View Full Version : Cleaning up an old map...

03-14-2008, 03:18 PM
In my day job, I work as an all purpose graphic designer for any kind of work in my small town. Everything from birthday cards to autowraps, 3D to web design and everything in between.

Every once in a while, I get to do some map work if indirectly. Today, I'm cleaning up a water damaged map of Mission Township, LaSalle County, Illinois from an 1876 Plat Book of LaSalle County.

This tiny rural district in northcentral Illinois is mostly insignificant. Down at the bottom left side is the tiny village of Norway, Illinois - only claim to fame is that its the first Norweigian settlement in the United States.

When Norway was celebrating it's Centenial in 1974 - the actual King Olaf of Norway came to visit - Norway only has about 400 people. So the King stayed in my hardly more significant hometown of Ottawa. There was a parade and everything. I wonder how he actually felt of visiting this fly-speck of a farming village in the middle of nowhere?!

Anyway, here's the map I'm working on...

03-14-2008, 05:11 PM
Cool post! And what a fun project to work on!

03-15-2008, 12:35 AM
Being a lover of cartography, and not truly being a cartographer - career wise, I am still in the unique position to get my hands dirty working with maps professionally.

I work with everything from photo and map restoration - I do lots of work for museums as far away as Peoria and Joliet, Illinois, all the historical societies, geneology guilds, etc.

Everyday I work with topographical maps, engineer drawings, house plans through the reprographics side of the business.

I've actually worked with a different copy of that 1876 Plat Book. Among the cool things in it, there's a Railroad Map of Illinois - since there are no highways yet. There's also world atlas information - the world in 1876 that is.

The oldest document I've ever scanned and cleaned up was an actual page from a true second edition printing of the King James Bible, circa 1613. I had the actual page in my hand. I have a printed and digital copy. Not many have touched a 400 year old document.

Once I cleaned up a Doctor's Certificate from an 1811 graduating class in Boston - it was actually hand-done onto sheepskin.

I'm lucky - I get to work with some really cool stuff! 8)

03-15-2008, 01:35 AM
Just for fun and to show you how really cool these old Plat Books really are, this is what is on the opposite side of the map. You can see the water stain -the job that I am cleaning up on the map side.

Note the actual dimensions are 15.75 high x 18.5 wide, at 300 dpi the actual scale I work with to clean it up, its over 70 MB in size.


03-15-2008, 09:01 AM
I like how the artist even drew in the lighting rods on everything :)

(Though at first I thought the one on the house was a TV antenna, a bit of a anachronism!)

-Rob A>

03-15-2008, 11:46 AM
Very cool - I love looking at old maps, especially of those areas I know well. I particularly love looking at old (early) maps of San Francisco - those blow me away.

03-15-2008, 12:09 PM
I like the little platforms for embarkation onto the carriages, as seen in the bottom drawing - in front of the Stockton house, and one at the left side. Although I've seen these before at historic locations, it has always slipped my mind when drawing a map in horse and carriage days.

These period drawings show what existed then. Often we think to television or movies when trying to recreate a period drawing - but that isn't reality. Its images like this that show what must be included.

I will probably start to include loading platforms at more of my village maps, just because these drawings remind they are there.

03-15-2008, 04:23 PM
Boy talk about HUMAN EYE CAN PICK UP PATTERNS. Look at the cows. Every single right facing cow is drawn the same.:

Right hind leg back/Left hind leg forward
Right fore leg forward/left fore leg back.
Cow is looking right.

03-15-2008, 05:55 PM
Must have been using the farm animal clipart pack :) :P

-Rob A>

03-15-2008, 10:23 PM
LOL, that's funny!

But what a cool picture! What a cool job! :)

03-16-2008, 03:29 AM
Consider that a practice that lead towards clipart. The LaSalle County Platbook contains dozens of pages with similar showing properties drawn by hand. When this book was created, undoubtedly one was created for every other county as well - 42 in all. How many similar books were created for other states and their counties?

How many artists were involved - probably an army, perhaps part of the cartographers jobs in the project. Anyway, hundreds or thousands of such drawings would be required.

Production workflow would be necessary to create such a large project, therefore cows consistently drawn the same way would help in making quicker work of such a large job.

I couldn't imagine the level of work involved, nor the cost in today dollars compared to 1876.

03-16-2008, 11:10 AM
That is why there used to be work places that looked like this:

or this:

(images from us mil. and Belfast Museum - Titanic exhibit, respectively)

-Rob A>

03-16-2008, 12:12 PM
Can you imagine the insane filing system an operation like that would require? 50 or 60 drafters, each working with 20 - 100 poster-sized sheets, and you've got to be organized enough so that everyone can find the drawings they need when they need them.

03-16-2008, 06:11 PM
(Just as a complete, total, and unabashed sidenote that has nothing to do with mapping or this thread in the least other than a flashing snopped of a thought: I wish the days of ubiquitous suits and dress clothes would come back.)

(and now on with our regularly scheduled thread)