As regular haunter of r/mapporn with a large appetite for history, The Golden Atlas was a pretty perfect Christmas gift for me, a gorgeously illustrated book featuring lots of ancient maps and the stories of how the lands depicted on them were discovered.
Taking us from antiquity up until the Victorian age, when we finally inked in bits of the last of the world’s unknown lands, some of my favourites were those that were based heavily on conjecture. Whether these were the maps of the mythological beasts thought to inhabit the seas around Scandinavia, or the maps drawn by men simply from other people’s bitty descriptions from tall tales (see the map of the UK complete with a wonky Scotland, or the map of the USA that believed California was separated from the mainland by the sea), they all have something interesting to offer. Some of my other favourites were those that had large bits missing, which allowed us to see how they were slowly replaced by more coastlines and rivers that were then discovered over time. And as time went on, and the maps become increasingly ornate and intricate, it became very easy to lose large chunks of time staring at the same page until it could all be soaked in.
Each chapter looks at a different age of exploration and the personalities who did the discovering – none of them are particularly in-depth but rather give a good overview over a couple of pages instead – and plenty of these have given me more explorers and their journeys to search out more on for further reading.