Basic Information on City Maps

City maps are large-scale thematic maps of cities or parts of a city made to allow the fastest orientation possible in an urban space. The objects’ graphic representation on a city map is often significantly simplified and condensed into a symbology that is generally understood. 

Depending on the target market or group, a city map includes not only the transport network of the city but also other crucial information including public institutions or city sights.

Design and Content

A city map’s scale is often between 1:10,000 and 1:25,000. There are times when densely settled downtown places will often be partially drawn in larger scale on another detail map. 

Aside from scale and linear true maps, you can also find maps that have variable scale such as where the scale increases to the city center little by little through the use of photogrammetry methods and aerial photography. 

City map of Berlin
City map of Berlin, Germany

The street network is central to the details that a city map provides and this include the street names that are usually supplemented by a minimum selection of the individual house numbers together with parks, waterways, and buildings. 

Points of interest and streets are often listed in a register or legend, locating objects on the map’s map grid. Critical places including cultural institutions, administrative buildings, attractions, and others might be further highlighted with the help of pictograms. Representations of the public transport facilities can also complement the map. 

Short History of City Maps 

Clay tablets were already being produced with graphical and scaled city representations as far back as the time of Ancient Near East. Excavations of Nippur, a Sumerian City discovered a fragment of a city map that is about 3,500 years old that is often called as oldest known city map. 

Video: A brief history of cartography and maps

Early printed books and manuscripts during the Late Middle Ages revealed that cities are usually shown in profile or even viewed from elevated standpoint. That era’s nautical charts often depict partially stylized cityscapes in the form of pictogram. 

The Nuremberg Chronicle that originally appeared in 1943 is among the most crucial collections of the city views of late Middle Ages with more than 100 such illustrations. But, this kind of panoramas had more representative or narrative functions. 

When the 16th century came, Renaissance scholars and artists had varied knowledge of mathematical projections and perspectives. The knowledge also had an impact on the cartographers’ work and cityscape production, particularly in Italy. A significant innovation was the fact that cities (Rome, Budapest, …) were no longer portrayed just from a real or imaginary perspective but drawn originally as two-dimensional map followed with the use of a process of accurate perspective drawing that is transformed to a three-dimensional image.  

While the illustrations of late Middle Ages are often still simple woodcuts in small format, a common process that grew popular from 1500 onwards was creating prints from large woodblocks and woodcuts. In the 19th century, London’s first pocket atlas and among the first city pocket atlases was the 1854 published “Collins’ Illustrated Atlas of London” that Richard Jarman drew and engraved.

Geological Diagrams published in 1851 by Reynolds and Emslie was highly detailed and manually coloured, making it one of their numerous artistic portfolios. The old world maps present the religion, air currents, and distribution of plants. 

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