If you read Anne Rooney's fascinating post yesterday about researching for historical non-fiction and fiction, you'll want to enter our competition with a chance to win one of five copies of The Story of Maps. Just answer the following question:
"Is there a map or atlas that has meant a lot to you, led you astray, or inspired you? Describe it and its impact in the comments below."
Then copy your answer to email@example.com so you can be contacted if you win.
Closing date 7th December
Our competitions are open to UK Followers only.
Many years ago we purchased a European Rail Map and an International Timetable (a single thick book!). Having the whole of Europe laid out on a single folded sheet made it all look possible by train. We picked random and famous named places and crossed southern Europe with a bag of clothes and a tent. What we didn't realise was that although the rail map showed all routes with equal clarity, the actual rail tracks and stations varied hugely from grand international hubs to the more local. Many a time we disembarked in the middle of the night (European trains romantically cross vast distances at all times of night and day) at a station consisting of a ticket hut and wooden slats as the platform. Most memorable were the people going about their lives at these stations, whether stroppy soldiers on troop movement across Yugoslavia, or locals hauling crates of chickens and bags of goods onto the trains or sitting in pavement cafes and stopping to 'chat' with us.
I have always found maps fascinating, and loved when authors included maps in their books. The hours I spent poring over maps of Narnia, Middle-Earth and Gont, and the maps of travels in books of exploration and history were always so pleasurable. But the greatest - I hesitate to say time waster, because as Bertrand Russell said "the time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time" - pleasure is definitely the Times Atlas of Archaeology. Get it out to look up a reference to say Ancient Thebes and several hours later I will still be there having moved from Egypt to Greece, been reminded of a link to say Constantinople and quite probably moved through Asia and South America as well as one thing led to another.
Books about maps and map making are very nearly as fascinating with the light they shed on life and attitudes at the time the maps were being made.
I have two maps that took me on great adventures, the first was a copy of the Hobbit, the map in the front, with mountains, woods and monsters, with a wide open very Devon like landscape to me that I could wander the Devon fields and woods dreaming about going on adventures with Dwarves and Hobbits, chasing giant spiders and riding barrels (well barrel shaped ponies so almost) My childhood world had monsters and hero's, journeys and adventures round every corner. I rarely spent the whole day in the real world, and I wandered the map for years until I finally encountered the Lord of the rings and a bigger map!
But the second map of my dreams was one that is much more simple and basic to most. I went as a student to west London and found out that buying a monthly pass on the public transport got me to uni and back all week and on the week end I could go anywhere, the underground map was my passport to places I had only read about, dreamed about, my passport to china (town) and India (southall) and many more countries without needing my passport in hand with just a ticket. I went round the tourist sites, and the non-tourist sites, I found the green spaces of forgotten parks and squares, the back streets that could be almost Victorian and the areas all new after the second world war. I saw the Model of Saint Paul's made to showcase Wrens great design, Eel Pie Island, Richmond park and bethnal green. Even now more than two decades after I left the city I still get a feeling of excitement when I see the tube map and read the names, even when some have changed or gone. As a note I might add I get claustrophobia and often watching the names and working out the stops and what was above at street level was the only way I got by, and do not even mention Covent Garden exit! Lifts... (shudder)
Maps of places that are real or imaginary all ow you to dream and walk distant paths in your mind and both of these still allow me to dream today.
Now look what you've done! Thinking about maps made me seek out my treasured map of Ankh-Morpork, and before I knew it hours had passed. All those twisty-turny little streets with the witty names . . . the sites of some of Pratchett's funniest scenes (The Shades! The Street of Cunning Artificers!) . . . and all those family coats of arms round the edge. What else could the Guild of Fools and Joculators have as a motto but Dico Dico Dico? I feel a binge-read coming on.
My favourite fantasy map is the map of Earthsea in 'The Chronicles of Earthsea' books, I love the detail of the coastlines, and the little decorative touches like the whales (I am terrible at map-reading, so like islands, which are easy to understand), I I love that it is a map of a world that I realise new things about, each tie I read the books.
In real life, I love the Matthew Paris Map of the British Islands, which lives in the British Library, because it's so beautiful, and it's so impressive that it lasted so long, and I have a very soft spot for the little pictures of castles. And it allows so much scope for imagination, being so unlike a modern map.
Because I am so bad at map reading, I like maps which are art.
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