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About the Ristow Prize

The Walter W. Ristow Prize for an Academic Paper in the History of Cartography

This prize, offered by the Washington Map Society since 1994, recognizes academic achievement in the history of cartography and honors the late Dr. Walter W. Ristow, former chief of the Geography & Map Division, Library of Congress, and co-founder and first president of the Washington Map Society.

The Award

  • $ 1,500 cash award
  • Three-year membership in the Washington Map Society
  • Publication of the winning paper in The Portolan, the journal of the Washington Map Society.

Honorable Mention may be awarded to an additional paper or papers at the judges’ discretion.

Who May Apply

Full or part-time undergraduate and  graduate students, and individuals in first year post-doctoral positions at accredited U. S. or foreign colleges and universities.

The Ristow Prize is designed and intended to encourage scholars who are entering the field. 

Entry Criteria

The competition seeks research papers in the field of the history of cartography, completed in fulfillment of coursework requirements or based on original research.

All papers must be in English, documented in a style selected by the author, and not in excess of 7500 words. Inclusion of clear graphics (maps) supporting the paper is encouraged.

Papers entered for the Prize may have been previously presented at academic symposia or entered in other competitions. They must not, however, have been published, selected for publication, or in consideration for publication at the time of entry.


Papers should be converted to a Word or a PDF document and submitted to Deepak Bhattasali - by 12:59 PM EST on the date of the submission deadline.

Please ensure that the document includes a title page and cover sheet including the entrant’s name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, and school, department, and academic status.

Please do not include the entrant’s name on any other page except the title page.


Three broad criteria are used to judge the Ristow Prize competition:

    1. importance of research (e.g., originality, sources used)
    2. quality of research (e.g., accuracy, source reliability)
    3. writing quality (e.g., clarity, organization, command of cartographic terms).

Judging is performed by three persons with suitable backgrounds in the history of cartography. They are often drawn from the membership of the Washington Map Society, and they have included some of the most learned academics, archivists, and collectors of our time.

Each judge works independently to evaluate each paper. The identity of the judges is not made public.


Emailed no later than 1 June of each year. Email to Deepak Bhattasali -

Other Useful Information

Publication of the winning paper is a requisite for receipt of the Ristow Prize. It is the responsibility of the winning scholar to work with the editor of The Portolan to prepare the paper for publication. The cash award is paid on verification by the editor that the author has provided the necessary assistance to make publication possible.

When a paper is published, The Portolan may carry a brief profile of the author, for which biographic information and a recent photo will be requested.

Publication in The Portolan places the winning paper in some of the top academic and intellectual institutions in the world. The Portolan is available at the Library of Congress, British Library, Bibliothèque nationale, and several other national libraries. It is on the shelves of libraries at Harvard, Yale, Brown, Cornell, Oxford, Trinity Dublin, and other outstanding universities. It appears at prestigious institutions such as the Huntington Library, Newberry Library, New York Public Library, and others.


Questions may be directed to Deepak Bhattasali at

Dr. Walter W. Ristow

Learn More about Walter W. Ristow

See the List of Past Winners

Read a Winning Paper

2021 Ristow Prize Winner

LauraLee Brott, PhD Candidate in Medieval Art History, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Meet Your Maker: The Tournai Maps of Asia and Palestine

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