The art of map making

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To many people, thoughts of maps conjure up images of dusty classrooms and geography teachers.

But a new exhibition at the British Library, Magnificent Maps, aims to put the art back into how we view, and use, these often beautiful examples.

More than simply a topological survey of a country or continent, the maps on display are as diverse as their decorative features - from hunting dogs to sea monsters and cherubs blowing the winds across the ocean.

The maps on show date from 200AD to the present day. Some are made of silver, carved in wood or marble, or stitched tapestries that were intended for display side-by-side with some of the world's greatest paintings and sculptures.

Some of these "pictorial encyclopaedias" rival them in their artistry.

Diogo Homem's 1570 Chart of the Mediterranean sea is dripping with gold and saturated colour, while Pierre Descelier's World Map of 1550 is a hand-painted visual representation of the legends and natural history of the world.

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