Interesting Six Part PBS Series On Maps and History
Shown over six weeks on PBS, from April 1, 1991 to May 6, 1991, The Shape of the World uses the subject of mostly old maps to cover history, from Erastothenes, the Egyptian Greek who figured out the circumference of the Earth over 2,200 years ago to modern (in 1990) satellite mapping using computers. The film crews go all over the world, from Portugal to Mexico to the Palio in Siena to the Far East.
Patrick Stewart, the narrator, seems to pretty much stay in one place, the map room of the New York Public Library, valuable maps and books haphazardly tossed onto a large reading table as Stewart makes the opening and closing video bumpers for each of the six one hour parts.
There are a lot of talking head experts who give their insights into maps and history along the way. The experts are not the usual suspects, professors from U.S. universities, but experts from foreign countries, some of who speak in their language while there are English subtitles underneath to translate. The series covers a lot of ground, some parts more interesting than others. Part Five: Pictures of the Invisible and Part Six: The Writing on the Screen cover more recent history and have badly dated in sections, especially in the technology area.
This PBS series is not on DVD. The official VHS version is priced for the education market from its single distributor, so unless you taped the show 15 years ago and kept those tapes (like pack rat me) or want to gamble on buying the series tapes on eBay, the series price of $150.00 for the VHS tapes is too much to pay, even for fans of Patrick Stewart. Too bad, there are a lot of interesting parts in this series as it meanders though the history of maps and explorers.
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