AP Human Geography: Mapheads Chapter 5 Book Review

Hey. I am Zohair Ahmed, a freshman at Lake Travis High School. I had moved to Austin, TX a year ago from Dallas, TX. I was born in St. Louis, Missouri on 9/28/2000. I have been out of the country eight times, and have gone to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, The Bahamas, and Canada. I speak English, learning Spanish, Arabic (I can read, write, and somewhat speak it), and Urdu (I can speak and understand it). I grew up in Missouri, Ohio, and Texas.

I am reviewing Chapter 5 of Maphead by Ken Jennings. The title of Chapter 5 is Elevation. The focus of this chapter is on older maps and map collectors. Older maps because they “combine all sorts of facets of art, history, scarcity, antiquity, intrinsic interest- all in one.”(82).

“Collectors used to be loyal”(92) Map Collectors now focus on making a good deal rather than finding maps. They hide what they don’t want you to know, and display what they find would make them a deal. Collectors now try “to protect a trade monopoly.”(92) such as when King Manuel I of Portugal ordered that if anyone left his kingdom with a single Portuguese map, they would face a death penalty. The Collectors seek a competitive advantage. Dealers used to have knowledge, but the internet has made it easy for dealers to search for information which may be true or false.

Smiley was an extremely knowledgeable map dealer had been stealing valuable maps from various libraries, stealing a total of $3 Million in map value! Why? because he had debts. This has started to become common in the world, “Smiley might never have been caught”(95) if not for dropping his knife on the ground. This was an easy process to get away with, people who stole maps developed the name “tome raiders”(96).

Map collecting has started to fade. Old maps are getting lost and stolen from libraries. Old maps were made of rag paper, cotton, linen, or hemp fiber. These map’s materials are durable, and many of these maps will stay around for long. They may even carry on after map collecting fades.

I enjoyed this chapter because it informed me about the importance of map collecting, and how had started many years before us. The chapter also made me feel anxiety, for map collecting is fading and may soon come to an end if maps continue to be stolen, lost, and collectors always seek a competitive advantage. Hopefully map collectors change over time and preserve their maps, and sell them to the right hands. I will try to help preserve the maps myself, such as making sure an antique map does not get lost, and sit in boxes, never to be enjoyed again. This concludes my “Elevation”, Chapter 5 review of the book Maphead by Ken Jennings.


Above is a map of the world from c. 1623 by Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas


5 thoughts on “AP Human Geography: Mapheads Chapter 5 Book Review

  1. Zohair, this was such a great post! I started this book a while ago and already forgot some of the earlier chapters so this was a great refreshment. I too thought it was sad that map collecting was coming to an end because that shows how people just don’t care anymore about the hardworking that went in to making antique maps. I can’t believe people actually steal maps by cutting them out of books! Those stolen maps might not ever be seen again. What a shame.


  2. Very nice summery, I like the quotes you used and how you included a little of everything. I have to say, when people resort to stealing maps that has to be an all time low for the world, its very disappointing how now we might never see them again.


  3. This was a fascinating post. I found the summary of the chapter to be very concise and informative. I thought it was very moving to learn about the theft of old maps and the decline of collecting. Good job!


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