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A map creates a graphical representation of a particular area/region. To begin drawing (recording) on your map, simply select it, then begin moving around the terrain. It is held nice and low, so it won't obscure your view unless you look down.
The place at which the map is physically crafted will be treated as the center point on the map when you begin exploring. A map will only record the terrain while it is being held, and it will record a snapshot of the terrain as it exists when the area is explored.
The contents of the map corresponds to a particular area/region, not the players specific current location. Once you move off the area that the map is capable of recording (based on the zoom level and center point of the map), the map stops recording and it is necessary to create a new map.
There can only be 65,536 unique maps per world, and it will only record a topographic view of the map looking down from the sky.