Pinsonia, An Imaginary Province of Brazil
Nobody knows why a map of Pinsonia was included in an otherwise accurate atlas
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.
Cândido Mendes de Almeida (1818-1881) was a Brazilian journalist, politician and author who in 1873 published the Atlas do Império do Brasil (‘Atlas of the Brazilian Empire’).
Included in that atlas is this map of the province of Pinsonia. But at the time there was no such state. And whether Mendes de Almeida’s map was a serious proposal or merely fanciful, such a province hasn’t materialized yet.
In this map, Pinsonia occupies the northern part of the present-day state of Pará, where the Amazonian rainforest meets the Atlantic Ocean. It borders French Guyana, which lies to the west of its northernmost extremity.
“The idea of creating Provinces in the Amazon was not strange at that time (or even today),” writes professor Leonardo Monasterio, who sent me this map. “In 1876, Colonel Fausto de Souza proposed dividing Brazil into 40 Provinces, and Pinsonia would have been one of them.”
Mr Monasterio is Brazilian himself, but unfortunately can’t provide any further background. In fact, he’s a bit puzzled by the inclusion of this fictional state in Mendes de Almeida’s atlas, which otherwise enjoys a reputation for accuracy. Anybody who can provide some more information on Pinsonia is more than welcome to do so.
Strange Maps #150
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.