December 5, 2011

The Archaeological Map of Iraq

The world’s first civilizations grew up in the fertile valley between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the region of the Middle East long known as Mesopotamia (from the Greek meaning 'between two rivers'), that roughly corresponds to the territory of present-day Iraq. These ancient civilizations included Sumer, the Babylonian Empire, and the Assyrian Empire. This modern map produced by the Directorate General of Antiquities of Iraq shows the locations of archaeological sites and rock monuments in the country. The table at the lower left lists chronological periods from the Paleolithic to the Islamic. The table at the upper right lists ancient place names such as Ashur, Babylon, and Nineveh, and their equivalents in modern Arabic.

The City of Salvador

This 1671 map of Salvador on the northeastern coast of Brazil is from the monumental work by the Dutch writer Arnoldus Montanus (1625-83), De Nieuwe en Onbekende Weereld: Of Beschryving van America en ’t Zuid-land (The new and unknown world: Or description of America and the southland). Montanus was a Protestant minister and headmaster of the Latin School in the town of Schoonhoven. He wrote books on church history and theology, the history of the Low Countries, and the peoples and cultures of the Americas and Australia. (The “Southland” in the title of his book refers to the recently-discovered Australia.) Montanus never visited the New World and his work contains numerous errors and fantastic conceptions about the people of the Americas. Nonetheless, it became a standard work in Europe and was widely read for many years. The publisher of the work was the Amsterdam bookseller and engraver Jacob van Meurs, who was active from 1651 to 1680 and specialized in works of history, geography, and travelogues.

December 6, 2011

New Constitution–Bright Life

This book was published in 1947 to popularize the new Japanese constitution. Entitled Atarashii Kenpō Akarui Seikatsu (New constitution–bright life), it was distributed to every household in the country. Among the aims of the Allied occupation of Japan that followed World War II was the establishment of a democratic government, based on a new liberal constitution and the expressed will of the Japanese people. The Kenpō Fukyū Kai (Constitution Popularization Society) was founded on December 1, 1946, as a result of pressure from occupation officials to “thoroughly popularize the spirit of the new Constitution through activities to raise awareness of it so as to touch every aspect of the lives of the citizens.” The society continued to carry out its tasks for a year or so after the 1947 promulgation of the constitution.

10 Explanatory Illustrations of the Constitution of Japan

These colored illustrations were produced by Nihon University in 1947 to provide a straightforward explanation of the fundamental principles of the new Japanese constitution. They convey such themes as "the rights and duties of the people," "the rights of the individual," and "equality of the people," using beautiful colors and humorous illustrations. These illustrations, together with books and documents, were commissioned by the Kenpō Fukyū Kai (Constitution Popularization Society), which was founded on December 1, 1946 to popularize the spirit of the new constitution and raise awareness of it in the general population.

Drying Wash at the Edge of the Sukhona River, Tot'ma, Russia

This photograph of washing day on the Sukhona River at Tot'ma was taken in 1998 by Dr. William Brumfield, American photographer and historian of Russian architecture, as part of the "Meeting of Frontiers" project at the Library of Congress. The Sukhona links the south central part of Vologda Oblast with the northeast and was for centuries part of an important trading network that led northward to the White Sea. The Sukhona flows by the historic towns of Tot'ma and Velikii Ustiug, both of which are known for 17th- and 18th-century brick churches sponsored by local merchants. Although the interiors of Tot'ma's churches were severely damaged during the Soviet era, the structures still stand and form one of the brightest pages of northern Russian culture. The prosperity of these northern river towns was based on their location along a major trading route and on their close ties with Russia's major cities, Saint Petersburg and Moscow. Indeed, Tot'ma's range extended all the way to the New World, via Alaska. Among Tot'ma's notable citizen's was Ivan Kuskov, the first commandant of Fort Ross, in California. Although Sukhona has long since lost its significance as a major transportation artery, it still plays an essential role in the eternal rhythms of this small town with a glorious past.

Egypt and Arabia Petraea

This illustrated chart of Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula is a Tallis map, identifiable by the scrolling on the borders and the finely drawn scenes inscribed on the map. John Tallis and Co. was a British mapmaking firm that operated from roughly 1835 to 1860. Egypt and Arabia Petraea was part of their large-scale project, the Illustrated Atlas and Modern History of the World, Geographical, Political, Commercial & Statistical, published in 1851. Arabia Petraea was a name dating from the Roman Empire, consisting of land that is now Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, modern Jordan, Palestine, Israel, southern Syria, and western Saudi Arabia. The maps were drawn and engraved by cartographer John Rapkin, while other illustrators engraved the vignettes. Tallis maps were well known for the accurate designs, numerous place names, geographical details and information, as well as shaded areas to indicate topographical features. The clean crafting and detailed information give the maps a modern look in comparison to older cartographic techniques. These productions are often described as the last of the decorative map tradition.