While many of the over six million maps in the Geography and Map Division are of a serious nature, there are also those meant to amuse the viewer. There is one such atlas in the collection titled Geographical fun : being humourous outlines of various countries, with an introduction and descriptive lines. Published in 1868, its purpose was to instruct children on the shape of various countries in a memorable way, such as the map of England below.The twelve maps contained in the atlas were based on pictures drawn by Lilian Lancaster, a fifteen year old young woman, created to amuse and entertain her sick brother. Lilian went on to have a very successful stage career, but eventually returned to illustration under her married name, L. Tennant. The author of the atlas, Dr. William Harvey, a journalist and antiquary, added a humorous rhyme to accompany each of Lancaster’s illustrations, like the one of Germany below.
Dr. Harvey, writing under the pseudonym “Aleph,” described his intention in creating the atlas in his introduction:
Lo! studious Germany, in her delight
At coming glories, shewn by second sight,
And on her visioned future proudly glancing,
Her joy expresses by a lady dancing.
It is believed that these illustrations of Geography may be rendered educational, and prove of service to young scholars, who commonly think Globes and Maps but wearisome aids to knowledge. If these geographical puzzles excite the mirth of children, the amusement of the moment may lead to the profitable curiosity of youthful students and embue the mind with a healthful taste for foreign lands.
Though drawn 150 years ago, the now digitized atlas still fulfills its intended role by providing young scholars of today with a love for maps and geography while promoting creative learning. The entire Geographical Fun atlas can be viewed on the Library’s website here.