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