Some things never change. In 1891, as illustrated in a new 300-year cartographic history of Northern Virginia, a map was published with a note saying the area is becoming "more and more valuable for subdivision."

"The Cartography of Northern Virginia," just published by Fairfax County, includes other cartographic gems, such as a map by the region's first English explorer, Capt. John Smith, and a map of the then-new town of Alexandria drawn by a 17-year-old surveyor named George Washington.

Prepared by Richard W. Stephenson, a cartography teacher and a Fairfax resident, the book includes 122 maps, some of them fanciful projections, some of them drawn by Virginia's most famous sons and one of them sketched by an unknown Confederate soldier.

All the maps are facsimiles of originals in the custody of the Library of Congress, where Stephenson is in charge of the reference and bibliography section of the geography and map division.

One of the earliest maps, drawn by Englishman John Farrer (and published in 1667 by his daughter Virginia), appears to be the inspiration for the famous Saul Steinberg New Yorker cover showing New York separated from the Pacific Ocean by a relatively narrow, inconsequential stretch of land.

Farrer draws Virginia in great detail, dividing it from the Pacific Ocean by some inconsequential hills and valleys. The distance, the map notes, is only a "ten dayes (sic) march" from the James River.

The volume also contains a map of Alexandria drawn by George Washington, showing 84 lots on such familiar streets as Prince, Royal and Cameron.

Thomas Jefferson also makes a contribution. In his typical do-it-yourself style, Jefferson drew his own map for inclusion in his book, "Notes on the State of Virginia."

Among the many Civil War maps is an 1861 sketch of eastern Fairfax drawn by an unknown Confederate soldier in ink on tracing linen. It wrongly identified Hallowing Point as "Holland's Point," but then a current map of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority misidentifies nearby Hallowing Drive as "Halloween Drive."

An 1891 map in the newly published volume heralds a suburban real estate boom that continues to this day. In the spirit of contemporary ads that claim certain suburban localities are only "30 minutes from the White House," the map distorts the size of Wshington so that Falls Church seems to be about as close to the White House as Cleveland Park.

And just as the Falls Church area of today is promised a Metrorail station, prospective suburbanites were promised an electric trolley line in 1891.

The publisher of the new volume is the history and archeology section of the country's Office of Comprehensive Planning.

In 1978, the county government published a history of Fairfax that has become a relative best-seller, with 10,000 copies in circulation and a fourth printing ordered.

Stephenson, editor of the cartography book, said the idea for the history originated when Fairfax History Commission member Mayo S. Stuntz requested in 1972 information for a lecture on the early maps of Fairfax for a county-sponsored course he was teaching.

The finished atlas, bound by a soft cover but sewn for durability, costs $12.50 and is available at the Maps and Publications Center in the lobby of the Massey Building. To order a copy, call 691-2974.