The Library of Virginia

Surveys, as well as being exercises in mathematics, also reflected the artistic talents of their creators. Using pen and ink and watercolor, early surveyors and mapmakers produced maps that exemplified cartography as a craft. Notations of forests and settlements were individualistic, and each surveyor had his own method of drawing a compass rose. Colors added interest to surveys but generally had no symbolic function in maps.

Map of the Rebel CapitalMapmaking changed rapidly during the Civil War. To meet the military's demand for maps of unfamiliar territory and troop movements, cartographers embraced technologies that made their work more accurate and that produced maps quickly for a wider distribution. Army mapmakers used lithography Map of the Battle Ground of Greenbrier River, A.T. McRae, CSA, 1861, woodcut engraving to produce maps quickly. They also embraced the new technology of photography to reproduce maps. Army engineers increasingly accepted standardized symbols to indicate natural features and human settlements. By the late 1800s mapmakers had incorporated scientific principles to create maps uniform in appearance.

AlexandriaBeginning in the 1850s, the use of lithography as an economical printing technology served a growing middle class that clamored for colorful images of cities or landmarks. Using an elevation or bird's-eye view of a scene or city, such as the view of Alexandria in 1862, artists and printmakers created a type of map called the panoramic map to decorate private homes and public buildings. In the 20th century, mapmakers and printers took the bird's-eye view one step further by using photographic techniques to map the landscape from airplanes and later from satellites. Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Computers now enable mapmakers to develop Geographic Information Systems (GIS), which use a variety of methods to create multiple geographic databases. Maps are used today to plan urban development, to direct environmental projects, and to document the impact of human activity on the land.


Mapping Virginia

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Surveyors and Mapmakers

Mapping Technology

Vision of Empire

Building the Commonwealth

The Geography of Culture

Educators' Lesson Plans

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