What is a Cartifact?

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If you’ve ever perused map and cartography related listings with antique dealers, you may have seen the term “cartifact” bandied about.

The term “cartifact” is not word you will see defined in a dictionary (at least not yet). It’s a term that is mostly used in the antique and map collecting realm.

Cartifact is a portmanteau of two words: cartography and artifact. Artifact (or artefact in British English) is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary simply as “an object made by a human being.” Cartefact blends the “cart” in cartography with “artifact” to produce “cartifact.”

Therefore, a cartifact is an object containing a map that is used primarily for design rather than as a source of information.

Decorative maps can be seen on all types of objects.

For example:

Map Fans

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.

More: Maps on Fans

Walking Sticks and Canes

A walking cane with a map, 1940
A walking cane with a map, 1940

More: Cane Maps

Manhole Covers

Manhole cover with a plan of old town part of Oldenburg, Germany. Photo: Anaconda74, Public domain
Manhole cover with a plan of old town part of Oldenburg, Germany. Photo: Anaconda74, Public domain

More: Manhole Covers With Maps

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