A Literary Map of the United Kingdom

A map that highlights A to Z rather than A to B 

Maps usually display only one layer of information. In most cases, they're limited to the topography, place names and traffic infrastructure of a certain region. True, this is very useful, and in all fairness quite often it's all we ask for. But to reduce cartography to a schematic of accessibility is to exclude the poetry of place. 


Or in this case, the poetry and prose of place. This literary map of the United Kingdom is composed of the names of 181 British writers, each positioned in parts of the country with which they are associated. 

This is not the best navigational tool imaginable. If you want to go from William Wordsworth to Alfred Tennyson, you could pass through Coleridge and Thomas Wyatt, slice through the Brontë sisters, step over Andrew Marvell and finally traverse Philip Larkin. All of which sounds kind of messy.

It's also rather limited. To reduce the whole literary history of Britain to nine score and one writers can only be done by the exclusion of many other, at least equally worthy contributors to the country's literary landscape. But completeness is not the point of this map: it is not an instrument for literary-historical navigation either. Its main purpose is sheer cartographic joy.  

An added bonus is that we're able to geo-locate some of English literature's best-known names. Seamus Heaney is about as Irish as a pint of Guinness for breakfast on March 17th, but it's a bit of a surprise to see C.S. Lewis placed in Northern Ireland as well. The writer of the Narnia saga is closely associated with Oxford, but was indeed born and raised in Belfast. 

Thomas Hardy's name fills out an area close to Wessex, the fictional west country where much of his stories are set. London is occupied by Ben Jonson and John Donne, among others. Hanging around the capital are Geoffrey Chaucer, who was born there, and Christopher Marlowe, a native of Canterbury. The Isle of Wight is formed by the names of David Gascoyne, the surrealist poet, and John Keats, the romantic poet. Neither was born on the island, but both spent some time there.

It's funny to see the Brontë sisters, wedged in a part of their Yorkshire, so far apart from Jane Austen, a Hampshire lass. These ladies are lumped together on many a reading list and in quite a few libraries. A unique place on the map is reserved for Bram Stoker: born in Dublin, he worked and died in London. He is depicted as approaching the English coast near Whitby - a reference to the ship the Demeter, which runs aground there in his best-known book, Dracula.

Many thanks to all who sent in this map, not in the least Geoff Sawers, who made it and admits to "shameless self-promotion" by sending it in. Which we are more than willing to overlook in the case of this beautiful work. Original context for the map here at the Literary Gift Company.

Strange Maps #565

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less

Study: Taking a break – even for 10 seconds – helps your brain learn

You wouldn't think even a 10-second break would help, but it does.

Mind & Brain
  • A study finds that even short breaks help you solidify new learning.
  • In a way, learning really only happens during your breaks.
  • For the most effective learning sessions, build-in short rest periods.
Keep reading Show less

5 of Albert Einstein's favorite books

Some books had a profound influence on Einstein's thinking and theories.

Getty Images
Culture & Religion
  • Einstein had a large library and was a voracious reader.
  • The famous physicist admitted that some books influenced his thinking.
  • The books he preferred were mostly philosophical and scientific in nature.
Keep reading Show less
Culture & Religion

The concept of access regardless of land ownership is called 'Allemansrätt' - 'everyman's right'.

Keep reading Show less