The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 79, July 1975 - April, 1976 Page: 354
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
and black on brown, and many maps are next to impossible to read. On
occasion, the format varied to become white on white, rendering many
names invisible (Harrisburg becomes Harurg on p. 39, for example). In
addition, we occasionally find half or more of a large map left completely
blank (see pages 36 and I38, for example). Even medieval cartographers
knew how to solve the emptiness problem. They placed dragons and three-
legged beings in the blank spaces, a device that would not be out of place
conceptually in this book. The basic problem is that a commercial artist
tried to do a cartographer's job. No principles of cartography developed in
the last seventy-five years were apparently known to this artist. As a geogra-
pher, I have long since become accustomed to shoddy map drawings in
works by historians, but this book takes the prize for the consistently worst
I have ever seen. The use of the noble title "atlas" for such a book is a sin.
May Atlas shrug this one off!
The announced purpose of the book is to serve as a guide to the rela-
tionship between the physical environment and history, a la Walter Prescott
Webb. Surely historians, even those of Webbian bent, must realize that the
facile generalizations of environmental determinism were discarded a gener-
ation or more ago by most social scientists. Fortunately, the book fails to
deliver on this anachronistic intent. After a preliminary section on geology
and physical geography, we hear little more about the physical base of
history. The bit on surface geology seems particularly inappropriate. 'Fess
up, y'all historians, how many of you know or care what Ordovician is?
And isn't eocene obscene in an historical atlas? Anyway, if you want that
kind of information, see Stanley Arbingast et al., Atlas of Texas, a far
As if these shortcomings were not enough, there are many factual errors
contained in the maps. I had casually counted over eighty such errors by
the time I quit counting on page I oo. Most are minor, but so unnecessary.
Some examples are: (i) the missions and presidios of the El Paso area are
omitted from a map of the northern frontier of Mexico, 1519-1700, but
Brownsville (yes, Brownsville) is included (p. 26); (2) Galveston Island
is joined to the Bolivar Peninsula and a new channel connecting Galveston
Bay to the Gulf is "dug" through the High Island area, an error com-
pounded by joining the newly united Galveston Island-Bolivar to the
Brazoria County mainland (p. 90); (3) the borders shown for the Fisher-
Miller Grant are grossly inaccurate (p. 62) ; (4) countless towns and settle-
ments are misplaced, as in locating Mt. Pleasant on the southern border of
Titus County (p. 87); (5) strange county names such as Rockwell,
Scurrey, Sabin, and Newto abound (p. 41); (6) the main Polish colonies
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 79, July 1975 - April, 1976, periodical, 1975/1976; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101203/m1/399/: accessed September 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.