The Best of the USGS
I love the United States Geological Survey. Their commitment to documenting the lands of the United States through their topographic maps and publications is unparalleled, creating great objects of cartography and graphic design. A 1955 circular from the USGS called "Features Shown on Topographic Maps", is among my favorite objects in my collection. It's a set of guidelines for their cartographers covering everything from typography to contour lines and beyond.
In a section towards the back there is a "Special selected list" of topographic maps.
"The quadrangle maps ... have been selected to illustrate the characteristic topography of the five major physiograpic regions of the United States"
This list represents some of the most beautiful maps I've seen from the agency and is the impetus for a new series of maps I'm publishing. This is ongoing, and I plan to add to the series until I've completed the list. Below are some of my favorites so far.