Map of the Month: June 2024

Published June 3, 2024
Updated June 4, 2024

Our previous Map of the Month (April 2024) came with a surprise, as it was hiding a secret. This month, let’s explore the mystery found hiding underneath the canvas backing of the previous map. It can be seen faintly in the image below, but it’s an entirely different map!

The map hidden behind canvas is actually a World War II-era topographic map published by the U.S.  Army Map Service. It’s Sheet 82 of the 1:200,000 series of Algeria topographic maps, Touggourt. It appears to be printed in 1942 or 1943, but it’s hard to say for sure without compromising the protection of the Euphrates Valley map.

The reverse side of the previous map of the month. An entirely different map can be faintly seen through the beige canvas.
It’s faint, but the title can be made out surprisingly clearly at the top-center.

As luck would have it, the Map and Geospatial Hub has another printing of that map in our collection: 

A Topographic map of the deserts in Algeria to be used by the allies in the second world war. It has grid markings in purple and a very expansive legend on the right-hand margins.
The Library’s copy of Touggourt.

Here they are side-by-side:

The two maps side-by-side. The canvas-covered version is on the left, with the normal one on the right
The two images have been cropped to have nearly identical margins.

Here’s a close-up comparison of the title:

The title of the two maps compared, showing them being exactly the same.
Our two Touggourts.

The maps are nearly identical but do share a few differences. The one in the Map and Geospatial Hub collection was printed by the British and has an additional purple grid included. The canvased version is actually a U.S. Army reprint of the map, which makes sense as the Euphrates map was in the U.S. Army Map Library Collection before it made its way to us. The discerning feature is a very small piece of data that is nearly illegible beneath the canvas: an Army Map Service print date. 

A visualization of the comparison between the hidden canvas text with an unobstructed version laid above it.
A print date found on another map in our collection compared to the hidden map. While being behind canvas renders it nearly illegible, the spacing matches up perfectly. It’s surprisingly easier to make it out in-person.

Oddly enough, the canvas backing is almost the exact same size as the topo, but whoever did it decided to cut an inch or two off the bottom of the map. Seeing how it was likely surplus after the end of the war, it was probably chosen at random to be recycled in a manner that allows it to be preserved and protected (albeit hidden away) as opposed to being turned into scrap paper.

We hope you enjoyed our May 2024 Map of the Month!

Title: Algeria 1:200,000 Series. Sheet 82: Touggourt.

Date: 1942
Author: Geographical Section, General Staff
Publisher: War Office, United Kingdom
Canvas Map Publisher: U.S. Army Map Service

As with all of our Map of the Month features, students, faculty or visitors are welcome to request a scanned copy of this map. Please submit a Map and Geo Service Request and we’ll be sure to get back to you within two business days, but typically sooner.

    -Eric Friesenhahn, Map and GIS Specialist