The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths, Lies and Blunders on Maps

Chronicle. Apr. 2018. 256p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781452168401. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781452168449. GEOG
In this atlas of the world "as it was thought to be," cartophile Brooke-Hitching documents the persistence of fictitious places—Sandy Island in the eastern Coral Sea, for example, "existed" a full seven years after the launch of Google Maps. Early ghost places are understandable, explains the author—maps exaggerating the might of God's creation were common in the Middle Ages, for instance, and the dearth of accurate instruments on early ships are another culprit, as sailors often took mirages or clouds as landforms. Maps showing such intentional or accidental slips are apparently legion, and 58 of them, marking well-known "places" such as Atlantis as well as real locations that were mapped incorrectly ("Korea as an Island") are reproduced in color here, with the mistake (or wholesale fabrication) outlined in a few absorbing pages per entry. Additional images provide magnified views of portions of maps and period paintings, engravings, etc. The images are small, sometimes making map labels illegible, though as this is more a browsing item than a scholarly one, it is still suitable as a library purchase.
VERDICT An intriguing look at how maps can shape our worldview; optional for history collections.
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