January 5, 2012


The Greatest Paper Map of the United States You'll Ever See: Made by one guy in Oregon. (Seth Stevenson, Jan. 2, 2012, Slate)

Yet, barring a miracle, this opus will barely be seen. Specialty map shops are disappearing. Bookstore chains tend to carry only the major map brands. And even if they were somehow made aware of Imus' marvelous creation, most school systems can't afford or can't be bothered to update their classroom maps. A map is a map, right? That circa 1982 Rand McNally wall blob does the job just fine, the thinking goes. [...]

There's also a certain flavor of geographic comprehension that comes with taking in a map all at once in a large format. Imus argues that you can't truly understand a place if you only use zoomed-in maps on teensy screens. (Evidence for this notion: Although we probably look at maps now more than at any other time in history--thanks to their digital ubiquity--our knowledge of geography hasn't improved at all. Studies show that our kids continue to live in geographic ignorance, in some cases worse than it was 15 years ago.) Looking at Imus' big, richly detailed map offers a holistic sense of what America looks like--how cities spread out along rivers, forests give way to plains, and mountains zigzag next to valleys. In Imus' exuberant view, a map like this might inspire enough geographic curiosity to guide the next generation of students back on course.

Finally, there's that simple, ancient joy of paper. The joy one derives from paging through a crisp hardcover book instead of switching on a Kindle. From doing the crossword in ink, on newsprint, instead of typing it into an iPad app. Can we agree that one needn't be a Luddite to recognize these small pleasures?

This object--painstakingly sculpted by a lone, impractical fellow--is a triumph of indie over corporate. Of analog over digital. Of quirk and caprice over templates and algorithms. It is delightful to look at. Edifying to study. And it may be the last important paper map ever to depict our country.

Surely that's worth some space on the wall of your den?

$39.95 at Imus Geographics.

Posted by at January 5, 2012 6:54 AM

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