The Mapmakers’ World


ThMape Map Makers’ World: A Cultural History of the European World Map

by Marjo T. Nurminen
Translated by Owen F. Witesman and Erik Miller
Published by Pool of London

For a geography buff like me, working on this massive translation project for the past three years has been a delight. Anyone with an interest in European art, world geography, or the history of exploration will love this handsome volume!


The Mapmakers’ World  illuminates the fascinating cultural history of European world maps: what do historical world maps tell of us, of our perception of the world, and of places and peoples that are foreign to us? Who were the makers of these early world maps? How were the maps created and for whom were they drawn and printed? For what purposes were they used? What kind of information did they pass on? The answers to these questions open up a fascinating narrative of discovery and cartography relating not only to ideology and political power but also the histories of art and science.


Rigorously researched and informed by the latest academic discoveries, The Mapmakers’ World  is beautifully illustrated presenting some 300 maps from the world’s finest museums, libraries and private collections. The book gives us a revealing and captivating perspective on the development of European world maps from the Early Middle Ages up until the modern period, i.e. from the 8th century until the end of the 18th century.

The Mapmakers’ World  is a major work which ambitiously showcases all of the early European world map traditions: Medieval world maps (T-O maps, mappa mundis, Beatus maps, etc.); Ptolemy’s maps; seafarers’ maps (portolan charts, planispheres and nautical charts), printed world maps and globes from the pre-Renaissance through to the Baroque era.

Furthermore, The Mapmakers’ World  takes its readers through the history of European global discovery and cartographic research, and also brings to life the exciting times when many of these historical maps were first discovered in the 19th century, after centuries of oblivion. The volume includes dedicated features further exploring 100 of the most important cartographic masterpieces from the period. The book is written as an exciting, flowing narrative, rather than a catalogue or an encyclopedia, and it takes the reader on the ultimate voyage of discovery.


Marjo T. Nurminen (born 1967) is an archaeologist by education and specialises in the history of science. She has worked as a TV journalist at the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE for more than ten years, focusing on science and its popularisation. Her book Tiedon Tyttaret (Sisters of Science) won the Tieto-Finlandia Award for the Best Finnish Non-Fiction Book in Finland 2008, and has been translated into a number of languages. Nurminen lives in Helsinki with her family.

GAUDEAMUS Helsinki University Press

So you’ve heard about how Finland kicks everyone else’s tuckuses in public education outcomes? Well, it’s not just about running classrooms right. They also have a strong tradition of nonfiction writing and reading, as exemplified by these five books from Gaudeamus Helsinki University Press. Links to reading samples below. Messages from the Islands is particularly recommended as a delightfully quirky and engaging approach to an oddly fascinating subject. Special thanks to Setti and Elli at Translizer for helping with these during Frankfurt crunch time.

The Long History of Electricity by Ismo Lindell

Ismo Lindell’s The Long History of Electricity examines how humanity’s knowledge of electricity and magnetism has evolved over three millennia.

The story of electricity and magnetism is examined as part of broader cultural history: How knowledge of them has increased in stages through a dialectic between theory and experimentation, and how they have been applied in different branches of technology and industry. The book uses interesting examples to explain how electricity replaced earlier modes of lighting, uses of power and methods for transferring information.

The Long History of Electricity offers fascinating, thought-provoking reading for anyone interested in the history of science and technology. Professor emeritus Ismo Lindell received the 2010 Finnish Information Publishing Prize for The Long History of Electricity.

The Long History of Electricity (Sample-PDF)

Man and the Environment by Jari Niemelä et al.

We live in a century faced with great challenges. The growing population of the world needs to be fed and poverty needs to be reduced. The concept of humanity’s relationship to the environment has become broader and more complex. We have begun to understand how sensitive and intricate a system this really is. There are approximately ten million species of organisms on the Earth, and only a small portion of them is known. The spectrum of habitats is astonishing.

This immense variety offers humanity essential raw materials, services and spiritual nourishment. The relationship between man and the environment, however, is threatening to become a question of survival for the human race. As the number of people on Earth who must be fed grows, we also wish to preserve the natural wealth and abundance of the world’s oceans, forests and other environments.

Man and the Environment is a broad survey of the interactions between humanity and the environment. Its subject areas vary from the extinction of species to climate change and from consumer culture to forest conservation. It also describes the different opportunities we have for making a difference: the decisions we make at home, at work and at the ballot box are essential. A structured overall picture of a complex world improves the quality of decision making and democracy. It also makes near future threats easier to comprehend.

Man and the Environment offers fresh perspectives from top experts on environmental topics and the responsibilities communities must shoulder.  The information presented enhances readers’ understanding about the causes of, impacts from and solutions to environmental problems, as well as offering answers to today’s burning environmental questions.

Man and the Environment (Sample–PDF)

The Future of the Baltic Sea by Saara Bäck et al.

Why is the Baltic Sea deteriorating? What is the value of the Baltic Sea? Why are international protection efforts for the Baltic Sea stumbling? What are the solutions for saving the Baltic Sea? These are the key questions of The Future of the Baltic Sea. Environmental protection is a challenging task: the problems surrounding the Baltic Sea are well known and its poor state is generally acknowledged, but there is still a lack of multidisciplinary scientific dialogue about means for protecting it. The Future of the Baltic Sea delves into these issues, presenting the views, opinions and values of researchers from various branches of science related to the Baltic Sea and what can be done to improve its state. It adds new perspectives and arguments to the discussion about how to improve the future outlook for the entire Baltic Sea area.

“The Baltic Sea is like a living creature with many legs that extends from the Scandinavian Mountains to the fells of Lapland, from Lentiira Village in North-Eastern Finland to the Czech Republic, from Belarus to Lake Onega. It has cleaned itself through evaporation or by leading its waters to the Atlantic Ocean to evaporate, from where they return to us as rain, clean from impurities that we have dumped into our water systems. Now its strength is clearly starting to falter.” – Antti Tuuri, bestselling author

The Future of the Baltic Sea (Sample–PDF)

Cuisine of the Islamic World by Helena Hallenberg & Irmeli Perho

Cuisine of the Islamic World provides a captivating look into one of humanity’s richest food cultures. The book describes how a cuisine that was initially quite simple developed into a sophisticated epicurism and how different foods and stimulants were used around Bedouin camp fires and at the tables of medieval rulers and are still used in modern meals, not to mention celebrations.

Cuisine of the Islamic World also explores the rainbow of food culture among Muslims in Finland, such as Tatars, Kurds and Somalis. Individual raw ingredients and whole dishes have spread across the globe through the Islamic nations: the best known stimulant, coffee, was first consumed by Sufi mystics. Included is a collection of recipes from nations as far-flung as Morocco and China that will entice the taste buds.

This book will be enjoyed by everyone who wants to understand the many different meanings and intercultural connections of Islamic cuisine–from lovers of gourmet delights to food industry professionals.

Cuisine of the Islamic World was awarded the Finnish Science Book of the Year award in 2010.   Quoting from the judging panel’s decision: “The book is an outstanding introduction to modern global history and develops both respect and curiosity in the reader towards Islamic culture and world views. And to top everything off, the end of the book includes a sizable collection of Islamic recipes, which will tempt readers to move from words to actions – i.e. to both cooking and cultural tourism.

Cuisine of the Islamic World (Sample–PDF)

Messages from the Islands by Ilkka Hanski

Messages from the Islands is a riveting account of the diversity of nature and how new species are born and why old ones disappear. Internationally renowned ecologist Ilkka Hanski ponders environmental changes from an illustrative, general knowledge perspective so the book is also suitable for readers who are not familiar with ecology. The book takes the reader to six islands, from the tiny Haminanluoto Island in the eastern Gulf of Finland to Greenland, the world’s largest island. The text is embellished by reminiscences of the young researcher’s thoughts and excitement. Why have large species been successful in nature in Finland? How did the Granville Fritillary butterfly from Åland become the model species for population ecology research? Why did researchers become interested in dung beetles from the rain forests of Borneo and Madagascar? What do fluctuations in lemming populations say about the stability of Greenland’s biological communities?

Messages from the Islands uses these examples to shed light on even bigger questions: Why do species change. What is the significance of habitat change, global warming and new species? The book helps the reader to understand why nature’s diversity is worth protecting.

Professor Ilkka Hanski leads a top unit in meta-population biology at the University of Helsinki. He is one of the most scientifically accomplished ecologists in the world and is one of Finland’s best known researchers. He previously authored a book entitled The Shrinking World: the Ecological Consequences of Habitat Loss (Excellence in Ecology 14, International Ecology Institute 2005). The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded Hanski the 2011 Crafoord Prize, also known as the “mini Nobel.”

Messages from the Islands (Sample–PDF)

On a Journey: The Martti Ahtisaari Story

The Ahtisaari Story by Katri Merikallio and Tapani Ruokanen

Otava, 2011

From Otava Foreign Rights:

The first authorised biography of the influential Finnish Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

How did a little boy who was evacuated during the war grow up to become the president of Finland, one of the most widely known Finnish decision-makers on the international stage and a leading global figure in crisis resolution? How has Martti Ahtisaari managed to get people to achieve peace, and what lies at the core of his approach? And where does this man, who turns 74 this year, plan to go from here?

This book includes Ahtisaari’s own thoughts on the various stages of his life, and the Nobel Peace Prize recipient’s own voice emerges clearly throughout the book. In the course of writing this book, the authors conducted interviews with Martti Ahtisaari himself. They also spoke to many key figures who have worked very closely with him, along with family members and friends from Finland and abroad. The result is a vivid, exciting and complex portrait of one of the great figures of our era.

Katri Merikallio is a journalist with Suomen Kuvalehti, a weekly news magazine. She is also the author of How to make peace: Ahtisaari and Aceh. Tapani Ruokanen is the author of numerous books and served as the editor-in-chief of Suomen Kuvalehti for many years.

An English sample is available

Nonfiction 2011

I recently completed a series of non-fiction samples as part of an initiative by the Finnish Literature Exchange FILI. See the FILI brochure about the project here.

From the brochure:

In Finland, over 3,000 non-fiction book titles are released by publishers each year, of which around 2,000 come under the category of general non-fiction. The total number of works published in Finland in 2009 that were designated as non-fiction books – a category which includes items as diverse as annual company reports and scientific publications – was around 8,000. The spectrum of non-fiction books is so broad because the category includes everything that is not classed as fiction. This is a very substantial quantity for a country with such a small number of people who speak its national languages. … The emphasis in non-fiction publishing is on domestic topics, but of course there are books written in Finland whose style and subject matter make them eminently suitable for translation into other languages. The brochure you are currently reading contains a selection of eight high-quality, very well-written general-interest non-fiction books that have been published in Finland in the last couple of years.

Here are short descriptions of the work I did for the project:

Vertiginous Heels: The Dangerous Allure of Luxury Shoes by Mirja Tervo

Vertiginous Heels: The Dangerous Allure of Luxury Shoes by Mirja Tervo

Atena Publishing

An anthropological investigation of the New York world of luxury high heels through the eyes of a Finnish scholar and shoe seller. Funny, touching, shocking. Why would anyone do that to her (or his) feet?

Who Owns Russia? The Dynamics of Ownership and Power in Russia by Arto Luukkanen

Who Owns Russia? The Dynamics of Ownership and Power in Russia by Arto Luukkanen

WSOY Publishing

The name says it all. Scholar Arto Luukkanen studies the central role of private property rights and corporate ownership in the control currently exercised by the securocratic regime of Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev in Russia, including the historical development of ownership rights.

Don't You Know Who I Am? The History of Arrogance by Ari Turunen

Don’t You Know Who I Am? The History of Arrogance by Ari Turunen

Atena Publishing

How do jerks end up with all the power and why can’t they ever seem to hold on to it? Simple: arrogance. If it isn’t killing your father and marrying your mother, it’s invading Russia late in the year.

Faberge's Finnish Masters by Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm

Faberge’s Finnish Masters by Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm

Tammi Publishing

Long-time expert on the Faberge phenomenon, author Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm reveals the role played by skilled Finnish artisans in the creation of the Faberge legend. “But my dear lady, without these jewels you will by like a cow without her bell!” Now there’s some true Savo wit for you.

Wolf Mass: The Civil War of the 1590's in Finland and Sweden by Mirkka Lappalainen

Wolf Mass: The Civil War of the 1590’s in Finland and Sweden by Mirkka Lappalainen

Siltala Publishing

Yeah, Finns have never been very good at being ruled or invaded by other nations. They tend to get a bit rowdy.


The Politics of Difference — Jyrki Lehtola

Chairman of the True Finns party Timo Soini at...
Homo sapiens populismus: Timo Soini of the True Finns Party. Image via Wikipedia
Illustration: Joonas Väänänen

My latest Jyrki Lehtola essay translation at Books from Finland:

Big electoral turnouts are generally considered a good thing. But, writes columnist Jyrki Lehtola, in Finland the fact that the vote went up in the last Finnish general election caused a revelation. Educated urbanites and the media (perhaps near enough the same thing), are shocked by how 20 per cent of their fellow Finns think – and the ramifications caused tremors all across Europe.

Read the essay.


Essays on Desire and Doubt / Halun ja epäluulon esseet

Essays on Desire and Doubt Cover
Essays on Desire and Doubt Cover
Essays on Desire and Doubt by Antti Nylén
Author Antti Nylén
Antti Nylén

From the Burning Bridge Literary Agency:

Antti Nylén (s.1973) is an essayist and translator specializing in 19th century French literature.  He has translated Baudelaire, Flaubert and J.K. Huysmans, among others. Nylén is a feminist, a devout Catholic, a vegan, a dandy, a father of two, and an exceptionally violent writer. He lives in Helsinki.

His first book, Vihan ja katkeruuden esseet (Essays on Anger and Bitterness, Savukeidas 2007) won the Kalevi Jäntti Prize for Literature in 2007 and was nominated for the Helsingin Sanomat Best Debut Book Award. In this polemical essay collection, Nylén writes about neckties, sex, crazy bitches, meat, pop, and God.

Antti Nylén’s second essay collection, Halun ja epäluulon esseet (Essays on Desire and Doubt, Savukeidas 2010) examines Nico, Morrissey, the possibility of being saved, buttocks, Robert Bresson, strange sensuality, religion and irreligiosity. The book received rave reviews and was nominated for the Runeberg Prize for Literature for 2010.

“Desire is pleasure in and of itself; need is a state of deprivation and distress.”

“Doubt is not-belief. Nonetheless, it is not a knowing. Doubt is a synonym for faith.”

Read the essay “On the Possiblity of Salvation” at Burning Bridge

About Essays on Desire and Doubt:

Antti Nylén’s second essay collection, Essays on Desire and Doubt, examines Nico, Morrissey, the possibility of being saved, buttocks, Robert Bresson, strange sensuality, religion and irreligiosity. These freely-meandering essays are often obstinate and always emotional.

“I hope that everyone who reads the book will become a vegetarian. And if ever before they’ve been hostile to Christianity, that they will think two friendly thoughts about it, about Jesus and the church,” Nylén has said in an interview (Uusimaa 17.1.2011).

Essays on Desire and Doubt received rave reviews and was nominated for the Runeberg Prize for Literature for 2010.

“Desire is pleasure in and of itself; need is a state of deprivation and distress.”

“Suspicion is not-belief. Nonetheless, it is not a knowing. Suspicion is a synonym for faith.”

Original title: Halun ja epäluulon esseet
Publisher: Savukeidas 2010, 393 pages
Cover design: Antti Eerikäinen

Even though this will not please everyone, after Antti Nylén’s second collection, Essays on Desire and Doubt, we are forced to admit that the young essayists at Savukeidas are writing the most interesting, intellectually challenging, sociophilosophically insightful literature being produced in Finland today
– Matti Mäkelä, Helsingin Sanomat newspaper

Even though Nylén shuns the irony characteristic of contemporary prose, his sentences exude laconic flair and black humor.
– Jussi Kaskinen, Etelä-Saimaa newspaper

The best thing in Nylén’s essays is that you can appreciate them even if you don’t agree with him. Books that make you want to fling them against the wall don’t come along very often.
– Marja Honkonen, Jyväskylän Ylioppilaslehti college newspaper

In recent decades the Finnish literature have been keeping their distance from Christianity. — – As a result, Essays on Desire and Doubt, by the versatile man of letters Antti Nylén, feels like the inauguration of a new epoch.
– Esko Miettinen, Sana Christian magazine

The power [of the essays] is in the ideas, in Nylén’s way of thinking differently than what we are used to. Essays offer something invigorating, comforting. They are invigorating. It isn’t true that there is nothing new under the sun. There is here.
– Lauri Linna, Scriptor

The Call of the Sagas / Saagojen kutsu

Pirius, 2010 (3rd Ed) by Pekka Piri

In 1994, Pekka Piri and Matti Pulli set out from Helsinki as skipper and navigator (respectively) of the FinnFaster, an open-top motor boat, on a daring attempt to reach Iceland. The Call of the Sagas chronicles not only their voyage across the cold northern seas, but also through the shoals and rocks of life. Their skills are tested. Their equipment is punished. Their endurance is pushed to the limit. In the end they do reach Iceland, but more importantly, they arrive as new men.

More information to come…

The Call of the Sagas at the YLE Living Archive (Finnish)

Pekka Piri


Are We Really Like This?

To be, or not, a true Finn? Illustration: Joonas Väänänen

A new article translation at Books from Finland on Finland’s answer to Sarah Palin.

Elections are coming: what will the vox populi, the voice of the people, dictate? And which people will be deciding Finland’s political future? As columnist Jyrki Lehtola reports, a political debate has arisen about the ‘right’ and the ‘wrong’ sort of pollster – and the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ kind of Finn.


What Grade is Your Kid in?

Illustration: Joonas Väänänen

Another article I translated for Books from Finland, this one from fall 2010.

Should a journalist show his hand? Columnist Jyrki Lehtola ponders the pros and cons of showing one’s true political colours.


Clearly Drunk / Selvästi juovuksissa

Otava, 2006

By Juhani Seppänen.

Helsingin Sanomat review

From the Otava 2006 Foreign Rights Catalog:

This book could change your attitude to alcohol – for good. The author spins the bottle and questions many of the things we take for granted about the demon drink, shaking up some long-held misconceptions.

Out of a population of around five million, Finland boasts around 500,000 “heavy users” of alcohol. Liquor is an everyday thing for increasing numbers of people, not to mention its use on festive occasions. Does the idea of a party with just a glass of water for company leave you shaken but not stirred?

Just who is dependent on alcohol? Is alcoholism a sickness, and where does the fault lie when the hard stuff leads people astray?

For Juhani Seppänen, who himself confesses to be among those heavy users, the idea of a year without a drink seemed impossible. He decided to try. The book tells what thoughts alcohol prompted in his mind. And how his “going dry” attempt fared.

As a health centre physician, Juhani Seppänen encounters on a daily basis people for whom alcohol has become a problem. Clearly Drunk passes on its lessons using the same cocktail of the amusing and the profound that was found in his earlier books And the First Word is “Daddy” (2000) and Working Like Mad (2004), both of which won attention, plaudits, and a host of enthusiastic readers.

Extract (PDF)

The Ahtisaari Legacy: Resolve and Negotiate

Tammi Publishers. 2008. 219 pages.
Finnish edited by Nina Suomalainen and Jyrki Karvinen
English edited by Owen F. Witesman
Translation by Marju Galitsos, David Hackston, and Setti Mulari.

This book was put together from essays by diplomats and public officials who have worked closely with former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari in the Balkans. When I was approached about the project by Tammi, I was busy with school, so I suggested something that is rather rare in the literary translation world: subcontracting. I put together a team of translators I knew I could trust and farmed the chapters out to them, with me acting as project manager and translation editor to ensure consistency in the translation. We did this on a very short time table (two weeks) in order to have the book ready for the ceremonies surrounding Mr. Ahtisaari’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Quoted here. bookstore listing

Sport in Antiquity / Antiikin urheilu

Atena 2004.

Sport in Antiquity: From the fields of Olympia to the arenas of Rome
Antiikin urheilu: Olympian kentiltä Rooman areenoille

From Sami Koski, Mika Rissanen & Juha Tahvanainen. Winner of the most prestigious prize for nonfiction in Finland, the Tieto-Finlandia Award (2005).

This gave me a rare chance to use my undergraduate minor in Latin! This is a generously illustrated, general audience description of sporting in the ancient world, including detailed descriptions of individual events in addition to discussion of the cultural and religious significance of physical contests.

Sport in Antiquity Sample (PDF)

Vox Bloody Populi

Illustration: Joonas Väänänen

Yet another old Books from Finland translation of a Jyrki Lehtola column.

How does it sound, the people’s voice? Loud and sometimes clear perhaps, but, as columnist Jyrki Lehtola finds, more often than not shrill and puerile.


Pleased to See Me?

Illustration: Joonas Väänänen

Last of my old Jyrki Lehtola translations for Books from Finland:

When the Finnish media developed a crush on the country’s foreign minister, writes Jyrki Lehtola, no one could foresee the consequences. Especially if the object of their affections might begin to believe what they say about him…