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About The Portolan

The Journal of the Washington Map Society

What is The Portolan?

The Portolan is the journal of the Washington Map Society; it furthers the purpose of the Society “to support and promote map collecting, cartography and the study of cartographic history.” The Portolan, the largest and most-widely distributed publication of its kind in the Americas, is issued three times per year, in the Spring/Summer, the Fall and Winter.

Typically over 70 pages, it has been produced regularly since its inception and is provided to individual members and institutional subscribers in over twenty countries. Print and digital editions are available to individual members. Individual members have online access and can view and download all current and past issues of The Portolan. Print editions are available to institutional subscribers.

As of Spring 2024, 119 issues have been published.

A Brief History

Five years after the founding of the Washington Map Society, the membership decided in 1984 to establish a newsletter to keep members informed of Society activities. These included notices of coming meetings, brief summaries of past meetings, news of cartographic happenings in the region, and a compilation of information on recent publications (books and articles) on the history of cartography. From an eight-page stapled newsletter, the newsletter grew over the years to an internationally circulated and recognized journal. Read more about the history of The Portolan in the articles on the right side of this page (or if you are on mobile, scroll to the bottom of this page).

The Contents

The Portolan is most known for its many articles by internationally known scholars and independent researchers who share their finding on a wide range of topics. These are not solely focused on the Washington DC region, but encompass research on maps and mapmakers from all periods and on areas all over the world. Exploring the World of Maps, as noted in the Society’s tagline, is what the journal seeks to do. Every year the journal contains the winning article of the Society’s Dr. Walter W. Ristow Prize for an Academic Paper in the History of Cartography.

In addition to numerous articles, each issue of the journal contains:

  • Notices of coming Washington Map Society meetings
  • A selected compilation of local and worldwide map meetings and exhibitions
  • Information about the Ristow Prize competition for the current year
  • Several reviews of recent books in the history of cartography
  • A compilation of recent publications in the history of cartography

Click here to access a full listing of the contents of current and past issues, plus an index to those issues.

FREE Complimentary Issues of The Portolan

Available for viewing here is Issue 87 (Fall 2013), the Society’s most-read issue. Attracting world-wide publicity, its cover story (starting on page 8) relates the author's discovery of and research into what he believes is a possible early sixteenth-century globe. The author speculates that it could be the earliest surviving globe showing the New World. Another article (see page 25) presented a compelling case linking the voyage of Columbus with Jerusalem. The article beginning on page 35 addressed the making of maps you see in fiction and non-fiction books. Starting on page 53 are five varied book reviews. A continuing highlight, Recent Publications, listing recent articles and books addressing maps, begins on page 75. And there is more.

Portolan Issue 100 (Winter 2017) is available for viewing here. It was a milestone issue, marking 100 continuous, on-time issues for our members. Among the wide selection of article was the feature cover story on Persuasive Mapping. The article was based on a presentation given at the Washington Map Society by a member who later donated his vast collection of these maps to his alma mater. More of the maps beyond those in the article can be viewed free at


Several sample Portolan articles:

Mapping Public Health in Nineteenth-Century Oxford, by Lauren Bouchard Killingsworth (Issue 101 – Spring 2018) Winner 2017 Ristow Prize – mapping a cholera epidemic.

A recent series of three article about mapping the COVID-19 pandemic:

Expanding a Child’s World: Map Books for Children and Young Readers by Marianne McKee (Issue 81- Fall 2011)

The Atlases of A.J. Johnson by Ira Lourie (Issue 49 – Winter 2000-2001)

The Production Team

Editorial Advisory Board

  • Dick Pflederer – Williamsburg, Virginia (Chair)
  • Imre Josef Demhardt – University of Texas at Arlington
  • John R. Hébert - Burke, Virginia
  • Rodney Kite-Powell - Tampa Bay History Center, Florida
  • Don McGuirk - Kansas City, Missouri
  • Gregory McIntosh - Istanbul, Turkey
  • Nick Millea - Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
  • Anthony Mullan - Washington, DC
  • Marguerite Ragnow - James Ford Bell Library, University of Minnesota
  • Louis Robles - Pau, France

Institutions Holding The Portolan

Click here to find the nearly fifty institutions worldwide that subscribe to The Portolan.

Submitting Articles for Publication

Click here for information on submitting articles for possible inclusion in The Portolan.

Book Review Program

The journal contains several book reviews in each issue. A list of the many books already reviewed can be found at the index noted above (scroll to Book/CD Reviews). Books are provided by publishers worldwide and the reviewers include members and non-members in the map community with expertise in the subject matter. On occasion a member will have read a book and offers to review it for the journal. Click here for further information on the Book Review Program.

Advertising in The Portolan

To maximize the scholarly contents in each issue, only a limited amount of advertising is included in The Portolan. Advertisers are all Washington Map Society members. Click here for full details about advertising in The Portolan.

Thanks to All the Portolan Advertisers!

The Washington Map Society wants to acknowledge all the support provided by the advertisers in The Portolan, and thank them. Please click here to see a list of all of them, with links to their websites. We encourage you to visit them.

View Current Advertisers

Portolan Publication/Delivery Schedule – Claims for undelivered issues:

The Portolan is published three times per year.

  • The Spring/Summer issue is published in late March and typically is delivered in April.
  • The Fall issue is published in late August and typically is delivered in September.
  • The Winter issue is published in late November and typically is delivered in December.

Claims may be made for undelivered issues – if claim is made within four months of the anticipated delivery months noted above.

Ordering of current/back issues of The Portolan in print

Complete back sets, partial sets and individual issues of The Portolan are available for sale.

Read About The Portolan's Rich History

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