A Thing About Maps…

In the Fantasy Readings class last semester, the discussion came up about maps. It seems that most fantasy novels have some kind of map. Sometimes, there’s a motivating story purpose (like the map of the Lonely Mountain in The Hobbit), other times, it’s to show the scale of the world – or at least, the area of the world where the section of the story is taking place.

As a (formerly active) gamer and as a writerly person, I’ve developed an affinity for maps. Somewhere scattered through several boxes I have early dungeon designs, or sketches of islands in varying stages of development. I think there’s even a couple of really rough world maps in the mix.

Which is one reason I like about the future: things going digital. Google Maps, in a general sense, is awesome for getting a really basic idea for an area (especially zooming for street view). But what’s really cool, is archives. There’s a certain degree of happiness I get when I find digital copies of map archives available. 

 The National Library of Scotland’s Map Department is seven shades of awesomeness.

I stumbled (virtually) into their collection by way of the Glasgow Uni’s gift shop website, and was impressed. Enough so that I got copies of a few maps as source material for a novel that I have in mind. Then I found this over a tor.com, which made me think of the NLS as even more awesomer than I did before. Yeah, I’m claiming that as a word, deal with it. Anyway…

That link, references this site, which is worth cribbing a description from:

The National Library of Scotland’s Map Department, supported by David Rumsey, have taken some very high-resolution scans of the Ordnance Survey 1893-6 1:1056 (that’s 60 inches to the mile!) set of 500+ maps of London and, crucially, reorientated and stitched them together, so that they can be presented seamlessly (using OpenLayers) on top of a “standard” Google web map or OpenStreetMap, with the base map acting as a modern context.

And here’s a sample (from that same site):

 Excuse me,  I’ve got some maps to surf.

 Oh, but before I go… if you need more evidence for just why exactly that you should bookmark the NLS Map Department, if you’re into maps, check out this map of Edinburgh Castle. (And, if you’re interested, you can even order copies of maps…)

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