Atlantis may be the most famous of mythical destinations, but the history of cartography is strewn with non-existent places. California appeared as an island on numerous 17th-century maps, and a 16th-century “Map of the Arctic” by Gerardus Mercator included a colossal magnetic mountain at the North Pole. The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths, Lies and Blunders on Maps by Edward Brooke-Hitching, out now from Simon & Schuster UK, examines the strange endurance of legendary places on our maps.
“This is an atlas of the world — not as it ever existed, but as it was thought to be,” Brooke-Hitching writes in an introduction. “The countries, islands, cities, mountains, rivers, continents, and races collected in this book are all entirely fictitious; and yet each was for a time — sometimes for centuries — real. How? Because they existed on maps.”
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