Julie M. Coons    


    Education: Graduate degrees in the humanities and library science (University of Michigan); basic Computer Science courses.
    GIS Coursework: GEOG 482 Nature of Geographic Information, Summer 2013

    Current employment: PSU Library, primarily in the Donald W. Hamer Maps Library. University Park, PA
    Current volunteer work: American Philatelic Research Library. Bellefonte, PA

    Course goals: Learn more about map making and mapping technologies.




I have been working in a maps library since the beginning of 2013. Being surrounded by paper maps on an almost daily basis has been a fascinating - and sometimes challenging - experience. In this time, I have become more aware of the maps I encounter in literature, including children's literature which I frequently read to my young child.


I used to believe that maps in literature were provided solely for the benefit of the reader who was too busy to locate a relevant historical map or too tired to visualize an imaginary world. Recently, I have started to look at and ponder these maps in a different light. I've begun considering the type of map the author choses to provide - the level of detail, the types of pictorial representations, and how the map relates to certain moments in the literature as well as the piece of fiction overall. As I learn more about maps, I have also started to consider the information that the author has excluded from the map. Now I am more inclined to wonder critically why an author hasn't included a map rather than why he or she has.


Maps I have encountered in literature since the start of 2013:



Maps in Fiction


1. Maps from the first four books of a historical fiction series. Each book (and map) are based in a very specific historical time and place.

i. Peter McClure. Burgundy and the Italian States 1460 [map]. Scale varies. In: Dorothy Dunnett. Niccolo Rising: The first book of the House of Niccolo. New York: Vintage Books, 1986, frontispiece.


ii. Peter McClure. Europe & the Levant 1461 [map]. Scale varies. In: Dorothy Dunnett. The Spring of the Ram: The second book of the House of Niccolo. New York: Vintage Books, 1987, frontispiece.


iii. Peter McClure. The Levant & South Eastern Europe 1462-4 [map]. Scale varies. In: Dorothy Dunnett. Race of Scorpions: The third book of the House of Niccolo. New York: Vintage Books, 1989, frontispiece of Kindle edition.


iv. Peter McClure. Western Europe & North-West Africa 1464-1468 [map]. Scale varies. In: Dorothy Dunnett. Scales of Gold: The fourth book of the House of Niccolo. New York: Vintage Books, 1991, frontispiece.


2. Map of a fictional peninsula attached to a real geographic location. While the author has created a specific image of the boundaries of the country for the reader, the other geographic details are left to the reader's imagination.

Unknown. The Barban Peninsula [map]. Scale not given. In: Lionel Shriver. The New Republic. New York: Harper Collins, 2012, jacket cover.


3. Map of the fictional (quintessentially American) town of Mitford. The buildings are a prominent component of both the map and the story.

David Watts. Mitford Town Map [map]. Scale not given. In: Jan Karon. At Home in Mitford: The first novel in the beloved Mitford series. New York: Penguin Books, 1994, frontispiece.


4. Map of a fantasy world based roughly on real geographic and cultural boundaries.

Unknown. [Terre d'Ange and Neighboring Lands] [map]. Scale not given. In: Jacqueline Carey. Kushiel's Dart. New York: TOR Fantasy, 2001, p.viii-ix.


Maps in Children's Literature


1. The path follows the narrative of the protagonist, Silly Sally. On her way to town, she passes a pig, dog, loon, sheep, and person. Thus, this illustration, located at the beginning of the story, provides a basic map for the youngest reader.

Audrey Wood. [Silly Sally's Path] [illustration]. Scale not given. In: Audrey Wood. Silly Sally. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1992, p.[1-2].


2. Using a map of a distinctly urban setting, firefighters locate the source of a call to the station. (Unbeknownst to them, the call was placed by Curious George, a monkey.)

H. A. Rey. [Firemen respond to Curious George's call] [map]. Scale not given. In: H. A. Rey. Curious George. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1941, p.[33].


3. Katy the snow shovel drives around town removing the snow to gradually reveal a "real" town which is very visually similar to the town illustrated in the map at the start of the book. A good visual explanation of what a map is and how it relates to the real world.

Virginia Lee Burton. Map of City of Geoppolis [map]. Scale not given. In: Virginia Lee Burton. Katy and the Big Snow Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1943, p.6-7.


4. Obligatory pirate map. Argh!

Doug Kennedy. Her Majesty's Treasure Map [map]. Scale not given. In: Kim Kennedy. Pirate Pete. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers,2002, end papers.


5. A simple road map which encourages the reader to help navigate a Sesame Street character from one place to a particular destination.

Richard Brown, et al. My Street [map]. Scale not given. In: Linda Hayward, et al. People in My Neighborhood: On My Way with Sesame Street, Vol. 7. Mahwah, NJ: Children's Television workshop and Funk & Wagnalls, 1989, p.[6].


6. A pair of maps from classics of children's literature, illustrated by the same artist (which I had not previously realized). Imaginary worlds full of friendly characters. The absence of sharply defined boundaries on the edges of the map seems an appropriate match for both the stories the imaginations of the young readers.

i. Ernest H. Shepard. [Ashdown Forest] [map]. Scale not given. In: A. A. Milne. Winnie-the-Pooh. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co, Inc., 1926, frontispiece.


ii. Ernest H. Shepard. [The World of the Wind in the Willows] [map]. Scale not given. In: Kenneth Grahame. The Wind in the Willows. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1908, front matter.