[Geowanking] Re: Favorite map projection book?

Quantitative Decisions whuber at quantdec.com
Wed Aug 8 07:39:30 PDT 2007

At 12:00 PM 8/8/2007 +0000 a reader wrote:
>Do any of you have a favorite book on the topic of map projection?
>I'm looking at this one:

Respondents recommended

>"Map Projections: A Working Manual"  John Snyder    (394 pages)
>Mark Monmonier's "How to Lie with Maps".

I have long owned all three and use both Bugayevskiy & Snyder (the first 
one) and the Snyder manual (the second).  (Monmonier's "How to Lie..." is 
off topic and just isn't comparable to the first two.)

Snyder clearly describes the properties of several hundred projections.  He 
includes detailed formulae for projection and inverse projection.  An 
introductory section describes some of the general theory.  The math is at 
the level of intermediate calculus (as taught in a traditional, pedestrian 
style c. 1950).

Bugayevskiy & Snyder provides more of the general theory.  It uses concepts 
of elementary differential geometry and advanced calculus, but its language 
is decidedly early 19th century, which makes it quite a difficult read.  It 
has many general formulas for projections, but not in enough detail or 
variety to serve as a reference manual like Snyder's book.  B&S is more 
interested in describing typical projections, especially those used by the 
former Soviet Union, and then outlining a course of map projection research.

The Appendices in B&S are, however, quite useful.  Appendices 2, 3, and 4 
give geometric properties (like radii of curvature) for the GRS 80 
ellipsoid in half-degree increments.  Appendix 5 tabulates isometric 
latitudes for GRS 80.  Appendix 6 gives the parameters of common 
ellipsoids; radii of a conformal, authalic, and equidistant sphere to match 
GRS 80; and a few parameters for Mars, Venus, and the Moon.  I'm sure you 
can find this stuff on the Web now if you look hard, but it's handy to just 
pull this book off a shelf and turn to the back.

Overall, then, if your interest lies in selecting projections, 
understanding the properties of a particular projection, or coding 
projection and inverse projection transformations, and most of your work is 
in the US, then stick with Snyder.  If you do a lot of work in the far east 
or have a more theoretical inclination, then B&S is worth a look.

BTW, the printed copy of Snyder's manual comes with a nice poster-sized 
overview of map projections, "The properties and uses of selected map 
projections," by Tau Rho Alpha and John P. Snyder, 1982.  It's a good thing 
to have on your wall.  You might be able to obtain it separately as 
"Miscellaneous Investigations Series Map I-1402," for sale by the USGS.

--Bill Huber
Quantitative Decisions

More information about the Geowanking mailing list