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There were many reasons for the creation of these myths.... Delusions: many of the non-existent cartographic features came from beliefs with no real evidential basis, deriving from folk tales, legends, lies and hypotheses. Illusions: some myths were derived from the mis-perception of evidence. A cloud on the horizon might be seen as an island, or a native village perceived as a large, rich city. Confusions: other geographic myths were the result of evidence being jumbled or misinterpreted. A cartographer might misplace a lake from one region to another or an explorer might see a bay as a long-sought-for strait.
Once 'on the map,' geographic myths were very hard to get rid of. As Henry R. Wagner said, "There is nothing that has such an air of verisimilitude as a map." Failure to find one of these non-existent places or first-hand evidence that one of them was non-existent would not always lead to their banishment from the map. They would often simply be moved to another place or the evidence would be ignored. Some of these myths lasted for over a century despite evidence of their imaginary nature. Whatever their source or longevity, these geographical myths had a profound impact on the history of exploration and the story of discovery cannot be told without an understanding of these cartographic features.
In this section of our web site we describe some of our favorite geographical myths and list some maps from our inventory which illustrate these. Anyone who has questions, suggestions, or information about these or other geographic myths is encouraged to contact us on this matter.
Go to page on the related topic of transitory territories
Go to list of reference books on mythical geography
False Sea of Verazzano
Non-existent lake in the American Southeast
The following geographic myths are ones which we plan to describe and illustrate in the coming months.
If you have a favorite myth not listed here, or you would like us to accelerate our work on one of the myths listed below, please feel free to contact us.
For more information call, write, fax or e-mail to:
201 Fillmore Street
Suite 101 (entrance on 2nd Avenue)
Denver, Colorado 80206
(303) 322-4757 [Phone]
(303) 322-0516 [Fax]
8441 Germantown Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19118
(215) 242-4750 [Phone]
(215) 242-6977 [Fax]