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Imago Mundi


Imago Mundi, Volume 50
Editorial

by Catherine Delano Smith (1998)


Anniversaries should not pass unremarked. There is always something to learn from reflection, and the publication of the fiftieth issue of Imago Mundi invites a pause for thought. The bare bones of Imago Mundi's history have been summarized on more than one occasion.(1) There is an archive, both written and oral, in London and in the Netherlands. A full account, though, together with acknowledgement of the debts Imago Mundi owes to so many, must wait upon completion of the British Library's move to new quarters at St Pancras and thereafter upon at least a preliminary cataloguing of the Imago Mundi papers. Even a simple list of former editors, with exact dates of office, has proved elusive from published sources alone. In this note, retrospection takes us first to the main events of Imago Mundi's history and then, through the much smaller lens of my own experience as Editor, to the present and the way immediately before us.

From the beginning, in 1935, Imago Mundi has been a distinguished scholarly publication, increasingly jealous for its reputation. It is also unusual in being an annual publication. Yet, as alert readers will have noticed, only 50 volumes have been published in the 64 years of the journal's existence, the half-century of which was celebrated in 1985.(2) The explanation is simple: publication in the first three decades or so was interrupted on several occasions by difficulties both external (the Second World War) and internal (problems of staffing and above all of finance). During the first forty years, Imago Mundi saw seven international changes of address and was subsidised from at least five different sources.(3) Since 1975, however, and the beginning of my predecessor's management, Imago Mundi's annual publication has been uninterrupted and, since 1994, regularly scheduled.

Imago Mundi was founded in Berlin, child of the inspiration of a Russian emigré (Leo Bagrow) and the drive and energy of a German (the publisher, Hans Werthiem). The first volume--- paper-covered and slim (83 pages)---was mostly in German. But politics ordained that the two other pre-war volumes (1937, 1938) were published in London, while practical (no doubt) considerations decided on English as the language of publication. An increase in the number of those editorially involved also widened the national spread, a trait that has continued to this day, when the editorial team is drawn from five countries. Thus, by the outbreak of war, the main elements of Imago Mundi's editorial apparatus were in place, its academic structure (illustrated scholarly articles, book reviews, bibliography, chronicle, and notes) having been established from the outset.(4) Additionally, between 1958 and 1974, six excellent Supplements were published (5).

Leo Bagrow died in 1957, and Imago Mundi Ltd was set up in 1961 in London as a private, non-profitmaking company, to which his widow transferred all proprietary rights in Imago Mundi. From 1962 to 1972, the journal was published in the Netherlands by Nico Israel (Amsterdam) under an editorial triumvirate consisting of F. Grenacher (Basel), R. A. Skelton (London) and C. Koeman (Utrecht). It was in London, though, that Skelton and G. R. Crone organized in 1964 the first International Conference on the History of Cartography as part of the 20th International Geographical Congress. And it was to London that Imago Mundi returned after Skelton's death in 1971 and when Israel withdrew as publisher after producing Volume 26 (1972). Eila Campbell had already taken over as the chief Editor, but serious financial difficulties took time---and, in true Imago Mundi style, a good deal of personal commitment---to resolve. However, by the time Volume 27 appeared, in 1975, Imago Mundi had been virtually re-founded.(6)

A Board of Directors had earlier replaced the Management Committee. Under Eila Campbell, Harry Margary became Treasurer and the printers were---as they still are, we note with pleasure---Headley Brothers of Ashford, Kent. The new Imago Mundi was hard-backed, its cloth covers a dark blue with gold- embossed logo and title and, inside, a distinctive rich cream paper. A subtitle referred to Imago Mundi as the journal of an international society (a society destined to remain for ever in the realms of myth).

From 1971 to 1994, Eila Campbell presided over the longest period of stability the journal has seen. Current members of the editorial board have arrived at different times: Tony Campbell (Chronicle) in 1975, Francis Herbert (Bibliography) in 1976, and Paul Ferguson (Book Reviews) in 1989. In 1993, in failing health, Eila Campbell handed responsibility for the preparation of Volume 46 to your present Editor who added Mary Pedley and Roger Kain (Associate Editors), Mary Alice Lowenthal (Assistant to the Editor) and Lucie Lagarde and Günter Schilder (French and German abstracts respectively) to the editorial team.(7) Two years later, in 1995, Volume 47 saw a stylistic overhaul of Imago Mundi, with yet another change of outer garment. Smooth soft covers, still in the now-familiar blue and gold, replaced the old cloth-covered boards. Inside, despite the sort of on-going detailed changes which signal not only the passing of time but also an unrelenting search for improvement, the essential structure of Bagrow's volumes remains.

It is only within the context of our own day, therefore, that we can suggest that Volume 50 marks the coming of age of Imago Mundi. It is well- regarded as a specialist journal, the world's only English-language scholarly periodical devoted exclusively to the history of maps, mapping and map-related ideas. Mid-range in terms of circulation numbers, it reaches a wider, and widening, readership through the many libraries among its subscribers. Book reviews are not only more numerous than ever but, as in the present volume, more than 80 per cent of the books reviewed were published within the last year. Loyal readers will be pleased that Imago Mundi is holding its own at a time distinctly hostile to journals such as ours. They will also be pleased that the increase in number of pages in each volume is not only being maintained but that it has not involved any extra cost to personal subscribers. Imago Mundi's immediate birthday present is eight pages of colour illustration, to be followed shortly by publication of a single index to the entire publication to date, from Volume 1 to Volume 50.

Fifty volumes of Imago Mundi---but only five years of the present editorship. So it is fitting to look around rather than back. Many questions could be posed concerning Imago Mundi's relationship with the humanities and social sciences and its representation of scholarly concerns. These are issues raised by readers of these pages and in the forum of the biennial international conferences organised under the auspices of Imago Mundi Ltd. The interest and the participation of readers are vital, not merely to maintain the subscriptions without which the journal would once again fall into one of the crises which punctuated its early history, but also because directly or indirectly it is from a journal's readership that the larger part of its material comes.

What topics might each ideal issue of Imago Mundi---unconstrained by length or cost of production---contain? The scope of the history of cartography is dauntingly wide. Even so, I do not hesitate in suggesting that each historical period, every major geographical area, and all types of map would be represented in the Utopian volume. There would be something for everyone. We would find something early (classical, medieval, early modern) and something modern (from the eighteenth, nineteenth and---yes, since most of the twentieth century is now history---the twentieth centuries). We would find empirical studies and discussions of practical methodology as well as of philosophical and theoretical approaches. We would expect detailed expositions of individual maps or group of maps side-by-side with broader-brush articulations of principles and definitions. We would have the context of each map revealed to us as part of the process of understanding the map itself, its construction, content, look and language. We would be happy to read about maps as metaphor on one page, as practical tools on another, and as symbols on yet another. We would have maps analysed, explained, dissected, deconstructed and reconstructed. Imago Mundi takes a catholic view on maps and on ways of seeing maps.

What Imago Mundi readers actually get comes from what they or their colleagues offer, or what the Editor happens to hear for herself or has been told about. Occasionally, something is commissioned as part of a programme designed to ensure that Imago Mundi leads the way on (we would never claim to `cover all') a particular topic or aspect of the history of cartography. The only constraints on would-be contributors to Imago Mundi are that the work must focus on maps, be historical, and be factually or interpretatively original and scholarly. Articles should normally be illustrated to the highest quality the Editor can persuade authors and printers to achieve. If, volume after volume, some readers perceive a chronological, thematic or geographical bias, this is what scholars are presently choosing to write about, not because Imago Mundi is in any way prescriptive or because certain topics are more acceptable than others. If a topic is missing, it is for readers to fill the gap, or to encourage others to contribute the topic they hunger after.

Even so, looking back over recent issues, hermeneutical shifts are discernible. Imago Mundi marches in step with the scholarship of its day. Look, for example, at the way at least three authors in the present volume set themselves the task of exploring the relationships that governed the creation of the maps they are writing about, relationships that are difficult to demonstrate in the best of circumstances and almost impossible to document historically. Yet, if, in the history of cartography, we balk at the challenge, our precious maps will remain just that---precious: still and lifeless, like objects in a shut museum. What brings life to maps is life itself, the interconnections of contemporary time and circumstance and the inheritance of tradition. At the same time, we must never forget that it is the map which provides the raison d'être of this journal. We also welcome, again as in the present volume, authors who bring new maps (still being rediscovered, even in Europe), new mapmakers, and new aspects of the maps to our attention. It is to this end, too, that our colour pages are selected solely to enhance the academic message.

Those who specialize professionally in map history will probably always remain a minority. Maps are there for all to look at and study. One of the salient characteristics of this last decade of the twentieth century is the way the history of cartography is increasingly being written in divers ways across a broad canvas by a whole commonwealth of scholars. Bound by a common focus of interest, they come from every angle possible, bringing an enviable intellectual richness to the study of maps and to our conferences and symposia. Over the last few years, Imago Mundi has carried the insights of geographers, historians, art historians, historians of science, social scientists, and literary scholars. The new edition of the Who's Who in the History of Cartography (which is published for Imago Mundi Ltd., see p.73) will be swollen by some 130 new entries, reflecting the same ever-widening horizons sought by Imago Mundi.

Were Brian Harley to revisit Imago Mundi, twelve years on from the publication of his critical appraisal of Imago Mundi, he would find much changed, both in the world of scholarship at large and in Imago Mundi. It is true that we would like our breadth of outlook to be yet more inclusive and representative of world scholarship than it is. Such a target, however, is both a more difficult and a more delicate matter than Harley allowed. In the first place, language is a barrier to communication and, even within Europe, scholars of map history fail to engage with each other as much as they should, or would like to. Even so, the last five volumes of Imago Mundi have contained, in addition to 22 articles from North America and 13 from the United Kingdom, 4 from Italy, 2 each from Austria, Germany and Japan, and 1 each from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, France, India, Israel, the Netherlands, South Africa and Spain; almost a third, in short, have come from beyond the English-speaking world. Imago Mundi may publish normally in English, but language alone does not, and of course must not, be allowed to exclude contributions from non-native English speakers.

In the second place, there are other problems of a fundemental nature, namely, styles of scholarship. The world contains many cultures and, while probably all recognize an obligation to remember at least their own past, not all view the past in the same way. Western scholarship, for instance, early moved away from reverential acceptance of the thoughts of the Ancients towards the precept that each generation has to think things out for itself. The critical analysis which lies at the core of modern English-language scholarship thus implies no disrespect for our forebears or our teachers, only a pragmatic realization that the `past is a foreign country' which needs to be visited on its own terms, and repeatedly re-visited as yet more is discovered about it. At the same time, there are in the world academic structures in which the authority of seniority is sacrosanct. While Imago Mundi's standards of rigorous scholarship supported by peer review cannot be compromised, ways will have to be found to ensure our global embrace is in fact as whole-hearted as our intentions, in conferences as in these pages.

Critical scholarship is not judgmental. Another of Imago Mundi's cherished traditions is freedom of thought. The Editor is happy to bear no responsibility for the academic interpretations promoted on any of Imago Mundi's pages. The question of readability, though, is an entirely different matter. There are two aspects to this. First, bearing in mind that a significant minority of Imago Mundi's readers do not have English as their first language, the final duty of any editor has to be to make sure each word, phrase and argument is as clear and unambiguous to every non-native English language reader as possible. Second, Imago Mundi's concern with multidisciplinary studies also poses a challenge for editors, since the way of writing for one readership is not necessarily the most accommodating for a different readership. It could be said (I am sure it has been said!) that an inordinate amount of editorial energy, time, and even ruthlessness, is expended in preparing papers for publication in Imago Mundi. Where that is the case, we make no apology. The peculiar smallness of the field of specialization in the history of cartography and the under-representation of the subject in universities means that Imago Mundi cannot afford to risk losing potentially good papers by simply sending them back for reshaping to authors who are working alone on the fringes of their own disciplines. On such occasions, the process of editing can take on an almost pedagogic role, with referees transmogrifying into (anonymous) tutors and editors and copy-editors into colleagues. In every case, though, authors have turned into friends, coaching us in turn in their own subject.

May the next fifty volumes of Imago Mundi bring the full flowering of the international and multidisciplinary commonwealth of scholarship in the history of cartography, together with the still wider circulation (whatever the format) that such a achievement implies.

Notes and References

1. As in Leo Bagrow's editorials in the early volumes; R.A. Skelton, 'Historical notes on Imago Mundi', Imago Mundi 21 (1967): 109-110; and J.B. Harley, 'Imago Mundi. The first fifty years and the next ten', Cartographica 23:3 (1986): 1-15.

2. At the Eleventh International Conference on the History of Cartography, Ottawa, Canada, 1985.

3. Summarized in Harley, 'Imago Mundi' (see note 1), pp.2-3.

4. The 'Cartographical Notes' of Vol. 1 became 'Chronicle' in Vol. 2. The Chronicle was given its present format in Vol. 29 (1977), in Tony Campbell's third year as compiler.

5. Listed in Harley, 'Imago Mundi' (see note 1), 13, n.8.

6. See Harry Margary, 'Imago Mundi saved by Eila Campbell', Imago Mundi 47 (1995): 8-9.

7. From Vol. 50, Markus Heinz and Jan Mokre (both from Vienna, Austria) have taken over responsibility for the German-language abstracts.


Contents of Volume 50

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