Inspiring Objects: Old Maps

You pick up the thick scroll, edges worn and frayed with age, and unfurl it with care. Paper crackles, and the scent of must tickles your nose. You spread it flat across a table and find before you a new world, one oddly familiar, but with just enough elements of the fantastic to pique interest. You’ve discovered an old map, one that once held secrets of uncharted realms…

I find reams of intrigue and inspiration in old maps of our world, meant to be accurate in depicting the nations of the earth, but often leaping off into realms of fancy that include sea serpents, monsters, strange boundary lines, and imagined nations yet to be explored. Drawn with care, these maps resemble works of art in themselves.

Like the famous Carta Marina (zoom in) drawn in the 1500s, showing a variety of dangers lurking in the seas…and a most unusual structure of the world:

Another map from this era similarly depicts the hazards of the sea, this one in the region surrounding Iceland:

This map may win top  award for the most creative restructuring of the world:

For the same reason I like old maps of our world, I enjoy maps of fantasy realms. It adds a bit of richness by helping the reader envision the story-world. I’m curious what you think. Do you prefer a map included or not? Do you refer to maps as you read the story?

For writers: Do you find inspiration in unusual places, such as old maps? Have you drawn on real-world geography to help you shape your world?

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3 Responses to Inspiring Objects: Old Maps

  1. Ethan Trelawney says:

    I love maps in books! (Especially my own.) 😀

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      I’ve found that a good map helps story logistics immensely! So I appreciate them both when it comes to reading a story and writing one. 🙂

  2. H says:

    I refer to maps a lot, especially in books like The Hobbit.

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