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Strange Maps

Lewis Carroll’s Map of Nothing

A perfect and absolute blank

This map is an illustration in ‘The Hunting of the Snark (An Agony in 8 Fits)‘, a nonsensical and somewhat grim poem by Lewis Carroll, who is better known for ‘Alice in Wonderland’. All the illustrations in ‘Snark’, first published in 1876, are by Henry Holiday, who is therefore often supposed also to be the author of this map. However, that is most probably wrong (*).

The map is an Ocean Chart owned by the Bellman, one of the main characters in the book. It helps the Bellman and his fellow adventurers, who are hunting for a legendary beast called the Snark, to cross the ocean and arrive at a strange land. The absurdity of the map is that it only shows ocean, literally illustrating nothing, and therefore cannot be a very helpful navigating tool. Here’s an extract from ‘Snark’ relating to said map:

He had bought a large map representing the sea,Without the least vestige of land:And the crew were much pleased when they found it to beA map they could all understand.

“What’s the good of Mercator’s North Poles and Equators,Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?”So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply“They are merely conventional signs!

“Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!But we’ve got our brave Captain to thank:(So the crew would protest) “that he’s bought us the best—A perfect and absolute blank!”

Strange Maps #93

Got a strange map? Let me know at [email protected].

*: Many thanks to Goetz Kluge for pointing out this source (19 Aug 2021).


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