps, Monmonier shows, coastlines challenge mapmakers to capture on paper a highly irregular land-water boundary perturbed by tides and storms and complicated by rocks, wrecks, and shoals. Coast Lines is peppered with captivating anecdotes about the frustrating effort to expunge fictitious islands from nautical charts, the tricky measurement of a coastline’s length, and the contentious notions of beachfront property and public access.

Five Islands, Maine, as shown on the U.S. Geological Survey's Boothbay Harbor 7.5-minute topographic map, published in 1979. Topographic maps emphasize features on land.

Five Islands, Maine, as shown on U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey chart 238, Kennebec and Sheepscot River Entrances,published in 1970. Coastal charts emphasize shoreline features and hazards to navigation.

Vicinity of Ocean City, Md., from U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey chart 1220, published in 1920. Note that the barrier island is continuous--or was, until 1933.

EPA sea-level-rise planning map for Worcester County, Md. shows the westward migration of the barrier island south of the Ocean City inlet, opened by the severe 1933 hurricane, which also took out the railroad shown on the 1920 map. Ocean City, north of the inlet, has been stabilized by costly shoreline-protection measures. But south of the inlet, the unprotected Assateague Island National Seashore has responded to erosion and rising seas by moving toward the mainland.

Portion of the New York shoreline near what's now Tribeca, from Egbert Ludovickus Viele's 1865 Sanitary and Topographical Map of the City and Island of New York. Light orange on this hand-colored map shows fill behind the bulkhead along the Hudson River.

Storm-surge maps, like this one from the New York State Emergency Management Office, show hypothetical shorelines associated with severe coastal storms.

"Coastlines take on a completely different meaning after reading Mark Monmonier's five-century-long odyssey on the challenges and tricks that mapmakers have used to tell us where land and sea meet. . . . By using history and humor, Monmonier's fascination with mapping our coastlines is highly infectious." – Christopher Hallowell, author of Holding Back the Sea

"Monmonier is always quick to relate maps not just to technological affordance, but to social purpose, and here his concern is with environmental issues – with climate change and its consequences, with environmental hazards and with their impact on coasts. He gives an eloquent account of tidal phenomena and their variability along coastlines, bringing theory, case studies and anecdote into neat juxtaposition." – Rob Walker, Visual Studies

"Coast Lines is no exception to what we have come to expect from this exceptional scholar: well researched and referenced, captivating and engaging, with detailed stories set in a broader context of understanding, and a balance between scholarly thought and nontechnical writing for a public audience. His books are simply a delight to read." – Sally Hermansen, H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online

". . . an enjoyable read . . . provides an excellent grounding for a full understanding of the complexity of all factors involved with the historical and current mapping and charting of the world's coastlines." – Charles A. Burroughs, Imago Mundi

"By highlighting a selection of topics, Coast Lines may succeed in its goal of getting the public to think about what maps show and why. However, Monmonier cautions that prospective navigators need to be aware that modern global-positioning technology enables them to know their latitudes and longitudes with greater precision than the scientists who made their maps in the first place." – Deborah Jean Warner, Nature

". . . provides an excellent overview of coastal mapping . . . yet another excellent contribution [from Monmonier], and one that fits well within the theme of technology and culture." – Klaus J. Meyer-Arendt, Technology and Culture

"Monmonier has taken the most assumed and invisble part of a map and made it jump from the page as a multifaceted and complex feature of interest and importance to all." – Keith Clarke, author of Getting Started with GIS

". . . intelligent, interesting, and thought-provoking." – Robert Hordon, The Professional Geographer

". . . charmingly and engagingly written book . . . thought-provoking . . . written in a very readable style and should be of wide appeal, irrespective of one's degree of technical expertise or familiarity with maps." – Colin V. Murray-Wallace, The Globe: Journal of the Australian Map Circle

". . . delivers information in a knowledgeable and entertaining manner."
". . . relates fascinating information regarding the history of coastline cartography and the (sometimes calamitous) manner in which it has been used." – Randy Cerveny, Weatherwise

". . . an interesting commentary, in nontechnical language, on how mapmakers represent the changing nature of nautical coastlines." – Library Journal