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Frank Jacobs

Journalist, writer, and blogger

Frank Jacobs is Big Think's "Strange Maps" columnist.

From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.

While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.

"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".

A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.

strange maps

A British map, I presume, made between 1937 and 1940, showing the German plans for the conquest of Europe “revealed by Secret Nazi Map” – I don’t know if that […]
Although you probably instantly recognise its shape on a map, you may be forgiven for never having heard of Jutland. This northern European peninsula is not an independent entitiy: it’s […]
In 1849, the Mormons who had recently settled the Wild West near the Great Salt Lake, ‘proposed’ the state of Deseret. It’s not clear to me whether this ‘proposal’ equalled […]
This map illustrates the ‘Totem Foods’ of North America, celebrating “the many distinctive regional food traditions on the North American continent by featuring a totem food key to the identity of […]
The application of the suffix -stan (Persian for ‘home’) generally refers to countries in central Asia – in fact, the formerly Soviet states that occupy Central Asia are sometimes referred […]
The The once sang about Great Britain being the ’51st State of the USA’ – a comment on the culture and foreign policy of the United Kingdom, which were then […]
Beyond the pale is an English expression for anything beyond the limits of the law or of accepted morality. The aforementioned ‘pale’, far from being a symbolic separator, at one time […]
Finland gained independence from Russia right after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. A civil war ensued, along the lines of the post-revolution conflict in Russia itself: ‘Reds’ against ‘Whites’. The […]
Funny how something as arbitrary as map orientation can skew the perception of countries. On this map, from the vaults of the  Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection at the University of […]
I don’t remember where I got this map from, but the context seems quite straightforward. The two figures in the foreground are saying “ein Geschwür!” (literally: “an ulcer”) and “Da […]
‘Volkstaat’ is Afrikaans for People’s state – the people in this case being the white South Africans who identify themselves as ‘Afrikaners’ (mainly descendents of Dutch settlers, speaking a language […]