- Maps were not mass produced. Each was a one-of-a-kind deal.
- Not only was each map uniquely created, the information it contained was arrived at individually. So, even if separate missions explored the same area, the maps would likely be quite different.
- Most maps were driven by mercantile enterprises.
- Considering that explorers were exploring for the purpose of opening new markets and sources of trade, the maps their travels generated should be considered akin to trade secrets.
- Being driven by economic interests, especially related to sea-trade, coastal detail, including ports-of-call and safe harborages, would be of utmost importance.
All of these thoughts has led me to the idea that I want to make my maps more artistic. I've always wanted my mountain symbols, for example, to occupy the proper amount of space, according to the scale I've established. I want to change that. I want terrain symbols to be representative of the terrain that is most likely to be found in the surrounding area.
Another common theme in antique maps are little artistic embellishments. People going about some sort of activity, perhaps tied to local tradecraft or terrain, were quite popular. Farming, herding, hunting, and trade caravans appear frequently. I really like that idea.
Ultimately, the map is a method of communication. Typically, it would have been the map-maker communicating with himself, a device whereby to remember the lay of a land, treacherous sea-lanes or dangerous shoals, or pictographic clues about the peoples found in a particular location. They could be covered in specific notes, perhaps in a personal code.
Finally, I need to stop thinking of maps as being mass-produced and each consistent with the next. Maps for characters should be rare and treated as treasure. What price can be placed on a map through a monster-infested wilderness, sure to befuddle even the most seasoned traveller? Such a map that could virtually guarantee not getting lost, thus saving wandering lost for perhaps days.