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The beating heart of the British Empire: world map from the Harmsworth Universal Atlas and Gazetteer, 1908.

This unusual cordiform (heart-shaped) projection was devised in around 1500 by the Viennese cartographer Johannes Stab. However, it was further developed by Johannes Werner of Nuremberg during the early 16th century, and the projection now usually bears his name. Around this time, the projection was also used as a symbol for a clandestine Christian religious sect "known as the Family of Love.

To those of us brought up with the Mercator and Gall projections, this one-dimensional representation (or distortion) of the Earth's oblate spheroid looks distinctly odd, and one recent authoritative work on map projections noted that the Werner projection was "no longer used, except as a novelty". However, this map appeared as recently as 1908, at the centre of the title page of a work called the Harmsworth Universal Atlas and Gazetteer.

The work was originally published in 36 parts between 1906 and 1908 by the Amalgamated Press, along with a final 'Supplementary Part containing Title-page, Contents, etc'. It contained 500 maps and diagrams, along with commercial statistics and a gazetteer index of 105,000 names.

It's all in the detail

The rich red areas and underlined names pick out the British Empire at the height of the Edwardian era (Edward VII reigned only from 1901 to 1910). As part of Edward VII's empire, India is shown as considerably more extensive than the shrunken state that it became upon its independence in 1947.

The use of the Greenwich meridian--agreed as the world prime meridian from 1884--and the decision to centre the cordiform projection map on London may symbolise the fact that the city was considered to be the heartbeat of the British Empire.

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Title Annotation:Map Of The Month
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jul 1, 2004
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