Physical mapping is a visualization displaying a precise relative positioning of physical elements to each other in space. Physical elements can represent landforms and terrain, but also imaginary boundaries and measurement systems like borders, zip codes, or longitude and latitude. The physical map is a dynamic form of visualization, lending itself to a wide variety of representations and data types, all with the common constraint of displaying their relative locations in physical space.
Due to the level of abstraction and scale associated with physical maps, they often require significant interpretation by the end user. Many maps are presented with a legend, which is a key that enables the user to see what a symbol, texture, or color's meaning is supposed to be. Physical mapping also requires precise proportions, which, before the invention of longitude and latitude, meant that many maps often over- or under-estimated the relative placement and sizes of landmasses, oceans, or other physical elements.
Early maps are difficult for modern users to parse, due to their lacking of features which we today take for granted. In the above example, the orientation is top-eastward, and all our maps are oriented top-north. Secondarily, there is no specification of the actual, physical form of the landmasses or bodies of water between them, resulting in a very simple geometric form. However, it is possible that the map's design is meant to be more evocative than accurate.
The most common world map uses what is termed a Mercator projection, which makes sure all parallels of latitude have the same length as the equator, allowing for more accurate measurement of distances on the map from north to south. However, it suffers from slight distortion of longitudinal meridians, meaning that it is still not "perfectly proportionally" representing the physical distance between any two east-west points.