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Required reading: Maps

Apple introduced a new Maps app this week, included in its iOS6 software update. Apparently it's a bit rubbish. Perhaps it's time, then, for the engineers at Apple to reflect on the importance of maps, and the stories they tell.

Apple introduced a new Maps app this week, included in its iOS6 software update. Apple Maps replaces Google Maps as the default map on the iPhone.

Only trouble is that Apple Maps is, well - according to early users - a bit rubbish. It erases entire towns and can't even find the flagship Apple Cube store on 5th Avenue. Perhaps it's time, then, for the engineers at Apple to reflect on the importance of maps, and the stories they tell.

- For a sweeping account, turn first to Jerry Brotton's new A History of the World in Twelve Maps. Here, you'll learn how maps have always been about much more than mere representation; they are projections, too, of political power. The earliest known world map - drawn by an Iraqi cartographer around 500BC - placed Babylon at the centre of the world.

- That's no less true when it comes to the most famous cartographer of them all. In Nicholas Crane's Mercator: The Man Who Mapped the Planet you'll learn how the 16th-century genius coined the term "atlas". "Mercator's projection" is the map you saw in textbooks at school: but it enlarges Europe, and renders Africa and India smaller than they really are.

- Read El Dorado in the Marshes (Polity Press, Dh101), by Massimo Livi-Bacci, to learn how European maps of the Lost City of Gold obsessed 17th-century European adventurers, including Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh sailed for El Dorado in 1616, but never found the city; no evidence of its existence has ever been discovered.

- It's easy to feel that we have moved beyond all that. In fact, it's simply that our obsession has moved on to new maps and uncharted territories. Let The Cambridge Photographic Star Atlas be your guide to the next great adventure.

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