The Island, Swallows & Amazons - Robin Blake on maps in books

Reading Maps

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Last year the Bodleian Library paid £55,000 for a fold-out map torn from a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring and scribbled over by J. R. R. Tolkien. Maps, said one of the Bodleian curators, were central to Tolkien’s storytelling and he had annotated this one to guide the illustrator Pauline Baynes, who was making a poster map of Middle Earth (see SF no. 41). I was delighted that it had landed safely in a public collection. In my opinion a good map always enhances a good book, especially when the author and a skilled illustrator have worked on it together.

I formed this opinion early in life. When I was 10 I read Friday’s Tunnel, the first of John Verney’s witty and exciting (and marvellously self-illustrated) stories about the Callendar family. On page one the 12-year-old narrator February Callendar boldly reworks the first sentence of Alice in Wonderland, in which Alice trenchantly states the necessity in a story for pictures and conversation. February’s version insists on a third essential element. ‘I intend this to be the kind of book I like to read, which means one with a map and drawings and talk on every page.’ Yes! I thought. This is going to be the kind of book I like to read too.

The first map I ever saw in a book was at the even tenderer age of 4, when I opened Winnie-the-Pooh and found on the endpapers a panoptic view – an Owl’s-eye view and a deliciously privileged view – of the whole of the Hundred Acre Wood. It showed every principal tree (most being individual characters’ houses), the ‘Trap for Heffalumps’, ‘Where the Woozle Wasn’t’ and all the other key places.

In 1931, five years after his success with Pooh, Shepard was commissioned to illustrate The Wind in the Willows and his endpapers again provided a soaring overview of the story’s world: Toad Hall with its lawns running down to the river, the Wild Wood, Pan Island, the houses of Badger and

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About the contributor

All of Robin Blake’s mystery stories featuring Titus Cragg and Luke Fidelis contain maps of eighteenth-century Preston and the surrounding country.

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