Blog #3

The HGIS project that caught my attention through Geospatial Historian is “The Atlas of early printing.”  The Atlas of early printing is an interactive map that is designed as a tool for teaching the early history of printing in Europe during the second half of the fifteenth century. This map is an online resource created by Greg Prickman, who is the head at the University of Iowa Libraries. It illustrates the spread of a moveable type printing technology from the periods of 1940 -1955.

Firstly, the atlas of the early printing not only animates the spread of the printing year-by-year, but includes layers that place printing within a historical and cultural context. This map contains a number of subjects that includes spread of printing, output by location, universities, paper mills, fairs, conflicts and trade routes. Particularly, the information on the map can be displayed layer by layer, and can also be restricted by year or year-range, for clearer viewing. This allows one to turn on and off the layers to build detailed atlas of the culture and commerce of Europe. Specifically, this map is able to animate using the subjects and these layers provided that can be controlled by users, allowing them to view as much or as little information as one chooses.

Secondly, the timeline is controlled by an jQuery UI slider as it is only optimized for mobile and desktop platforms. This enables users to view modern European country boundaries, and the locations of modern cities from the times from 1940-1955. The atlas project also does a good job in creating an intuitive, easy-to-use, yet in depth resource in a compressed period of time. In addition to the map, the site provides background information on the Atlas and the team responsible for it, as well as an examination of one fifteenth-century printed book. This includes a digital animation of an early printing press,  a bibliography of related reference sources and links to other relevant websites.

Visualization of historical topics is increasingly used in scholarship to illustrate relationships and the Atlas of early printing is a prime example of this. For example, as from 1450-1455, one can see that printing slowly began to spread throughout Europe as the secrets of the trade was handed down. In other words, the map shows a great visualization of the commercial relationship that spurred the growth of the printing industry. Not only that, but the map and the information represents data using common bibliographic catalogues and databases for fifteenth century printing, along with secondary sources focusing on each of the contextual layers of the map. The atlas of early printing is to take the information and allow it to provide contextual information that visually represents the cultural situation from which printing came from.

Overall, the map itself was very organized as it is easy to navigate but not visually appealing as the map itself looks dull and so does the legend. Also, the map needs work for the amount of information provided when clicking the output by location.  This is because there is insufficient amount of information provided about the city as it only says the name. For example, when clicking the cities, it should directed to a page indicating further information about the city not just the name. Furthermore, this map allows one to see how things changed over the compressed time and could be used as a historical document for future purposes. In any case, this resource would make a useful introduction to the history of European printing anyways as it would be a good starting point for further bibliographical or historical study.

Image result for the atlas of the early printing



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