Ask A Cartographer

How can I give my map an "antique" feel?

May 31 2007 | 5 comments
Categories: Symbology

Hi, I have been asked to produce a map of the movement of the original settlers in KwaZulu-Natal. I thought as an added touch to the final product, it would be best to give the map an "antique" feel. By antique, I mean the fancy,curly north arrow and scale bar, and other little touches only found on the really old maps.

Is there a way in ArcMap to produce a map that looks like that? Would it be possible to download a style from ESRI?

Mapping Center Answer:

Yes, there is a Historical style that you can download from:

You can also download a zipped package of Historical Map Effects resources from our data model web page:

Scroll down and look for:

NACIS 2006 .ttf, .style, .ldb, .bmp, .db, .emf, .txt, and .pdf - zip format, 77888kb (submitted 11/01/2006).

This ZIP file contains a presentation we gave detailing how to achieve some of the historical map effects. It also contains the style that is currently on Mapping Center (the link above). We will be moving this information from the Basemap Data Model Page to the Mapping Center site after the User Conference.

Hope this helps!

Bad Link? posted by Anthony Hewitt on Apr 24 2009 12:58PM
The second link mentioned above takes me to the Base Map Data model and I don't see a link there to "NACIS 2006 .ttf, .style, .ldb, .bmp, .db, .emf, .txt, and .pdf - zip format, 77888kb (submitted 11/01/2006)".
Bad Links? posted by Khalid Akbar on May 24 2011 10:51PM
Both links mentioned above takes me to no where, I don't see a link there to Historical style or

If somebody has them, can he share it?
Links posted by Aileen Buckley on May 25 2011 10:39AM
The first link is still good and works for me. To find the presentation we gave at the 2006 NACIS conference, you can use this link:
Historical format posted by Earl Klug on Jul 28 2014 2:11AM
The file can be found though no FAQ as to how to install the files or objects. as page 2 runs off the pdf. Is there a video that goes along with this.
End of page 2 posted by Aileen Buckley on Jul 28 2014 11:02AM
We don't support the CUNY web site but thanks anyway for pointing out that the text on page two in the notes section got chopped off. Here they are in case this is helpful:

As regards density of information, the symbols add complexity to the map; that is, they increase the amount of detail and information displayed on the map. Pictorial symbols are more complex and have more detail than the more abstract yet simple geometric symbols, such as circles or squares, that are often found on maps. Pictorial symbols also carry meaning that is more immediately understood by the reader since the symbol mimics the feature it represents. “Mimetic symbols are desirable on maps when they are unambiguous and easy to understand” (Robinson, et al. 1995). Mimetic symbols can be used to represent either quantitative or qualitative variation in the attribute being mapped. For example, town symbols can be used to represent either quantitative variation in the amount of population, while using different hill symbols allows the map reader to distinguish among different qualitative types of features, such as mountain ranges, volcanic cones, rolling hills, high peaks, etc.

We stand in awe of these historic documents knowing that they were drawn by hand and we marvel at the amount of detail and artistry involved. Maybe we also admire being able to achieve the same or similar effects with computers because the precision and power of the computing environment can be used to both deal with the things computers handle best (data management and manipulation) and at the same time they can help with the things human handle best (artistry and creativity). An obvious advantage is that we can use the flexible, repeatable computing power of the software to achieve the results we want without having to spend countless hours on a single product that could not be exactly replicated if hand drawn. In other words, we can learn from history (of maps) to make better maps today.

So, we think it is useful to learn more about the kinds of mapping techniques and symbols used on historic maps. What cartographic effects are evident on the maps? What techniques were used to create them in the past? More importantly, how can they be replicated using modern data and technology? Do the effects actually improve our maps? And can the techniques be used to improve the map production process? We explore these questions in this paper and conclude that some of the techniques are useful to develop for modern day mapping. Some can be replicated, some results are better than others, and some require data manipulations and data processing.

Do they improve our maps and do they improve our map production? We think they do, for a number of reasons: some can be use for challenging black and white map design, some symbols are intuitive and easily understood by the map reader, some create a unique and unusual look that draws the map reader in and keeps her attention, and some add beauty and intrigue to the map. These advantages are further elucidated in the paper. Of course, the effects should be used on the right type of map for the right purpose and the right audience, as with all maps.

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