Monday, July 05, 2010

Stephens & Zuber-Mallison: "TEXAS: A HISTORICAL ATLAS"

[Texas: A Historical Atlas by A. Ray Stephens, cartography by Carol Zuber-Mallison (University of Oklahoma Press, 2010).  9x12 Hardcover, 175 maps, 45 charts, 81 photos. 448 pages. ISBN: 978-0-8061-3873-2  $39.95]

Back in 1989, University of Oklahoma Press published the Historical Atlas of Texas by A. Ray Stephens and William M. Holmes. Now, with a new cartographer, a vastly updated and expanded edition titled Texas: A Historical Atlas has been released from the same publisher. Dwarfing the prior work in size and quality of presentation, Stephens's new creation is a thick, oversize tome, highlighted by 175 full-color maps (all on glossy paper) designed by cartographer Carol Zuber-Mallison.

The work is divided into three main sections. The first part covers the natural world features of the state, such as its geology, hydrology, rainfall, weather, and flora. Part II features Texas Indian tribes, European and American explorers, and Mexican Texas. From there, it moves on through the Texas Revolution, independent republic, and early statehood eras, before concluding with the Civil War, Reconstruction, and additional political and economic events throughout the late 19th century. The last section deals with modern Texas and all that comes with it -- hurricanes, military bases, rivers, ports, railroads, parks, the oil, gas, coal, and cattle industries, farming, education, business, immigration, tourism, and current political boundaries. While one may question the lack of coverage or emphasis in certain areas, it's all in there to some degree or another.

With extensive explanatory narrative by Stephens, and numerous supplemental charts and tables, the maps do not lack context. Photographs are also spread liberally throughout. While the text is not formally documented, a list of sources is provided in the bibliography, organized by chapter for easier reference.

Of course, with such a project, important parties and events are inevitably given short shrift, and, given the venue within which this review appears, the Civil War years provide a rather glaring example. Given the conflict's enormous size, importance, and consequences, it is rather surprising that in a historical atlas only a single short chapter out of 86, totaling four pages and two maps, is devoted specifically to the Civil War. This is especially unfortunate in that the deficiency only reinforces the mistaken general perception that little of consequence happened within the state's borders during the war.

Nevertheless, Civil War readers comprise only one audience for the book, and, taken as a whole, Texas: A Historical Atlas is a stunningly beautiful and well crafted visual journey through the entire length of Texas recorded history up to the present day. It will undoubtedly make its way into libraries and personal bookshelves throughout the state, and deservedly so.

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