The Joy of Mapmaking!

The past couple of weeks, my co-authors on our book on the Gettysburg Retreat (Eric Wittenberg and Mike Nugent) and I have been working with our cartographer pretty steadily.  Our mapmaker is Ed Coleman, who is actually a woodworker by trade.  His website for Coleman Woodworking gives all the details.

Ed does beautiful work.  His maps are going to send the scholarship of our book through the roof, in my opinion.  What’s been keeping us all busy finishing the maps lately is that much of what we’re charting hasn’t really been done before.  Not in such great detail, anyway.  For instance, we have mapped a very obscure, little-known skirmish that took place on July 5 during the retreat, one that has never been mapped before.  We’ve been able to narrate the action and map it out for the first time based solely on rare first-hand accounts.  Up to now, most folks have confused this skirmish with some fighting that took place later in the day, and most aren’t even aware that this particular skirmishing was a separate fight altogether.

And some additional primary source came in to us literally in just the last week or so, allowing us to work even great detail into the map.  We now have actually been able to identify every single unit that took part in this skirmish, and get it on the map – including the locations and movements of their skirmish lines.  We’re extremely proud of the narrative and the map on this one, to say the least.

For several other actions during the retreat (some better known by students of the Campaign) such as the fights at Funkstown, Boonsboro, Monterey Pass, Williamsport, etc., we’ve worked some amazing detail into the maps.  Again, detail that hasn’t been done before.  So our maps have gone through several changes since we first submitted them to Ted Savas, our publisher, about a month ago.

But I’ve also been learning about the process of attaining uniformity in maps lately.  Besides creating maps from scratch and working in such detail,  Ted has been giving all of us and Ed great guidance in what makes for an attractive user-friendly map.  The last couple of revisions of the maps have entailed font changes, shading, and uniformity issues.  Basically mostly technical issues.  But the end product is a full set of whiz-bang maps that look wonderful, are very easy for the reader to follow and use, and contain enormous detail.

Ted has told us that he recognizes the potential for this book, so we’ve all been very motivated to make the maps the best they can be.  Maps can make or break a book, so Ted has taken a very active role in the revisions and updates.  Fortunately, Ed Coleman has impressive talent, his mapmaking software produces beautiful maps, and he’s quick to make suggested changes and revisions.

This book has really been a team effort.  I just wish folks could see the amount of cooperative effort that has been going on behind the scenes – well, maybe it will be evident once the book is released.  We expect to get the page proofs sometime over the next month or so, and I personally can’t wait to see how this one looks.

Published in: on January 3, 2008 at 11:09 am  Leave a Comment  

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