Re: On maps, why is north always up?

Thank you for this thoughtful answer, Cecil. I just wanted to add a link to a recently published article on the consequences of this north is up convention (i.e., north=up). Basically, across 4 experiments, we found that people irrationally favor real estate that is positioned at the top of a map, which is typically north (i.e., north=good). If you’re interested in learning more, here is a link to the abstract:

All the best and keep up the good work,

*ETA: Column in question: *

Corrected link for the research article: Spatial Metaphor and Real Estate: North–South Location Biases Housing Preference

And the Cecil Adams article: On maps, why is north always up?, dated April 24, 1987.

I had heard speculation that Ptolemy may have chosen North as Up due to the direction of flow of the Nile.

In High School I had a teacher who stated North is up on ALL maps. When I disagreed she threatened to have me suspended. My father had to provide her with two Polar Azimuthal maps, one of each hemisphere (North to the center and the perimeter), before she would relent. I still ended up with a poorer grade than I deserved in her class.

As a collector of maps, I wonder if there is an official term for those like me. I lean toward “cartographile” if there is not an official name.

I use kartofil in Swedish, so why not cartophile or mappophile in English.

Anyone else able to open the link provided?

I fixed the link in my post #2. You need to take “.abstract” off the end of the address.

Got it! Thanks.

Are you a member of Cartographers for Social Equality?

On maps, why is north always up?

uhhh because…that’s how it really is?

shakes head

Does that mean I’ll get more tired walking north than walking south, since I’ll be walking up?

And if north is up, water should flow southwards down the Nile River, and presumably finish up somewhere like South Africa. And why doesn’t Antarctica just sink underneath all the water of the oceans?

Uh, because it is made of ice and is actually just floating on the ocean. The bottom happens to be wedged between sand bars for the past few millenia which is why it isn’t bouncing off SA and Africa.

At my work there is a large poster of a world map where South is “up”. Up or Down on a map is completely arbitrary - there is no reason besides tradition to prefer one to another.

Looks damn weird though.