Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mapping Imaginary Places

Today the Budza got out a series of maps he'd started drawing before school vacation week, in his after-school program. It's a continent-by-continent atlas of the planet Ravnica, which features in the evening storytelling between Bud and my husband. The evening routine consists of Bud reading his daily 20 minutes, then me reading a picturebook or two, or a chapter from something longer. Then my husband takes the next shift, and he and Bud take turns telling installments of various space operas and other flights of fancy.

Anyway, the maps he's drawn so far of the continents of Ravnica are quite elaborate. The maps are my favorite kind, with animals and fortresses pictured at a wacky outsized scale, as well as rivers and oceans. Details include lava monsters, gates made out of spiderwebs, and forests of evil tree folk.

I was reminded of another book up in the attic somewhere, that I need to bring down: The Dictionary of Imaginary Places by Alberto Manguel and Giani Guadalupi. You can page through maps of Wonderland, Oz, Middle Earth, Narnia, Earthsea and many terras far less cognita. In looking it up online, I discovered that after many print editions, it's now its own Wiki, which seems the perfect way for the meme of mapping the imaginary to spread to the furthest corners of the human imagination, like spiders ballooning with silk to colonize a volcanic island newly risen from the sea.

Then there's Storybook England, a website developed by the British tourist bureau. It's quite elaborate. There's an interactive map of England, and when you click on the name of your author, stars appear on the map. Click on those, and you zoom in to the locales of that author's books, and click again and a window pops up with information about the book. Really rather wonderful.

And for a real atlas of imaginary places, see this German website. And here a slightly obsessed Dutchman has posted scans of the maps from first French editions of Jules Verne, including this stunning map of Mysterious Island.

Obviously, I'm not done....more about imaginary places online in another post.


  1. Thank you for the fantastic links (no pun intended)... I got lost for a while in the German atlas, especially.

    I understand that the exhibit "Maps: Finding Our Place in the World," which is soon coming from Chicago to Baltimore, includes a number of imaginary maps, and that's what I'm looking forward to seeing the most!

  2. Radiogirl, I went to your blog and found your stuff at Etsy! Very nice! I need to post about maps again because I've only got started....LOL. Have much more to say. Cheers.