Episode 1 - The Waldseemüller Map 1507
Episode 2 - The Mercator Atlas
Episode 3 - The D-Day Invasion Maps
The Map Makers is a recent three-part television documentary series presenting key moments in the history of map-making.
The idea was good. Maps are a riveting way to trace our understanding of our world -- and they should present a rich mix of scholarly research and outright adventure as mankind sought to delineate his surroundings.
There are three episodes, the first is: The Waldseemüller Map 1507, which traces through map history the discovery and the naming of America, and why Vespucci Amerigo got the naming honours to the Now World, rather than Christopher Columbus.
Next up is The Mercator Atlas, which focuses on a rare volume prepared by Flemish cartographer Gerard Mercator in the 16th Century, which was prepared from information supplied by a network of French spies in the English court, and which could have been used to pave the way for an invasion of Britain.
Finally, we rush into the 20th Century with The D-Day Invasion Maps, which looks at how Underground intelligence sources within the French Resistance, and British agents, gathered together at huge personal risk the vital intelligence needed to make the invasion of Normandy -- and the end of Nazi rule of Europe -- possible.
Absorbing subjects, but the material is let-down by writing which seems determined to beef-up the material at all costs to make it rival the most thrilling adventure story. Less superlatives and more straight-down-the-line story-telling could have produced great documentaries. These are over-hyped and exaggerated tales, as if prepared for air-heads who just have to be continually told how thrilling it all is.
Some more factual material would have been worthwhile. It was interesting to hear, for instance, of the espionage activities which produced the Mercator map. But more should have been told about how Gerard Mercator produced his famous geographic projection method for map-making, known by his name ever more and still in use today. How did it differ from map-making techniques used before? How did he evolve it? We're not told.
A map is more than a geographical representation of a land. It is an image which mirrors a society's political, religious and cultural vision of itself. The Map Makers tells the story of maps through history and explores major developments in map making.
Released: Friday, 03 December 2004
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Enhanced
Transfer Format: Widescreen
Running Time: 150 mins
Episode Running Time: 50 mins x 3