Map Ornament And Embellishment
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Here are common ornaments and embellishments placed on maps....
A cartouche is a frame with a decorative border. Usually they contain a title, a scale, or other information about the map. Simple designs are just rectangular or oval frames. But they may be highly decorative as seen in antique maps. Borders can be made to look architectural, or look like carved wood, scrolled leather, or ropes.
While sixteenth-century Flemish map-makers preferred the highly decorated cartouche for their maps, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century map-makers preferred the vignette. In the vignette figures and country scenes previously contained in the framed cartouche lost their frame and were blended into the map.
Insets can be used to good effect to fill empty spaces on a map. Common forms include a plan of a principal city and the location of the mapped area referenced to the contenent, country, or other easily-recognized area.
A legend shows symbols used on the map referenced to their meanings. Legends may be enclosed in a frame, cartouche, or may stand alone blended into the map like a vignette.
Borders offer a lot to enhancing any map. Borders can be anything from a simple line to elaborate decoration with ornamental motifs. When using an ornamental motif, choose one that matches the map... whether influenced by the culture of the geographic region, a particular historic feature, or a symbol of the native flora and fauna.
Just be sure to balance the weight of the border to the weights of map features.
Although it has little modern usage, heraldry gives the opportunity to capture history and tradition on the map in appropriate areas. Heraldic symbols also tend to be dignified designs with rich colors.
Antique maps frequently feature faces and heads blowing winds from the four corners of the world. Winds can be an important addition to a map attempting to capture the antique old-map feeling.
Scale is important to interpreting distance on the map. Although accuracy is not so important on decorative maps, they are an important feature of a map and give a good opportunity for decorative treatement.
Old maps featured them in cartouches and vignettes. They are frequently shown with some sort of dividers, a measuring tool used to calculate distances on maps.
Scale may be represented in one of three ways...
- Words such as "one inch equals one mile".
- Fraction 1 : 63,000, meaning one inch on the map is 63,000 inches in the real world.
- Line divided into units that visually show the unit of length on the map and gives the distance in the real world. This tends to be best because it expands or shrinks in proportion if the map is enlarged or reduced in size. It also gives the greatest opportunity for embellishment.
Figures, plants, animals, and architecture
Including ornamental objects on a map brings whimsy and liveliness to a map. Early map-makers often included figures in local or national costumes and pursuing local interests such as hunting or farming.
Maps also could include figures from mythology, such as Dionysus the Greek god of wine, cherubs, and famous residents.
Animals could also be included to show local fauna or even sea monsters. These often acted both as filler and as important geographical knowledge to show what types of animals live in the area.
Local vegetation were also treated as symbols of local fauna. Instead of the modern method of marking forest areas with just a green color, old maps would engrave individual trees marking the forest and the type of trees composing the forest.
Groupings of all the items could be composed to create the identity of the region. Economic products were frequently shown as a cornucopia of the local workers, fish, vegetables, and fruit.
Buildings can be added to give a taste of the vernacular architecture.
Modes of travel have been part of maps for a long time. Ships are a frequent ornaments on the oceans of old maps. Modern maps have included airplanes. The level of detail should be considered as to how it fits into the style of map. Antique-style demands highly detailed ships. Modern or contemporary design begs for less detail or even just silhouettes.
Nothing says a graphic is a map more than a compass rose because is so linked to maps.
There are numerous ways of presenting compass roses and direction, so it is clearly a method of embellishing a map.
The sum of all pieces...
When all these ornaments and embellishment are considered together and focused they create a sense of the cultural and physical geography of the mapped area.
To me, this sense of place is what decorative maps are all about.
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