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Imaginary Maps in Literature and Beyond: Conclusion

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This blog post is part of a summer series on imaginary maps, written by Hannah Stahl, a former Library Technician in the Geography & Map Division. Read the introductory post to the series here.

During this summer we’ve entered the mindsets of readers from the Middle Ages, traveled with Frodo and Sam through Mordor, visited the worlds of our favorite children’s stories, and sailed the high seas with map monsters. While entertaining, I hope, was there a point to all of it? To illustrate that while maps are generally used for navigation and scientific purposes, they’re not exclusively for scientists or those lost on the highway. Maps are for everyone. You just have to find the map that shows the information you’re interested in.

If you were to visit the Geography and Map Division in person or online, how could you find this information?

The Library of Congress classification system has a range of call numbers reserved for maps of imaginary places: G9930-G9979. This is a good place to start if you want a comprehensive look at all imaginary maps in our collection, particularly if you are looking for maps in person in the Geography and Map Division, or if you’re not sure if a map is imaginary or not. Check the call number!

If you want to take a look at maps we have online, type “imaginary places” into the search bar on the Library of Congress website while limiting the search to maps. This will bring up all of the maps of imaginary places that the Geography and Map Division has cataloged.

Start by clicking on “All Formats,” then select “Maps.”

Library of Congress Website Maps
Library of Congress webpage, selecting “Maps.” Screenshot from Hannah Stahl, Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Once you’ve set the format to “Maps,” type in “imaginary place” into the search bar and click “GO.”

Maps search interface
Search interface for maps within Library of Congress website. Screenshot from Hannah Stahl, Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Feel like getting into the nitty gritty of the research process? Try searching our Ethel M. Fair Collection finding aid. The Ethel M. Fair Collection features over 800 pictorial maps of all different kinds of places, including imaginary ones. The Anciente Mappe of Fairyland is one example of an imaginary map from this collection.

Anciente Mappe of Fairyland
“Anciente Mappe of Fairyland” by Bernard Sleigh. 1920. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.
Anciente Mappe of Fairyland Detail
Detail from “Anciente Mappe of Fairyland” by Bernard Sleigh. 1920. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

If these research methods fail you in finding a map with the information you’re looking for, the next step is to try books. The Geography and Map Division has a large atlas collection. Many of these atlases feature maps of imaginary places. A few are pictured below:

Books in Atlas Collection
A few books from our Atlas Collection: The Lands of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin (maps by Jonathan Roberts); Literary Maps for Young Adult Literature by Mary Ellen Snodgrass (maps by Raymond M. Barnett, Jr.); The Maps of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth by Brian Sibley (maps by John Howe).

Another place to try searching for maps of imaginary places in the Geography and Map Division is in our reference collection. Located in the Division’s Reading Room, this collection contains scholarly texts that examine various aspects of cartography and geography. Because they are in the reading room, visitors to the division can peruse this collection for themselves. Personally, I found the reference collection very useful in writing this series.

Reference Collection Books
A few books from our Reference Collection: Language of the Land: The Library of Congress Book of Literary Maps by Martha Hopkins and Michael Buscher (Library of Congress); Maps: Finding Our Place in the World edited by James R. Akerman and Robert W. Karrow, Jr.; Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps by Chet Van Duzer; Maps and Monsters in Medieval England by Asa Simon Mittman.

After you’ve explored all of the resources in the Geography and Map Division, you may want to try other places in the Library of Congress. The Prints and Photographs Division has the map of Dante’s Hell that was featured in previous posts.

Dante Inferno
“The Inferno according to Dante.” 15th Century. B&W photographic reproduction. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

The General Collections at the Library of Congress hold titles such as A Game of Thrones and The Lord of The Rings that have accompanying maps. In addition, one can usually find reference works that contain articles or paragraphs relating to various versions of well-known imaginary maps. Two examples of this include The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien and The Annotated Hobbit.

Books Containing Imaginary maps
Books containing imaginary maps or references to well-known imaginary maps from the General Collections: The Annotated Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (annotated by Douglas A. Anderson); The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien by J.R.R. Tolkien (Edited by Humphrey Carpenter with the assistance of Christopher Tolkien); The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull; A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin; and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

These are all of the techniques that I know to locate imaginary maps in the Library of Congress. I hope that this post and previous posts in the series have sparked your interest in not only imaginary maps, but maps of all kinds. Remember, maps are not just for scientists. It was a pleasure writing this series, and I wish you all of the best in your travels and research of imaginary maps and beyond!

Comments (2)

  1. Thank you for a summer of fun. I’ve spent many an hour flipping back to the map in a good book, this series fostered many great memories.

  2. Thank you so much for this wonderful summer blog series, and especially for this entry with the helpful search suggestions. I just discovered the Library of Congress maps blog a few months ago and find it endlessly fascinating.

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