Both a method of mapping a large area and the result of doing so. The Earth is a sphere; a map is flat, so that it is impossible to produce a map which combines true shape, true bearing, and true distance. ‘The usefulness of a particular map projection and the justification behind its transformation from a three-dimensional spherical surface to a two-dimensional plane surface is all too often judged from the aesthetic or suspicious eye of a naïve map reader rather than by the science behind its creation’ (M. Monmonier 2004). See also Monmonier (2005) PHG 29, 2.
Mercator’s projection exaggerates the size of the northern continents; it has been criticized as overemphasizing the importance of Europe and North America, although such was not Mercator’s intention. No projection is perfect: for example, Mollweide’s and Peters’ are equal area projections (correct in area), but distort shapes. Azimuthal projections show true direction; gnomic projections show the shortest straight-line distance between two points; orthographic projections convey the effect of a globe. Interrupted projections show the Earth as a series of segments joined only along the equator. Details of the projection used are given below each map in a good atlas.
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