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Rhumb Lines and Map WarsA Social History of the Mercator Projection$
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Mark Monmonier

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780226534312

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226534329.001.0001

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Bearings Straight—An Introduction

Bearings Straight—An Introduction

Chapter:
(p.1) Bearings Straight—An Introduction
Source:
Rhumb Lines and Map Wars
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226534329.003.0001

The Mercator map addresses the sailor's fear of storms by providing a reliable base for plotting meteorological data for tropical regions. Mercator, who published his celebrated world map of 1569 as a set of eighteen sheets, which form a wall-size mosaic 48 inches tall by 80 inches wide, sought to reconcile the navigator's need for a straightforward course with the trade-offs inherent in flattening a globe. These trade-offs include distortions of distance, gross shape, and area. Magnetic declination was not discovered until the fifteenth century, and as Mercator's experience illustrates, geomagnetism proved less well-behaved than sixteenth-century mapmakers had originally believed. Mercator projection lies at the intersection of a diverse collection of intriguing tales about navigation, cartographic innovation, military precision, media mischief, and political propaganda.

Keywords:   Mercator map, storms, navigator, trade-offs, Mercator projection

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