Maps can be works of art, propaganda and indoctrination. Opening on 30 April 2010, "Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art" offers a rare chance to see an unrivalled collection of cartographic masterpieces on paper, wood, vellum, silver, silk and marble, including atlases, maps, globes and tapestries that were intended for display side-by-side with the worlds greatest paintings and sculptures.
Drawn from the 4½ million maps held in the British Library
s cartographic collections - the greatest map collection in the world - this new exhibition will showcase 100 maps dating from 200AD to the present day, including 80 of the most impressive wall-maps ever created, most of which have never been seen before.
Recreating the settings in which they would have originally been seen - from the palace to the schoolroom, the exhibition reveals how maps express an enormous variety of differing world views, using size and beauty to convey messages of status and power. See: www.bl.uk/magnificentmaps.
Peter Barber, Head of Map Collections at the British Library, said: Maps are pictorial encyclopaedias that are about far more than just geography. The artistry of maps is seductive and like the teaspoon of sugar that helps the medicine go down, tries to persuade us to swallow a particular political message.
Unless you have a scale of one-to-one, in effect a map is a lie because you cant fit everything in. All maps are subjective, what is more important: the Last Judgment or the correct placement of Birmingham?
Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art is a visual extravaganza that will, I hope, intrigue, fascinate and entrance visitors while challenging their assumptions about the very nature and purpose of maps.
The exhibition coincides with two BBC Four series about maps broadcast this April. Peter Barber was series consultant for Maps: Power, Plunder and Possession and The Beauty of Maps which featured maps held in the British Library.