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HOME > ON THE BOOKSHELF > March-April 2010 > Bookshelf Detail


Heading South

Anna Lena Phillips

Click to Enlarge ImageIt’s refreshing to see an S above the compass arrow on a map—and a little disconcerting. This map of South Asia, made by the editors of Himal magazine, places south at the top and north at the bottom, giving visual importance to features and countries that don’t always receive it. India, dwarfed by China on conventional maps, is prominent here, and Sri Lanka takes center stage. The map appears in the collection Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities (Viking Studio, $30). Frank Jacobs, the author of the book and of a blog with the same name, reminds us that the convention of placing north at the top of a map is just that—a convention. He also notes that maps made in the Middle Ages often place east at the top, which is why we speak of orientation. Reversed maps such as this one are good reminders of how the representations of the world that we create shape our perceptions of place. Strange Maps contains many more thought-provoking maps, with engaging commentary. While we are turning southward, it’s worth noting another example: a map of the varieties of barbecue sauce favored across the American state of South Carolina.—Anna Lena Phillips

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