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Between Points A And B.

Between Points A and B.

Behold the beauty of maps.

Utilitarian, certainly. But beyond that: works of art.

The best objects in life can whop you with a double-whammy of usefulness and beauty. A sleek gadget. A fine automobile. A quality garment (ahem).

If one of the two must suffer, I believe we can agree that function–not beauty–should be sacrificed first.

Eighteenth century French cartographer Nicolas de Fer knew this.

Thus, he drafted maps that are famed for their artistic mastery.

Not so much for their accuracy.

In many maps, de Fer drew incredibly precise human and animal figures, but also peppered his geography with creative liberties and inaccurate details.

The above map depicts California as an island, for example, even decades after cartographers that pre-date de Fer incorporated California into the continent.

At de Fer’s opposite stood Guillaume Delisle, a more scientific and accurate cartographer of the same generation. Ever gentlemen, the two never sparred–not in public anyway.

Perhaps they understood that each complemented the other.

De Fer was also terrifyingly prodigious, creating several hundred maps in his lifetime. Perhaps he could have benefited from a lesson about quality over quantity, but it seems artistic quality was not a problem in de Fer’s work.

Le Fer gained quite the following for his art, even if his maps might have misdirected a ship or two. I’m sure they found their way to the correct path eventually.

Keep maps beautiful, is what I say. After all, getting lost is half the fun.

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