."The problems of cartography are the same that exist in diplomatic relations," said Stefano Strata, co-director of Nova Rico, which has been producing custom globes for 50 years in Impruneta, near Florence.
For mapmakers like Nova Rico, disputes over geography are commonplace. For a Turkish customer, Cyprus is shown split in two, a division that Greek Cypriots do not recognize. In one globe, Chile gets parts of Antarctica that on another globe go to Argentina. And in much of the Arab world, Israel is nonexistent.
"Maps aren't faithful portraits of reality but subjective constructions," said Vladimiro Valerio, an expert in the history of cartography on the architectural faculty at the University of Venice. "Maps reflect the design for which they are to be used. They reflect who commissioned it."
In sum, he said, "cartographers don't lie, but they take a position."
When working on a commission, Strata and his business partner, Riccardo Donati, get precise instructions, sometimes at governmental level. In the 1980s, Saddam Hussein, then the president of Iraq, commissioned Nova Rico to draft a globe with all Arab countries colored orange and the rest of the world yellow. Iraqi military advisers came to Impruneta to monitor production.
"It was clearly a political globe," Strata said.
Sometimes, the problem is in the name. Donati recalled the Iranian diplomat who threatened to boycott a globe that called the gulf between Saudi Arabia and Iran the Arabian Gulf; he insisted that it was the Persian Gulf.
Google "Arabian Gulf"' and sites will assert: "The gulf you are looking for does not exist. No body of water by that name has ever existed. The correct name is Persian Gulf, which always has been, and will always remain PERSIAN."
Donati said, "That's why most people now just say the Gulf."
The computer age has also revolutionized cartography, as have programs like Google Earth. But cartography lovers argue that there is nothing like an atlas or a globe.
"Part of the attraction is having them as objects, for their appeal or pleasure or as a signal of status," said Akerman, who is director of the Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for the History of Cartography, which is part of the Newberry Library.
The Internet, he said, will never replace the act of poring over a map to plan a trip.
"Navigation is about more than going from one point to the next," he said. "It's about fulfilling one's aspirations."(via Herald Tribune)
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