Atlas of Places
7.5 Minutes Series I
Closely allied to the question of the nature of maps is that of their artistic value. Can cartography in any way lay claim to the designation of art? Opinions on this point are divided, but the majority of authorities on the subject recognize the existence of an artistic beside a scientific element in cartography. Ernst Debes, one of Petermann’s foremost followers, for instance, begins a treatise on map-making with the words: “The art of drawing maps is called cartography.”
It is evident that cartography is not merely a technical art. It is for the greater part an applied art, an art governed and determined by scientific laws. But how can cartography avoid the rigid rules of mathematical precision? The decisive turning-point, according to my opinion, lies in the transition from the topographic to the general map. As long as the scale allows the objects in nature to be represented in their true proportion on the map, technical skill alone is necessary. Where this possibility ends the art of the cartographer begins. With generalization art enters into the making of maps.