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Customer Review

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My highest recommendation - A great piece of work!, November 22, 2004
This review is from: America Discovered: A Historical Atlas of North American Exploration (Hardcover)
Derek Hayes' new book, "America Discovered: A Historical Atlas of North American Exploration," should appeal to the members of a number of literary categories, both ordinary and scholarly. First, for those who simply enjoy beautiful coffee-table books, this is one you can be proud to display as the artwork and colorful maps meet the highest standard. Second, if you are an American history buff, this book will enthrall you with its vivid recollections of early continental exploration and later discoveries and settlement across the Western frontier. Third, if you love maps or are into cartography, either as an avocation or as a profession, you will appreciate the numerous historical maps included in the work. Fortunately, I am a member of all three groups, so I especially appreciated Hayes' contribution to my personal library.

The author is a trained geographer and map researcher. He attended the University of Hull and the University of British Columbia and has spent many years traveling the world collecting and researching historical maps. This is the fifth historical atlas that Hayes has written and designed. I want to make a special point of "written and designed." There are many American history texts which cover the same period and topics which Hayes does in this book. But how many of them are "designed" to be aesthetically pleasing as well as meeting the highest levels of scholarship. I have some insight into that matter since I taught American history for a number of years. There are not very many books about American history that are both beautifully designed, worth spending time just to contemplate the illustrations, and still exhibit a text worth reading for its own sake.

The features and structure of "America Discovered: A Historical Atlas of North American Exploration" can be briefly stated. There are two hundred and eighty maps included in the book, covering a period of time from the fifteenth century to the twentieth century. This means that the reader can view maps created by cartographers at the "initial discovery" of America by European adventurers, based on the knowledge of the time, and follow the progression of map creation and design as more and more knowledge is gained about the American continent. It is interesting to note, for instance, that many of the early maps depict the present state of California as an island rather than attached to the American mainland (I didn't know that!). And for those who like geographic trivia, let it be known that this major inaccuracy about California continued even into the nineteenth century. Besides the many maps, there are a number of illustrations displaying persons and events of significance to American history. At the end of the book the author provides a map catalog with some facts about each map, a selected bibliography so readers can continue on with other resources, and a comprehensive index of topics. Lastly, the book is printed on acid-free paper which means it will virtually last forever.

Most of my book reviews are nine-hundred to a thousand words in length. This one is not. Why not? Simply because I can find nothing negative at all to say about this superb piece of writing and craftmanship. (Maybe there is a typo somewhere in the text, but if so, I couldn't spot it.) I highly recommend this book to everyone, regardless of whether or not you fit into one of the categories I named in the first paragraph. If you are a true bibliophile, like I am, you will appreciate this addition to your personal library. But a warning or two might be prudent. Older children and teenagers may find the maps in this book so captivating that the book might suffer the damage of overuse. In that case, it might be advisable to purchase two copies: one to use and one to cherish. Moreover, if you decide to purchase one as a gift for a relative or friend, be aware. Once you actually see the quality of this publication, you won't want to part with it. In that case, it might be advisable to purchase two copies: one as a gift and one for you to cherish. I think at this point, I've said enough. Any more said would merely be redundant.
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Location: Port Orford, OR United States

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