You might not expect an atlas to open with the editors declaring that maps are inherently unnatural, as Brosnan and Akerman do here. Maps are abstractions that capture someones idea of what matters within a particular place, they write, pointing out that maps also reflect cultural values of their eras through what they doand do notinclude. This book, featuring essays from a number of scholars, focuses on how early maps depicted the natural world. It turns out theyre a valuable source of environmental history. Centuries ago, maps were sometimes aspirational, reflecting what their creators hoped to find, or even windows into the geographic imaginations of human beings, as opposed to faithful depictions of what places were actually like. But even these kinds of inaccuracies have things to tell us. Why do palm trees adorn so many early maps of places where they did not grow? Is there a reason so many Indigenous names for waterways survive in some parts of the American South? What can a late-sixteenth- or early-seventeenth-century map tell us about Aztec agriculture? Mapping Nature explores these questions and more. -- Tina Jordan * New York Times Book Review * "This richly illustrated and carefully edited volume deserves high praise and will be of great interest to Latin Americanists across the geographical and temporal spectrum... Mapping Nature across the Americas is an excellent and innovative collection that will be useful to students and scholars throughout the Americas, opening new vistas and challenging traditional perspectives in a vein similar to the multiple actors from across the social spectrum whom the editors and the volumes contributors so majestically illuminate." * Longue Duree * Insightful, provocative, and timely. Brosnan and Akerman have assembled a first-rate team of authors who explore the many and varied ways that maps have been employed to depict natural phenomena and help us navigate in the natural world, as well as, at times, to tell liesto confuse, exaggerate, obscure, and distort reality on the ground in an effort to manipulate public opinion or to project or maintain political power. The scholarship is outstanding. Mapping Nature across the Americas is a landmark volume that should find a home on the shelf of any social scientist who conducts research at the intersection of nature, culture, and politics, and on how these relationships quite literally are mapped out across space and time. -- Geoffrey L. Buckley, coeditor of "The American Environment Revisited: Environmental Historical Geographies of the United States" As Brosnan and Akerman indicate, there is little book-length work in the history of cartography that directly addresses the environment or the natural world explicitly and directly. Yet the connection isplease pardon the puna natural one. Mapping Nature across the Americas is an original, welcome addition that, by offering rich and varied case studies, models the many ways to approach the broader theme and should inspire future research in both the history of cartography and environmental history. -- Jordana Dym, coeditor of "Mapping Latin America: A Cartographic Reader"
Kathleen A. Brosnan is the Paul and Doris Eaton Travis Chair of Modern History at the University of Oklahoma. She is the author of Uniting Mountain and Plain: Cities, Law, and Environmental Change along the Front Range, and coeditor, most recently, of City of Lake and Prairie: Chicagos Environmental History. James R. Akerman is curator of maps at the Newberry Library, and director of the librarys Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for the History of Cartography. He is the editor, most recently, of Decolonizing the Map: Cartography from Colony to Nation, also published by the University of Chicago Press.