Rebecca Onion posts at Slate about a map so gorgeous and interesting I can’t resist bringing it here:
John Wesley Powell, explorer, geologist, and scientist, produced this map while he was the head of the Bureau of American Ethnology, as part of an 1890 Annual Report. According to Powell’s description of the project, the map plotted “linguistic stocks of American Indians,” as they were situated “at the time when the tribes composing them first became known to the European.”
The map was a culmination of decades of work, Powell wrote in the section of the bureau’s 1891 annual report that described its provenance. “The writer’s interest in linguistic work and the inception of a plan for a linguistic classification of Indian languages date back about 20 years, to a time when he was engaged in explorations in the West,” Powell wrote […]
In his description of the map, Powell exuded scholarly modesty: “[The map] is to be regarded as tentative, setting forth in visible form the results of investigation up to the present time, as a guide and aid to future effort.” But the project was a big deal, writes historian Donald Worster in his biography of Powell: “The classification and map were Powell’s most important achievement as bureau director … and they set the standard for linguists well into the twentieth century.”
Take a look; I’m sure a lot of it is out of date (and I hope marie-lucie will weigh in), but it’s a feast for the eyes. Thanks, Trevor!