Course Convenor: Dr Katherine Parker
Guest Tutor: Professor Matthew Edney

29 June - 2 July 2021 (Short course) | 14:00-17:00, plus evening lecture | Online

Maps are simultaneously ubiquitous in everyday life yet also strangely absent from much scholarly work outside the niche field of the history of cartography. How to catalogue, study, and discuss maps as historical sources for research is a subject that draws insight from critical bibliography, the history of the book, historical geography, and other subjects, making it an interdisciplinary and dynamic field. Since the 1980s, scholars have placed maps under critical review, questioning precisely what a map is and probing the social and cultural roles maps, and their makers and consumers, play. However, this re-envisioning of map scholarship has not reached general or popular literature. 

This course will challenge students to destabilize and broaden the traditional definition of ‘map’, and to recognize maps as socially constructed objects that are indicative of the values and biases of their makers and the cultures that created them. Students will learn how to analyse and catalogue maps for a variety of research purposes, and to discuss changes in map technology and style without recourse to a progressive narrative of scientific improvement.    

This is an introductory course. No specialist prior knowledge is required. Participants on London Rare Books School courses are normally expected to hold an undergraduate degree. For more information, please contact the Director.  

An introductory reading list will be sent to registered students in advance. The course will consist of three intensive afternoons of lectures and seminar discussion, and a special lecture delivered by Professor Matthew Edney.  

Course fees are £175 (standard) and £100 (student).

Course Schedule

Tuesday 29 June, 14:00-17:00 (BST)

  • Maps and Mapping: biases and meanings 
  • The Map as Object I: Medieval to 1550 

Wednesday 30 June, 14:00-17:00 (BST)

  • The Map as Object II: 1550 to 1900; Globes 

Thursday 1 July, 18:00-19:00 (BST)

  • Special guest lecture by Matthew Edney, Osher Professor in the History of Cartography, University of Southern Maine, and Director of the History of Cartography Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  

Friday 2 July, 14:00-17:00 (BST) 

  • Sea Charts 
  • Indigenous Mapping 
  • Closing discussion with Matthew Edney 


Dr Katherine Parker specializes in the history of maps and mapping, history of the book, history of exploration, and Pacific history. She is the Research Officer at Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps Inc., where she works with their online database of 75,000 map images ( She has published articles in several journals, including The Cartographic Journal and The British Journal for the History of Science. Her most recent book is Historical Sea Charts: Voyages and Visions Through the Ages (White Star Publishers, 2020). Katie serves as the Treasurer of the International Society for the History of the Map, as the Administrative Editor of the Hakluyt Society, and as the Book Reviews Editor for the H-Maps Network. She first taught this course for the LRBS in 2018 and is excited to offer the course online this summer.