Skip to main content

Flattening the Earth

Two Thousand Years of Map Projections

As long as there have been maps, cartographers have grappled with the impossibility of portraying the earth in two dimensions. To solve this problem mapmakers have created hundreds of map projections, mathematical methods for drawing the round earth on a flat surface. Yet of the hundreds of existing projections, and the infinite number that are theoretically possible, none is perfectly accurate.

Flattening the Earth is the first detailed history of map projections since 1863. John P. Snyder discusses and illustrates the hundreds of known projections created from 500 B.C. to the present, emphasizing developments since the Renaissance and closing with a look at the variety of projections made possible by computers.

The book contains 170 illustrations, including outline maps from original sources and modern computerized reconstructions. Though the text is not mathematically based, a few equations are included to permit the more technical reader to plot some projections. Tables summarize the features of nearly two hundred different projections and list those used in nineteenth-and twentieth-century atlases.

"This book is unique and significant: a thorough, well-organized, and insightful history of map projections. Snyder is the world’s foremost authority on the subject and a significant innovator in his own right."—Mark Monmonier, author of How to Lie with Maps and Mapping It Out: Expository Cartography for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

384 pages | 163 maps and charts, 12 portraits | 6-5/8 x 9-3/8 | © 1993

Geography: Cartography

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1: Emergence of Map Projections: Classical Through Renaissance
The Classical and Medieval Legacy: Map Projections Developed before the Renaissance The Equirectangular Projection
The Trapezoidal Projection
Ptolemy’s Three Projections
Globular Projections
The Earliest Azimuthal Projections
New Projections of the Renaissance
New Conic Projections
Oval Projections
Globelike Projections
Mercator’s Projection for Navigators
The Sinusoidal Projection
2: Map Projections in an Age of Mathematical Enlightenment, 1670-1799
Eighteenth-Century Use of Earlier Map Projections
The Equirectangular Projection
The Trapezoidal Projection
The Azimuthal Projections
The Mercator Projection
The Sinusoidal Projection
The "Bonne" Projection
The New Projections
Map Projections as an Emerging Mathematical Science
Perspective Projections with Low Error
Some Modified Globular Projections
The Improved Simple or Equidistant Conic Projection
Murdoch’s and Euler’s Approaches to the Equidistant Conic Projection
Colles’s Perspective Conic Projection
Cassini and His Transverse Equidistant Cylindrical Projection
Lambert’s Cornucopia of Important Projections
3: Map Projections of the Nineteenth Century
Nineteenth-Century Use of Earlier Projections
Cylindrical and Rectilinear Projections
Azimuthal Projections
Conic and Sinusoidal Projections
The Globular Projection
The New Projections of the Nineteenth Century
New Cylindrical Projections
New Pseudocylindrical Projections
New Conic Projections
New Azimuthal Projections
Modified Azimuthal Projections
Globular Modifications
Conformal Innovations
Star Projections
Conformal Projections without Singular Points
Polyhedric and Polyhedral Projections
Tissot’s Optimal Projection
Fiorini’s Projections
The Jervis Cycloidal Projection
Projections to Promote Commerce
General Treatises and Journals
The Tissot Indicatrix
4: Map Projections of the Twentieth Century
Twentieth-Century Use of Earlier Projections
Cylindrical Projections
Pseudocylindrical Projections: The Sinusoidal and Mollweide
Azimuthal Projections
Conic Projections
Other Earlier Projections
New Twentieth-Century Projections
Cylindrical Projections
New Pseudocylindrical Projections
New Azimuthal Projections
New Modified Azimuthal Projections
New Pseudoazimuthal Projections
Modifications of the Stereographic Projection
New Conic Projections
Pseudoconic Projections
Other Projections
General Works and Journals
References and Bibliography

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press