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