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Jules Verne and His Geographical Novels

A portrait of Jules Verne.

Jules Verne from Around the World in Eighty Days. C. Scribner’s sons, 1906. General Collections, Library of Congress.

Jules Verne was a prolific writer. He is often referred to as the “father of science fiction.” Verne became famous for his Voyages Extraordinaires, a series of 54 novels that were originally published by the French publisher and author Pierre-Jules Hetzel. The most widely read novels from the series are Around the World in Eighty Days, Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Mysterious Island, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. In this post I am focusing on a few of the maps that are featured in his novels.

Jules Verne was born in Nantes, France in 1828. He was fascinated with geography throughout his life and was active in the French Geographical Society. Verne referred to his books as “geographical novels.” The novels in the Voyages Extraordinaires include numerous maps and panoramic views. The texts are filled with detailed geographical and geological descriptions. Note the following text about the course of the submarine Nautilus from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea:

In this open sea, the Nautilus had taken its course direct to the pole, without leaving the fifty-second meridian. From 67 degrees 30′ to 90 degrees, twenty-two degrees and a half of latitude remain to travel; that is, about five hundred leagues.

The following text is from Journey to the Center of the Earth. The main character, Axel Lindenbrock, identifies rock formations as he rappels down an inactive volcano:

I don’t suppose the maddest geologist under such circumstances would have studied the nature of the rocks that we were passing. I am sure I did trouble my head about them. Pliocene, miocene, eocene, cretaceous, jurassic, triassic, permian, carboniferous, devonian, silurian, or primitive was all one to me.

Dr. Terry Harpold, a professor at the University of Florida, is the author of the article Verne’s Cartographies. According to Dr. Harpold, Jules Verne closely supervised the drafting of many of the maps in his novels. Some of the maps were based on Verne’s own designs and sketches.

Below are images of a map of Florida and a panoramic view of Tampa-Town from Verne’s novel From the Earth to the Moon, Directly in 97 Hours and 20 Minutes. The story is about the Baltimore Gun Club’s attempt to launch three people to the moon in a projectile fired from a canon. The launching point is a place named Stone’s Hill located southeast of Tampa, Florida. The maps are from an early 1868 edition that was published by Pierre-Jules Hetzel.

A map of Florida.

Carte du Territoire de la Floride. De la terre à la lune, trajet direct en 97 heures 20 minutes . Published by Pierre-Jules Hetzel, 1868. Original held by the National Library of France. World Digital Library.

Below is the panoramic view of Tampa-Town (Tampa, Florida). Stone’s Hill is described as an ideal place for the launching point because of its arid and rocky nature.

A panoramic view of Tampa Florida.

Tampa-Town. De la terre à la lune, trajet direct en 97 heures 20 minutes . Published by Pierre-Jules Hetzel, 1868. Original held by the National Library of France. World Digital Library.

The three maps featured below are from translated editions of The Mysterious Island, The Adventures of Three Englishmen and Three Russians in Southern Africa, and Around the World in Eighty Days.

Verne’s novel The Mysterious Island is set during the Civil War. Five northern prisoners of war escaped from a Confederate prison in a hot air balloon. The men landed on a strange volcanic island in the southern Pacific. They named the island Lincoln in honor of Abraham Lincoln. Below is a map of the fictional Lincoln Island from an edition that was translated into Ottoman Turkish.

Map of an imaginary island.

Lincoln Island from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Bound with The Mysterious Island. Published by Mürettibiye Press and Jamal Efendi Press, 1887-1889. Original held by the Middle East Institute. World Digital Library.

The triangulation map below is from Verne’s novel The Adventures of Three Englishmen and three Russians in Southern Africa, a story about six scientists who traveled to South Africa to measure the 24th meridian east.

A map showing triangulation.

A triangulation map from The adventures of three Englishmen and three Russians in southern Africa. Published by Scribner, Armstrong & Co., 1874. General Collections, Library of Congress.

The route taken by the characters Phileas Fogg and Jean Passepartout as they traveled the world in eighty days is shown on the map below.

A map of the world that shows the route taken by the charachters in Around the World in Eighty Days.

Map to Accompany Around the World in Eighty Days. Published by University Publishing Co., 1898. General Collections, Library of Congress.

A print of a hot air balloon over an ocean.

Un drame dans les airs. Le docteur Ox, by Jules Verne. 1874. General Collections, Library of Congress.

Later in life Jules Verne suffered from poor health and financial difficulties. He continued to write until his death in 1905. His son, Michel Verne, managed the editing and publication of his final novels.

Today, Jules Verne’s novels have a great influence on popular culture; movies have been based on or inspired by his books. His novels are classics that continue to be widely read and researched. In this post I have featured  a few of the literary maps from his geographical novels.


Learn More:

Read about the maps that were included in the original editions of Jule’s Verne’s novels in Verne’s Cartographies by Terry Harpold  Science Fiction Studies, V. 32, Part 1, March 2005.

The Jules Verne Collection at the Library of Congress includes books, journals, plays and films.  Learn more about the collection in Voluminous Verne by Brian Taves.



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