By MARTHA HOPKINS
The Library has just published Language of the Land: The Library of Congress Book of Literary Maps, an annotated, illustrated guide to more than 230 maps in the collections of the Library's Geography and Map Division. It features photographs of the maps with more than 20 in full color. The authors are Martha Hopkins of the Interpretive Programs Office and Michael Buscher of the Geography and Map Division. The book culminates an education and reading promotion project funded by a generous grant to the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress from the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund. Following is an article based on Ms. Hopkins's introduction to the book.
"There ain't anything that is so interesting to look at as a place that a book has talked about."
-- Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894)
To cover terrain successfully, we need maps.
Traversing the "literary terrain" requires a special kind of map. Literary maps record the location of places, whether real or imaginary, associated with authors and their works. They may present places associated with a literary tradition, an individual author or a specific work. Some maps highlight an entire country's literary heritage; others feature authors identified with a particular city, state, region or country. Maps can feature real places connected with an individual author, literary character or book, such as those featuring Jane Austen's England, the London of Sherlock Holmes or the settings in Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Or they may show wholly imaginary landscapes such as Oz, Middle Earth or Never-Neverland.
Although they may depict actual places, literary maps generally portray them with the power of imagination rather than with geographic accuracy. They differ from most reference maps in the kind and quantity of information provided. Because there is no way to determine what information someone may need, a general map contains a large amount of detail. However, no one part of it is emphasized, and nothing distracts the eye too much or calls particular attention to itself. Users approach such a map to acquire certain information -- perhaps the location of a certain town or of a street in that town.
But unlike a general map, a literary map has a specific message.
Most literary maps are not drawn to scale and contain little detailed information on topography, geology or the locations of towns, rivers, roads and other features. They are often simplified outlines of an area, featuring large images of authors, buildings and geographical features associated with authors, characters and scenes from literary works. These elements, rather than the traditional elements of a general map, command the viewer's attention. Literary maps depict ideas as much as places and present a world in which authors and books are the dominant features. For readers, the geographic knowledge can serve as a framework on which to fit the life of an author or the adventures of a book.
Residents of a particular area enjoy recognizing on a map names of authors well known in their locale. Most literary maps presuppose some knowledge on the part of the viewer, which explains why they are almost always associated with well-known books, authors and traditions.
In addition to celebrating familiar works, literary maps demonstrate the importance of geography in fiction. In the words of Eudora Welty in "Place in Fiction" (1987):
Surely once we have named [a place], we have put a kind of poetic claim on its existence; the claim works even out of sight -- may work forever sight unseen. ... Being shown how to locate, to place, any account is what does most toward making us believe it, not merely allowing us to, may the account be the facts or a lie; and that is where place in fiction comes in. Fiction is a lie. Never in its inside thoughts, always in its outside dress.
Furthermore, as the spread of identical fast-food chains and shopping malls have made the United States and the rest of the world more uniform, people have experienced a counterbalancing desire to celebrate those things that make one place and one group different from another. Therefore, a sense of place, of which literary maps form a part, has assumed new importance.
Celebration of place is also a form of patriotism and taking pride in one's roots. The great number of maps of U.S. states and regions featured in the Library of Congress collections reflect the pride of residents of various states in their cultural heritage, as well as the regionalism that has long been a predominant feature of American literature. Furthermore, writers sometimes become celebrities, and people's self-esteem may be enhanced when they realize they share home ground with literary stars. For example, a state that does not rank high in per capita income or quality of its educational system may boast a rich literary heritage, and a map can foster pride in that heritage among the state's schoolchildren. Moreover, because regional pride plays a major force in the creation of literary maps, the line between the literary and the historical is often amorphous: a number of the maps include historical places and figures, as well as representations of state seals, flags, flowers, birds, the state capitol building and historic monuments.
Other motives for producing maps range from the commercial (advertising a product) to the altruistic (promoting love of reading) and the line between the two sometimes becomes thin. An author can become the principal symbol of a region, for example, in the case of William Shakespeare and Stratford-Upon-Avon or William Wordsworth and the English Lake District. Because of their literary connections, both places have flourishing tourist industries, which have produced literary maps.
In addition to tourist boards, other producers of literary maps in the Library's collections include library associations, publishers, civic organizations, associations of English teachers, government agencies, centennial commissions, printing equipment companies, movie producers, advertisers and individuals who simply loved certain books and authors. A few of the maps were even produced by map-publishing companies.
The maps in the book demonstrate how the canon of American literature has changed substantially over time. After World War I, for example, the influence of the "schoolroom poets" -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell and John Greenleaf Whittier -- began to wane as Herman Melville, one of their contemporaries who had been almost forgotten, became recognized as a major writer. During the 1920s, novelists Joseph Hergesheimer and James Branch Cabell, hardly household names today, appeared on lists of great American authors along with Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James and others who would still appear on such lists. Around that time, prominent women such as Harriet Beecher Stowe and Edith Wharton began to receive less attention than their male contemporaries Mark Twain and Stephen Crane.
Since the 1940s and 1950s, the period when many of these maps were produced, the literary canon has changed even more radically. Beginning in the 1960s, scholars who recognized the richness and diversity of American culture began to seek out and publish lost, forgotten or suppressed literary texts that had emerged from and, in fact, illustrated that diversity. In the 1970s, scholarship began to examine the cultural implications of gender, race and class for understanding and appreciating literature. Consequently, in the 1980s, the whole concept of a literary canon was increasingly attacked, especially on the grounds that women and minority writers were underrepresented in the traditional framework. Although many critics recognized the need for some version of a canon in order to transmit valued work to future generations, they were disturbed by the tendency of the established canon to freeze responses to the texts it validated and to exclude other, less-recognized works of literary value.
In the 1990s, the teaching of literature has been undergoing fundamental changes that allow for study of diverse cultures, not a narrow group of individual authors. The canon is being expanded to include more female, African American, Asian American, Latino and Native American voices in order to represent as fully as possible the nation's varied cultures. The types of works defined as literature are also being revised to include letters, diaries and memoirs. In addition, increasing attention is being given to non-European literature, in particular to works from Latin America, Canada, Asia and Africa. The more recent maps in the book, especially the state maps, reflect the increasing diversity of material and authors now recognized as significant.
Two Illinois maps demonstrate some of these changes. Illinois Authors, produced by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English in 1952, lists 27 authors for the Chicago area -- four are female, and one (Richard Wright) is African American. The 1987 map, also called Illinois Authors (left, illustration by Judie Anderson, Arn Arnam and Tom Heinz), includes the same 27 Chicago authors listed in 1952, but the overall number of authors featured rose dramatically to 145 -- 33 female and at least four African American.
This increasing recognition of diversity adds a new dimension to a genre that has always had multiple faces. Although often reflecting academic views of the literature, literary maps are primarily works of popular culture. For example, J.R.R. Tolkien's popularity among young people in the 1970s is reflected in a group of Middle-Earth maps produced during that period. The high status once enjoyed by authors such as Joseph Hergesheimer and Sinclair Lewis, America's first Nobel Prize winner for literature, is reflected on the maps. And such maps as those devoted to Ian Fleming and Raymond Chandler celebrate authors and characters who are part of the popular, rather than the highbrow, tradition.
As might be expected in works of popular culture, the styles as well as the subject matter of literary maps exhibit considerable variety. Some of the map illustrators were trained and practiced as fine artists and produced exquisite examples of color and execution. Other maps are crude and look unfinished.
Since ancient times, mapmakers have adopted a pictorial approach to geography, using illustrations, insets, scrolls, ribbons, heraldic devices and legendary places as a way of visualizing large spaces. Prior to the 17th century, mapmakers made extensive use of symbols such as mythological creatures to convey sometimes imaginary information about unfamiliar lands. As the scientific method spread and exploration and travel made the world more familiar, maps became more detailed and the style more conventional, with pictorial elements relegated to decorative borders and title cartouches.
In the 19th century, educators revived pictorial maps to teach not only geography but also history and literature. By the 20th century, such pictorial maps had become popular for their decorative qualities and as expressions of civic or national pride. But, because they were often displayed on classroom walls, then discarded when they became tattered, many have become scarce. Moreover, because they were printed in limited editions, not always formally copyrighted and distributed locally for only a short time, they may not have come into library collections. Although literary maps have existed since at least the 16th century, because of the ephemeral nature of such maps, most examples in the Library of Congress date from the 20th century.
Large literary maps most likely evolved from illustrations in books -- many of which, for example, Sir Thomas More's Utopia (1516), to name an early one -- contain maps that locate the book's action. The cost of paper and the cost and difficulty of printing, as well as lack of a market, may have discouraged publishers from producing poster-size maps before the 20th century. Whatever the reason, most of the Library's maps that predate the 1920s are loose sheets originally bound in books, for example, the 1705 Carte du Voyage d' Année, which depicts the adventures of Aeneas as told in Virgil's Aenead. Exceptions are the ambitious 1878 Philological and Historical Chart, an example of the Victorian love of classification that attempts to trace the birth, development and progress of all world literatures in such detail as to be almost unreadable, and the visually beautiful 1908 Stratford on Avon map, which reflects the high status of Shakespeare in the English-speaking world and depicts his birthplace at the turn of the 20th century, not in the playwright's own day.
The first map in the collections to conspicuously challenge an all-male pantheon of great American writers is the 1932 A Pictorial Chart of American Literature, compiled by Ethel Earle Wylie and illustrated by Ella Wall Van Leer (1893-1986). Anticipating modern literary trends, the map features some writers who were then contemporary (such as a young Robert Frost) and gives equal representation to America's many outstanding female writers, from Anne Bradstreet to Edna St. Vincent Millay, whose papers are now in the Library's Manuscript Division. The top border of the map pictures 19 women and the bottom border shows 19 men, along with their life dates and the states with which they are associated.
One reflection of the prosperity, optimism and pride that flourished in the 1950s was a boom in literary mapmaking. In the 1950s, the United States emerged as a superpower and American popular culture began to have worldwide influence. The longstanding sense of American literature's inferiority when compared to European literature disappeared. Moreover, as the baby-boomer generation entered school, textbook publishing flourished, and publishers produced maps to be used in classrooms along with their books. The number of English teachers increased, adding members and financial resources that enabled their associations to produce literary maps. During this time, many state maps and maps connected with individual works, such as plays by Shakespeare and epics by Homer and Virgil, appeared.
A prolific literary-map producer who began in the 1940s but reached his peak in the 1950s and 1960s was Henry John Firley (1900-1973), head of the English Department at Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn, Ill., and an author, poet and member of the National Council of Teachers of English. Working with the Denoyer-Geppert Co. of Chicago, an educational publisher, Firley compiled colorful and highly detailed maps. Intended for classroom use, these maps were offered in a variety of formats, including framed, mounted for hanging on a wall, or installed on a spring roller, like a window shade. Although they now are somewhat dated by their reliance on traditional literature, some of Firley's maps are still being distributed.
At roughly the same time as Firley's maps were being published, the Harris-Seybold (later Harris Intertype) Company of Cleveland was producing a significant group of pictorial maps based on British and American classics. Each July, from 1953 through 1964, the company printed a calendar to advertise and promote the capabilities of the lithographic printing equipment it sold. In addition to almost 20,000 graphic arts firms, the maps were distributed to schools and libraries.
Harris-Seybold used its high-tech printing equipment in a display of old-fashioned romance and adventure and an evocation of nostalgia. Insights into the thinking behind the maps appear in a leaflet accompanying the Ivanhoe map, which states that Harris-Seybold hoped the map would "give you pleasure today by reminding you of the pleasure of yesteryear."
The literary map that attracted the most attention in its own time was William Gropper's America: Its Folklore, whose case demonstrates how literary maps can be used for political purposes. Born in poverty in New York City, Gropper (1897-1977) used art to ennoble the poor, expose social injustice and satirize political opportunism. He worked for mainstream newspapers and magazines and also contributed to radical journals such as the Masses and visited the Soviet Union.
Soon after World War II, Gropper's map was created for distribution abroad by U.S. government agencies as a celebration of American culture. In 1953 the map attracted the attention of Sen. Joseph McCarthy. The senator found little that was objectionable about the map itself, but he denounced Gropper's art in general as communist-directed, anti-American propaganda and asserted that the U.S. government should not promote his work. After he was attacked by McCarthy, Gropper's career suffered for a number of years.
The Library has few literary maps from the late 1960s and 1970s. Rising costs and the social turmoil of the time may be the reasons.
Some significant maps of the 1970s and 1980s came from outside the United States. For example, the former Soviet Union's Main Administration for Geodesy and Cartography produced a large group of literary maps. This government agency mapped the literary sites of Leningrad and Moscow, as well places associated with Leo Tolstoy, Mikhail Lermontov, Alexander Pushkin and other noted pre-Soviet authors. Unlike most literary maps, these are cartographically detailed enough to be used to locate actual places. The maps are illustrated with photographs of authors, their homes and sites associated with them, as well as with other museums and monuments. Updated every few years, the maps contain a wealth of information for readers of Russian and demonstrate the former Soviet Union's support for its cultural history. The maps also show the connection of literary culture to patriotism and provide an example of the way in which literature and culture can be used for propaganda purposes.
A number of British firms also produced literary maps in the 1980s, with subjects such as William Wordsworth, Robert Burns, other Scottish poets and literary London. In the same decade in the United States, many states produced new maps, and, a map of Appalachia appeared, reflecting increasing interest in regions.
The decade's most exciting American maps came from the Aaron Blake Co. of Los Angeles. From the mid- to late 1980s, the company published 12 literary maps related to the favorite books and authors of their producers, the husband-and-wife team of Molly Maguire and Aaron Silverman. The couple began with an interest in Raymond Chandler. Driving around Los Angeles looking for sites mentioned in his work, they found that many still existed, little changed from when Chandler described them. The result was The Raymond Chandler Mystery Map of Los Angeles (1986), which, unlike many literary maps, could be used to tour sites mentioned in the author's works. With Silverman as her business partner, Maguire, who had received undergraduate degrees in American and English literature and had done graduate work in video art and design, created a series of maps that trace the settings of well-known books. Each map is colorful and lively, and its style reflects the spirit of the original works; the Chandler map, for example, is in the style of a pulp-novel cover of the 1940s.
In the 1990s the Library has received maps from newly democratic East European countries, such as the Map of Hungarian Literary History and Guide to Franz Kafka's Prague. Demonstrating yet again the close connection between literature and patriotism, these maps indicate an attempt to reclaim political power by asserting literary power.
In the 1990s in the United States, "Language of the Land," the Library of Congress exhibition that inspired the present book, has encouraged a revival of literary mapmaking. Originally opened at the Library in 1993, this exhibit has traveled to more than 20 sites around the United States, including 16 state Centers for the Book. As part of their programming during the exhibition run, a number of the state centers produced literary maps. Those maps are included in this book, and others are in production. One can only hope that this interest will inspire some of the areas not represented to produce maps.
The lack of maps for certain areas may seem puzzling to readers of this book although, in preparation for the exhibit and book, unsuccessful attempts were made to locate maps for missing American states. Literary maps not represented in the Library of Congress collections undoubtedly exist. However, no literary maps were found for some surprising places, including most of the New England states that have some of the oldest literary connections in the country, and the national capital of Washington. (A project to remedy this oversight is in progress.) In addition to these regional maps, perhaps someone will also produce maps for authors whose works seem to cry out for one, such as Anthony Trollope and William Faulkner. (These authors have been treated in small, black-and-white maps in books, one drawn by Faulkner himself, but do not seem to have been represented in a large, color map.)
Eventually literary maps will exist in electronic form, with viewers able to click on an icon representing a region, author or book and call up a detailed map, photographs, biographical information, bibliographies and other information. Whatever form literary maps may take in the future, they will still have the power that Tom Sawyer attributes to places mentioned in books -- making concrete the visualization of characters and locations that is one of the great pleasures of reading.
Ms. Hopkins is an exhibition director in the Library's Interpretive Programs Office. She holds degrees in English from the College of William and Mary and the University of Virginia and has taught in colleges in Virginia and West Virginia.
Language of the Land: The Library of Congress Book of Literary Maps is a 304-page, hardbound book available for $50 from the Library of Congress Sales Shop at (202) 707-0204 or from the Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. It has become a Library best-seller.