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Universe of Maps - Opening the David Rumsey Map Center

Twentieth Century Air Travel

Air France: De jour et de nuit, de nuit et de jour dans tous les ciels: Nox post lucem lux post noctem. Lucien Boucher; Air France. Paris: 1939
In this celestial planisphere map, zodiac symbols and principal Air France routes are superimposed on celestial illustrations and an outline map of the world.
SAS Spiral-Polar Projection. Created Especially for Scandinavian Airlines System to Illustrate Its Worldwide Routes. Anonymous. Place of publication unknown: 1960
An unusual “spiral projection” – a projection that does not exist in map making – is used in this illustration to suggest the dynamic nature of the Scandinavian Airlines System.
The Air Ocean. Prepared for American Airlines, Inc. and in Collaboration with its Pilots and Air Transport Engineers. Aviation Research Associates; American Airlines, Inc. Place of publication unknown: 1944
One of a series of map charts made by American Airlines to teach the general public about the science of air travel at the beginning of the air age.

The advent of air travel in the 20th century produced a new form of mapping, the air route map. Air route maps were similar to highway and railroad maps but with the sky as their territory, they were untethered by terrestrial limits.

Designers like the French artist Lucien Boucher made the most of these possibilities in his maps for Air France, as seen in the map reproduced on the back of the case. Other mapmakers were even more playful with projection, globe and spiral as the themes of the Scandinavian Airlines route map on the right.

A more scientific approach was taken by American Airlines in a series of maps explaining the science of air travel and the physical nature of the air itself.