Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Walter Ristow Dies at 97

Walter W. Ristow, who was known never to have gotten lost and would have had no excuse if he had — considering he was in charge of more maps than anybody else in the world — died April 3 in Mitchellville, Md. He was 97.

Dr. Ristow's writings covered maps as far back as those of 16th-century explorers. But quirky detours into more populist terrain kept popping up: Dr. Ristow wrote discursively about the history of free gas station road maps, lamenting their extinction after billions were printed.

Dr. Ristow was head of the map divisions at the New York Public Library, which has more than 400,000 maps, and later at the Library Congress, which holds more than 5 million maps. He is credited with molding the profession of the modern-day map librarian, and was a prolific cartographic scholar as well, writing hundreds of articles and several important books.

via the New York Times