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In “The Material Map: Lewis Evans and Cartographic Consumer Culture, 1750-1775,” Martin Bruckner looks at the value of maps as material objects. So far, from previous readings, we’ve seen that maps are not only pictorial representations of space. They are also powerful symbols. Moreover they are not only symbols of power. In fact they do not only represent power. They exercise power.

Bruckner shows a different view on the role of maps. He regards them as material objects. From the second half of the 18th century an increase in the publication of maps has had a double meaning. On the one hand, serial publication of maps has made everyone more dependent on maps. In this sense, the power of maps have increased.

On the other hand, the same serial publication of maps has determined the mass emergence of standardized maps, and as a consequence maps started to loose value. Maps ceased to be works of art. They became commodities. They no longer represented the center of the universe (remember the fancy word “axis mundi”). They just occupied their places on the walls, along with clocks, paintings and other serial commodities.

Nevertheless, these standardized maps are not only decorations for interiors. They also have some value for the exterior. The point is that assembled together these material objects form the choir of modern “imagined communities.” [I guess everybody is aware of the fact that I did not invent the term “imagined communities”, so I do not need to explain it in a footnote]

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