Saturday, 13 May 2017

The Dictionary of Imaginary Places

During my recent rip to the local Royal Mail delivery office to collect my second copy TRAVEL BATTLE, I also collected a parcel from Germany that contained a copy of THE DICTIONARY OF IMAGINARY PLACES.


I had read a short review of this book online, and decided that for someone like me who has an interest in imagi-nations, it was an absolute 'must have'. My copy is 755 pages long, was published in 2000 by Turtleback Books (ISBN 978 0 613 56311 6), and was compiled by Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi. I opted for the edition that was produced in what is termed 'School and Library Binding' as this is a big book and I wanted to make sure that I would never have any problems with it falling apart over years to come.

As to the content ... well as one would expect, many famous imaginary places are included within its pages (e.g. Ruritania, Nania, Middle Earth, Earthsea, Hogwarts, Utopia, Atlantis, Arkham) and some that are by no means as well known (e.g. Cacklogallinia, the island in the Caribbean). What is also interesting is what is missing. This list includes such places as:
  • Graustark, and its neighbours Axphain and Dawsbergen (as featured in the GRAUSTARK novels by George Barr McCutcheon)
  • Borduria, Syldavia, San Theodoros, and Nuevo Rico (as featured in the Tintin books by Herge)
  • Costaguana and Sulaco (as featured in Joseph Conrad's NOSTROMO)
  • Eastasia, Eurasia, and Oceania (as featured in George Orwell's 1984)
  • Maltovia and Lovitzna (as featured in Captain W E John's book BIGGLES GOES TO WAR)
  • Melniboné (as featured in Michael Moorcock's ETERNAL CHAMPION stories)
  • The nations of Hyboria (as featured in Robert E Howard's many stories)
  • Barsoom (as featured in the science fiction stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs)
  • Laurania (as featured in Winston S Churchill's only novel, SAVROLA)
Bearing in mind the date of the book's publication, it is less surprising to see that George R R Martin's Westeros doesn't seem to get an entry, but I would have thought that Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld's Ankh-Morpork might have done.

The big plus this book has for me is its maps. There are 150 of them, all drawn in black and white and all full of potential inspiration for the users of imagi-nations! One map in particular caught my eye. It was of the Karain Continent, which was situated in the South Pacific. Most of the coastal areas were under the control of the British, French and Germans, but the remainder was an independent nation populated by different tribal groups. It all sounded very reminiscent of Eric Knowles's MADASAHATTA, a place that I know well from the year-long campaign he ran – and I took part in – many years ago.

10 comments:

  1. This title has always interested me but I’ve so far refrained from adding it to my already overflowing bookshelves. You make me think that I should change my mind.

    As for Barsoom and Discworld, Wikipedia says “To remain of manageable size, the Dictionary excludes places that are off the planet Earth (eliminating many science fiction locales), as well as "heavens and hells and places of the future," and literary pseudonyms for existing places”. This seems reasonable as I’m sure I could easily fill a similarly sized volume with off world sites just from the SF on my shelves. However, no Conan is a strange failing – we are hardly talking literary pseudonyms here which one could just about claim for 1984 - and if John Carter doesn’t make it do we at least get Tarzan?

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    1. Mike Hall,

      It is turning into a book that I have next to my chair, and every time I have a spare few minutes, I delve into it.

      Whilst I understand the need to keep the number of entries - and thus the book's size - within reason, I included the list of places that I noticed were not in the book for the information of possible purchasers. That said, some of the omissions do not make sense to me as I feel that they fall within the remit of the book and should have been included.

      Tarzan does get mentioned in several references, so not all of Edgar Rice Burroughs fiction has been ignored.

      My copy was quite expensive because of its binding, but I understand that less expensive editions are available for sale.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. Bob,

      Having just done some web searches I can see what you mean by "quite expensive" but my impression is that going for some of the cheaper offers has the danger that you might get an earlier edition. The paperback of the latest edition is sufficiently costly that I'm sure that you've made the right choice in going for the greater durability of the hardback.

      All this reading on the web - plus your recommendation - have had their inevitable effect and a copy is even now on its way to me!

      Delete
    3. Mike Hall,

      I think that you have made a wise choice, and I hope that you enjoy your copy as much as I am enjoying mine.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. Bob,
    Even with the said missing lands - this looks and sounds to be a most interesting book...I'm a bit of a Hobbit - liking a good map and such - of far away places - and lands to dream about. A great way to spend your time. Cheers. KEV.

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    Replies
    1. Kev Robertson,

      It is an excellent book, and in my opinion it was certainly worth what I paid for it.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  3. Certainly worth going for a version, so I've simply gone for a cheap second hand reading copy - looks interesting and this option should meet my needs. So that's another sale from this blog!

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    1. Rob Young,

      I hope that you enjoy your copy as much as I am enjoying my copy of this book. I am finding it absolutely fascinating.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  4. A book I've always fancied getting...I'm very envious!!!

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    Replies
    1. Alastair,

      Perhaps you could borrow this book from your local library, and if you find it as compulsive a read as I am, you might consider buying a copy for yourself.

      All the best,

      Bob

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