My medieval-modernity project may have fallen apart, but I’m still hoovering up books about old Europe.
And the words do work for me—I’ve said in the past that I’m a text- rather than visually-oriented person—but sometimes, mmm, sometimes you need a map to make sense.
To cite one example: I just finished John Julius Norwich’s A Short History of Byzantium (great fun: I want to track down the 3-vol. series), and I kept flipping between the copy and the maps at the front of the book to figure out where, exactly, were the boundaries of the empire or the position of yet another battle. It helped, some, but the maps were few and small and I couldn’t always determine where the characters or I were.
So I happened to ask my colleague and friend Jtte. if she had any suggestions for atlases (Jtte. does historical research and has constructed a number of terrific maps for her work), and she immediately said “William Shepherd, Historical Atlas“.
Shepherd constructed his atlas in the early 20th century, so I wouldn’t be surprised if archaeological work in the intervening years might yield different maps, but oh, are these maps beautiful.
Or this one, of Europe under Rome (I’m finally reading Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire):
Click to make ’em see-able & zoom-able.
These are gorgeous, and a bit of a mess, but isn’t that exactly what an historical atlas should be?
Happily, the Strand had an 8th edition (1956, with maps added to Shepherd’s final 1929 edition), so I won’t have to go online to see, say, The Growth of Russia in Europe, 1300-1796 or The Ottoman Empire, 1481-1683 or or the Growth of Frankish Power 481-814 or or or. . . .
(Of course, the zoom feature is pretty handy: lifting my glasses and sticking my nose an inch or two from the page isn’t always enough.)
Oh, I am going toss away so many hours leafing through and peering at these maps, and to no discernible productive end whatsoever.
Ain’t knowledge grand?