Maps on Fans

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Handheld fans are typically made out of broad flat pieces of paper or cloth that can be waved back and forth to create an airflow. The airflow from wave the fan increases evapotranspiration on the skin that creates a cooling effect.

Hand fans tend to be designed with an accordion effect that lets them fold up compactly, making them ideal for carrying around.

The earliest hand fans discovered date to the 4th century BCE. The Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62) included an ivory-handled fan that would have held ostrich feathers.

Scenes on Ancient Greek pottery show the use of hand fans.

Terracotta pottery from the Hellenistic period, ca. 330–310 B.C.  Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, public domain.
A woman holding a fan on a terracotta vase from the Hellenistic period, ca. 330–310 B.C. Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, public domain.

Over the years, hand fans were not only functional but decorative. Many fans were embellished with works of art or ornate designs on the cloth or paper materials.

What is a Cartifact?

Many map fans are examples of “cartifacts”. A cartifact is a map that is used primarily for design rather than as a source of information.

Italian Map Fan Etching

While this etching is not an actual fan, this Italian topographical map from the 17th century was drawn in the shape of a fan.

Topographic Plan (Porto Ercole?) in the Shape of a Fan.  Anonymous, 17th century.  Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Topographic Plan (Porto Ercole?) in the Shape of a Fan. Anonymous, 17th century. Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Map of the Americas on a Fan

This late 18th century hand fan features the Americas. The map, made in France by Parisian cartographer Jean Lattre, is a color engraving framed in brass and set on a wooden.

The 'L'Amerique' fan by Jean Lattre, ca. 1779.  Source: Winterthur
The ‘L’Amerique’ fan by Jean Lattre, ca. 1779. Source: Winterthur

English Fan Map

This hand fan produced at the end of the 18th century is an allegorical map engraved by Vincent Woodthorpe (ca.1764-1822). The map features a journey through youth:

The map takes the viewer from youth, where they are in a state of darkness, to the final lights of Reason and Religion where Content[ment] and Happiness can be found. The voyage may take you through such places as the Great Ocean of Experience, the Rocks of Obstinacy and Idleness, the Coast of Ignorance or the Coast of Hardship. Along the way, you can check the compass for directions to Folly, Misery, Wisdom, and Reason.

Special Collections, Firestone Library, Princeton University
18th century fan map: Allegorical Map of the Track of Youth, to the Land of Knowledge.  London: John Wallis.
Allegorical Map of the Track of Youth, to the Land of Knowledge (London: John Wallis, no. 16 Ludgate Street, June 25, 1796). Source: Firestone Library, Princeton.

Map Fan of South Wales

An unknown cartographer created this fan with a map of South Wales on it. The fan is accompanied by the signature of “Miss Watkins 1817).

Anonymous, Map of South Wales Fan [1800-1817?].  Source: Amgueddfa Cymru (National Museum Wales).
Anonymous, Map of South Wales Fan [1800-1817?]. Source: Amgueddfa Cymru (National Museum Wales)https://museum.wales/blog/2019-05-22/Amgueddfa-Cymrus-Fancy-Fans-and-their-Material-Forms-/

Chinese Map Fan

The use of fans in China dates to 475 to 221 BCE. Chinese fans were often embellished with calligraphy, flowers, people, and sometimes maps.

This fan map dates to 1890 and shows a map of administrative and political divisions in China and includes general maps of Taiwan and Korea. Called Da Qing yi tong er shi san sheng yu di quan tu, it translates to “Complete Map of the Twenty-Three Provinces of the Great Qing Dynasty.”

Map fan from China: Da Qing yi tong er shi san sheng yu di quan tu, 1890. Source: Library of Congress.
Map fan from China: Da Qing yi tong er shi san sheng yu di quan tu, 1890. Source: Library of Congress.

Korean Map Fan

This fan from the 19th century features a manuscript map of Korea.

Korean fan map: Cholla-do chido. 1800-1899. Source: Library of Congress.
Korean fan map: Chŏlla-do chido. 1800-1899. Source: Library of Congress.

Map Fan of Paris for Cyclists

This 1898 map showing streets in Paris was made for cyclists. One side shows a map of Paris and the reverse side shows Bois de Boulogne, a public park located in the 16th arrondissement of Paris.

A Paris cycling fan map, 1898.
Eventail Cycliste, Bois de Boulogne, Paris et ses environs. Creator: Leon Pouillot, 1898. Source: British Library.

Air India Fan Map

This Air India fan contains a map showing the airline routes from 1960.

Air India route map (hand fan), 1960.  Source: David Rumsey Map Collection.
Air India route map (hand fan), 1960. Source: David Rumsey Map Collection.

References

Smith, C. (2020, July 15). Fan maps of the geography and map division. Library of Congress Blogs. https://blogs.loc.gov/maps/2020/07/fan-maps-of-the-geography-and-map-division/

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