PAPER TOWNS (reposted)
Among the books I read recently was an enjoyable novel called Paper Towns by an American writer named John Green. It was lying around the house; one of the kids was reading it for school work. The title refers to the practice of including fictitious entries on maps in order to unmask copyright infringements: if such an unobtrusive (but entirely fictional) town, village or side-street appeared on a map it acted as a marker that the map had been plagiarised. The ‘paper town’ in the novel referred to Agloe, New York which was inserted into a 1930s Esso map of upstate New York as a copyright trap. However, over the years, the empty crossroads marked on the map as Agloe became a minor tourist destination, such that someone built the ‘Agloe General Store’ there to attract the passing trade. Many years later a rival mapmaker included Agloe on their map and Esso accused them of falling into their copyright trap, but since the addition of the shop Agloe had become a real place so the action failed. … Another fascinating book I read was The Phantom Atlas – The Greatest Myths, Lies and Blunders on Maps by Edward Brooke-Hitching, a beautifully illustrated volume which presents many misconceptions, fantasies and downright lies which have been drawn on maps throughout history: Atlantis, the Mountains of the Moon, St Brendan’s Island and many more. In the age before satellites and GPS, much of the world was a blank page to be filled in by intrepid explorers. Sometimes they got it badly wrong, sometimes they exaggerated for personal gain and sometimes the mapmakers were just having a bit of fun with those who stayed at home. Amazingly some of these myths survived into the modern era: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandy_Island,_New_Caledonia A wonderful book for anyone interested in maps and history.
Incidentally the 1599 Map of Ireland by Baptista Boazio includes two entirely fictional offshore islands, Baptiste’s Rock (between Rathlin Island and the Antrim coast) and Elstrake’s Isle (named after his engraver, off the north coast of Donegal). No-one knows why he included them in what was considered at the time to be the definitive map of Ireland. Was he merely being mischievous or was this an early instance of a ‘paper town’ designed to entrap mapmakers who drew maps of Ireland without ever leaving the comfort of their London offices – we will never know!