Authors who create elaborate fantasy worlds, like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth and George R.R. Martin’s Westeros, often provide maps to guide readers through these imaginary lands. Texas A&M University’s Cushing Memorial Library and Archives invites visitors to explore fantasy maps with the new exhibit, Worlds Imagined: The Maps of Imaginary Places Collection.
The exhibit will open Friday, Feb. 10, and run through Oct. 10.
An opening lecture and reception at 6pm on Thursday, Feb. 9, will feature Priscilla Spencer, a renowned fantasy cartographer, writer, and producer. Three of her own maps, Kingdom of the Westlands (2016), The Realm of Alera and the Barbarian Lands (2015), and Yggdrasil and Nine Realms of the Norse (2012), are included within the exhibition. The opening lecture event and reception will be open to the public.
“Imaginary maps let us reflect on our world while viewing another. They are illustrations of potential, both good and bad, and encourage the viewer to ask ‘what if?’” explains Sierra Laddusaw, map librarian at Texas A&M’s Maps & GIS Library. “Our hope is that people who visit the exhibit will discover new locations, enjoy the nostalgia of revisiting the lands of their favorite book, game, or television show, and leave with a desire to explore the material that inspired the maps on display.”
Some creators use maps to show the routes characters take, as with Tolkien’s map of Middle-earth. Others use it to add visual emphasis to their literary explanations of imaginary lands, such as the map of Westeros which includes more cities and locations than have yet been seen in A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series on which the television show Game of Thrones is based.
“The theme of the exhibition is fun and complex at the same time,” says Francesca Marini, Cushing Library Director. “We are grateful to our sponsors, Barbara and Daniel Clinton, Jr. ’52, and to the Texas A&M Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research, which provided additional funding.”
The maps included are part of an ongoing effort by Maps and GIS and the Science Fiction & Fantasy Research Collection to develop a shared collection of maps of imaginary places. Cushing is known worldwide for its collection of science fiction and fantasy materials, even housing Martin’s personal collection of memorabilia.