Friday, August 17, 2007

Real Maps, Cheap or Free

While my grandsires didn't supply me with a Rattery to scrounge from (like the DHM's), I have fallen heir to quite a few things that my dad, in particular, clipped or saved over the years and passed on. In those pre-Internet days you did save newspaper pictures of Benjamin Franklin, and clippings of the funniest things ever printed in church bulletins, or recipes for tofu brownies, because who knew when you'd find another one.

Well, even my dad's boxes have gotten a little full from time to time, and he's often passed some of his treasures on to us. That would include a whole stack of National Geographic maps, the kind that come folded up inside the magazines. Only these are mostly from the 1950's.

Um--pretty useless, right? Unless you're actually studying the geography of the 1950's?

No! We've used that stack a lot and have plans to continue using them this school year. For instance, there's a map of the "United States, Washington to Boston" from the August 1962 issue. For our purposes, we don't care if new interstate highways have been built or some names of towns have changed: at least the states were still in the same places, last time I looked, and the rivers and the oceans were the same. We're not aiming to drive there, just wanting to get a look at where some of the places we're reading about are in relation to us.

Even better is "Historical United States" from June 1953. This one has little notes and symbols all over, showing where the battles took place, where "Benedict Arnold crossed from Kennebec to Chaudiere waters enroute to Quebec", and where "Henry Hudson ascended river to site of Albany." There's also "A Map of New England, with Descriptive Notes" (June 1955).

For Plutarch and mythology we have "Greece and the Aegean," December 1958. For Paddle-to-the-Sea we have a map of Ontario from December 1978. (The Great Lakes haven't moved either.) We also have "British Isles" from July 1958 and "Shakespeare's Britain" (May 1964).

The best thing about these maps? No, not that they were free; that they're big! You can unfold them all over the floor or stick them up on the wall. Occasionally (since we've had several maps of the U.S. given to us) we've even traced a route or marked places on them. (We used one to move a little paper Minn of the Missisippi all the way down the river.) This beats little Internet printouts hands down.

Now I don't know if you're going to be able to track down any of these maps, unless you have an absolute National Geographic fanatic around. (Hope for a forgotten closet with shelves threatening to collapse from the weight of gold-coloured covers.) The trouble is, even if you get your old NGs cheap at thrift shops, the maps are usually not with the magazines anymore. But SOMEBODY took them out, right? So maybe SOMEBODY hung on to them--just in case--and maybe SOMEBODY would let you at some of their stash, if you ask nicely.

Oh--and a postscript about old NG magazines. They're not just for cutting out pictures of Masai warriors anymore. If somebody offers you some, check carefully for offbeat and literary-type articles; and then store them somewhere where you'll remember to use them. Our copy of Timothy Severin's The Brendan Voyage shares the shelf with the NG from December 1977, which had an article promoting the book (including a two-page diagram of Severin's boat). (We also have another of his articles, "In the Wake of Sindbad," July 1982). We have "A Walk Across America," April 1977--stored with the book of the same name (and the photos in the magazine are way clearer than those in our paperback book). We have treasured articles about Dickens' England, life in Jerusalem, Willa Cather's country, and Viking ships--stored with books on those topics. Of course we can find those subjects online too--but why pass the real thing by?

Keep your eyes open--you might literally strike gold.


Katie said...

Ooh, I think I have map envy. I don't know of anyone who collected National Geographics-- only Harlequins and Reader's Digest Condensed Books. Bummer.

We *did* get some very nice Texas Monthly magazines from some church friends once, though, which are wonderful for pictures-- if you are studying Texas. :o)

Queen of Carrots said...

My mom had a lot of these when I was a kid. I always thought they were so cool. Maybe I should ask my sister what happened to them--if she hasn't put them in her homeschool library, I want them!

So far the only big map I have is the one that came free in the mail from Doctors Without Borders.

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

We have a lot of those same maps. We picked them up for a quarter a piece at a library book sale a few years ago.

And the Rattery? Probably a hundred old NG magazines on shelves.... I haven't had the nerve to look at them more closely.