Steven Horowitz with a framed map
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Steven Horowitz ’62, with a representative of the donated collection that he says demonstrates the greatest cartographic mistake ever made, that of picturing California as an island.
The Ancient World, Revealed
Donation of historic maps will provide classroom and research opportunities
by Brooke Thames

teven Horowitz ’62’s fascination with maps began in the front seat of his father’s car. Growing up in the 1950s, the New York City native often sat up front on long drives through the mountains while vacationing in the Catskills — his parents on either side of him, a roadmap on his lap.

Map from 1746 showing the Colorado River making a “left” turn
Photos: Steven Horowitz ’62
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This map, which Steven Horowitz ’62 donated to Bucknell, is from 1746 and shows the Colorado River making a “left” turn. That’s because the cartographers at the time were not sure if California was an island or not, he says.
The inspiration to become a map collector came decades later, when Horowitz moseyed into a map store on a whim during a business trip. What he saw instantly excited him.

“I was amazed by how decorative and informative these historical maps were,” says Horowitz, a retired neurologist now residing in Maine. “When I walked out of the store, I had this epiphany that I was going to start acquiring them.”

What began as a childhood interest has since grown into a collection of more than 100 historical maps, some dating as far back as the 16th century. Last fall, Horowitz gifted 33 of them to Bucknell for use in history and geography classes.

“I was very fortunate to take all kinds of courses at Bucknell that expanded my view of the world,” says Horowitz, who majored in psychology. “It’s great to be able to give something useful back.”

Included in the donation is the first piece Horowitz purchased as a novice collector: a 1746 rendering of the Americas in which California is drawn as an island. It’s the kind of error that’s all too common in maps that were produced when half of the Earth was largely uncharted. But that’s precisely what gives them value, especially in the classroom, Horowitz says.

“These imperfections give us an idea of how people thought about the world and how they represented places that were unknown to everyone around them,” he explains. “And we’re not talking about a week, we’re talking about hundreds of years.”

The Bucknell collection consists of maps produced between the late 1500s and mid-1830s. Nearly a third of them are bird’s-eye views of cities across the globe, from Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, to Avignon in the south of France. These maps — several of which originated from an atlas published in 1572 — not only give students a glimpse of how major cities once looked, but also an understanding of what past civilizations valued most.

A 1570s depiction of Cusco, Peru (the former capital of the Inca empire), shows the emperor being carried past the city in an ornately decorated throne-like chair, flanked by spear-wielding guards. Another 16th-century illustration of a Dutch city emphasizes the abbey, which is scaled several times larger than the surrounding homes and other official buildings.

“It’s more than a map when you really look at it — it’s a representation of what life, politics, religion and culture were like during those times,” Horowitz says. “From that perspective, I hope these kinds of documents will be of great value to current students.”

The donation has already created a learning opportunity for Ryan Bremer ’22, who’s building a website where the maps will be catalogued. The catalog will group the maps by period, region and the atlases from which they originated and will also provide links to digitized versions. Once complete, the resource will be available to students and professors for coursework and research.

Bremer got involved with the catalog through Professor Claire Campbell, history, who launched the project in collaboration with Bucknell’s Ellen Clarke Bertrand Library.

“As someone who likes to study visuals, I’ve always been interested in maps as ways to depict information,” says Bremer, who’s pursuing a double major in history and English — film/media studies. “This project has helped me develop a deeper appreciation for the history of mapmaking, especially the artistry that went into it.”

It’s also given the New Jersey native an opportunity to blend the skills he’s honing in his film and history courses. In writing descriptions for the website, Bremer says he likes to look at the maps like frames in a film, with the cartographer serving as director.

“Every illustration that’s included in the frame says something about the creator and audience,” he explains. “It’s been amazing to learn so much about these different time periods that way.”

For Horowitz, giving back to Bucknell is more than an opportunity to support current students — it’s also a way to honor those who set him up for success. After earning his medical degree, Horowitz went on to teach neurology at six medical schools, including the University of Missouri School of Medicine, where he served as chief of neurology. He credits much of that achievement to the many mentors he found at Bucknell.

“There were so many faculty in different departments — from philosophy and psychology to religion — that gave me opportunities to be intellectually inquisitive,” says Horowitz, who continues to teach part time at Tufts University. “I wanted to give back to the small liberal arts school where I was able to take advantage of such a special educational experience.”