IR Folks from Times Past

IR Folks from Times Past

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Look at the World

Richard Edes Harrison was an American cartographer who designed Look at the World: The Fortune Atlas for World Strategy, a marvelous collection of maps published in 1944 during the Second World War. Harrison's maps (and the accompanying text by the editors of Fortune) are understandably geared to the exigencies of the then-prevailing international conflict, but the new perspectives he offered on world geography are of enduring value. The book expressed the hope that the maps in the atlas, especially the perspective maps, "will help free many readers from the geometrical and psychological shackles of conventional maps." The editors note that the maps may seem "strange and unfamiliar"--as they continue to do today--but that "there is not a single projection or kind of map in the book that does not antedate the Mercator map (1569) by at least half a century. [The map below, 'One World, One War,] was invented by Glareanus in 1510, the orthographic and gnomonic projections were suggested by the Greeks, and perspective projections date back to the first man who sat on a hill and sketched what he saw stretching out to the horizon. The fact that any of these maps seem new at all is severe enough commentary on the state of geographical thinking. The current revolution in geography is not a revolution at all but a counterrevolution." (p. 12)

"One World, One War," the editors note, is in part a war map. "It shows the World War II line-up of nations, and it traces the battlefronts and supply lines of the various arenas." The top image above is a truncated version of the map. You can find every page of Harrison's study (and order prints of it) at the David Rumsey Map Collection. Most of the maps in Look at the World cover two entire pages and are about 14 x 22 inches in size, whereas my scanner is 8.5 x 12. While the snippets below show only portions of the maps, even the truncated versions give a nice idea of the originality and value of Harrison's mapmaking. When the maps are opened in a new window (as opposed to double-clicking), you can often get better detail--depending on the browser. I have had the best luck with Explorer.


Here is EUROPE FROM THE EAST, or from Moscow, just out of sight in the lower center.

Next is SOUTHEAST TO ASIA, which sees things "from a point high above Berchtesgaden." The author describes it as "the scene of the inglorious end of the grandiose plan that followed the earlier German failure to destroy Russia by frontal assault. This plan involved attack on Asia Minor. Here there might not be a continent, but there at least was oil. Besides there was the dream of joining German and Japanese forces in Baluchistan or India. But the great Russian offensive from Stalingrad, the British blasting of the El Alamein line, and the American landing of troops in North Africa turned the Middle East from a Jappo-German meeting ground into a concentration field for Allied offensives." Can't figure out how to put these scanned images side by side, but the two together give most of the map.

Here's two scans of CHINA FROM THE EAST, stacked on top of one another, but losing four to five inches on either side:



The following scan is drawn from the same map, JAPAN FROM CHINA, and gives a good view of the nations of the South China Sea. The map was published in 1944. French Indo-China, among other colonial outposts, is no more; the successor states are Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

This is drawn from the right side of the map, JAPAN FROM MANCHURIA. Contemporary readers will note all those pesky islands:

Fortune emphasized the growing importance of the Arctic Ocean. The rise of the airplane made obvious the importance of the Arctic in world transportation, but even sea transport, in 1944, was not seen as insignificant. "By air, the capitals of all the great powers, except Chungking, are closer to the Arctic Circle than they are to the equator. To get from one to the other, one must go north; even Chungking is best reached via Alaska and Russia." The editors made the prophecy that "the Arctic, heretofore explored for the sake of exploration, will be surveyed, mapped, and developed as one of the great commercial steppingstones in the world." (p. 51)

The graphic summation of the book comes in EIGHT VIEWS OF THE WORLD, which I have placed in single file to improve readability:

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Look at the World: The Fortune Atlas for World Strategy. By Richard Edes Harrison. Text by the Editors of Fortune (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1944).

After posting the above, I ran across a website that includes a vast array of Harrison's output, including a full version of Look at the World.  But the site contains much, much more. Created by Chris Mullen, its rationale is to provide "a visually oriented taxonomy of the ways in which pictures are used to tell stories." Anyone interested in that subject will find incredible riches here.