Time in Maps: From the Age of Discovery to Our Digital Era. Kären Wigen and Caroline Winterer, eds. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2020. 272p. Hardcover, $45.00 (ISBN 978-0226718590).

Jordan Hale


“I thought you didn’t want to see another map again,” my partner joked as I held up the book I was sent to review. Indeed, that’s a sentiment I uttered more than a few times three years ago, when I graduated from library school and went on the job market after 10 years of working in a university map collection and on several historical mapping projects. It was in these roles that I learned the nuances of digitization, visualization, and time-series data structures using geographic information systems (GIS) software. Over my time in the library, I became disillusioned with a number of trends not isolated to my workplace, including the fetishization of rare materials, the elision of labor, the detached overtheorization of “the archive,” and the extensive intellectual gatekeeping meant to exclude those seen as lacking the appropriate credentials and occupational categories to produce scholarship. Indeed, I thought I’d be the right person to take on Time in Maps: From the Age of Discovery to our Digital Era, given my expertise in the production, distribution, and access of (historical) maps. However, the book’s explorations break little new ground outside the domain of histories of cartography. The digital era promised in the book’s subtitle is not a point of arrival, as suggested, but an insistence that even more study into a format and genre that has seen considerable scholarly attention for centuries is needed, with minimal ethical engagement with the conditions of the production and reproduction of paper maps.

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