This is how we once imagined the moon

A new exhibition, The Mapping of the Moon, explores some of our earliest attempts to make sense of our planetary satellite, with pieces of cartography dating back 350 years

As early as the 1600s, astronomers were charting the moon, painstakingly illustrating its contours and craters by hand. These efforts are collected together in The Map House’s The Mapping of the Moon exhibition, which shows them alongside later efforts by NASA – who had to find a safe spot to land the Apollo craft – as well as the work of astronomers throughout history.

The older pieces are fascinating for their attention to detail – for example, a Johann Baptist Homann map, engraved with copper, that shows the work of astronomers Hevelius and Riccioli. The latter named the Sea of Tranquility landing site that Apollo 11 touched down in 50 years ago. Another striking example is the 1851 James Reynolds map, which contains transparencies so that readers could hold the map up to the light to illuminate the diagram.

Top image: detail from Jean Baptist Homann’s Tabula Selenographica, published in 1710; above: Stars For July by Dr Richard Anthony Proctor, published in 1884
Typus Corporis Lunaris by Athanasius Kircher, published 1669
Der Mond, La Lune, The Moon, La Luna by Hans Schwarzenbach Hallwag, published 1969
The Moon, published by Rand Mcnally in 1958

More recent examples are a reminder of the kind of moon mania that gripped the world during the space race, including maps signed by astronauts such as Buzz Aldrin.

The exhibition is an obvious choice for map enthusiasts, but more than that it offers another angle on the current celebrations around the moon landing anniversary – showing the kind of visual output our fascination with the satellite has prompted.

Moon Chart presented by Above and Beyond, published by Hammond Inc in 1966
The Conquest of Space, published by Sharp Dohme GmbH Hallwag in 1969
Map of the moon by North American Rockwell, published in 1969

The Mapping of the Moon is on display at The Map House in London, until 21 August 2019;