Maps have the ability to transport us to far off places without ever having been there. They also take us to completely fictitious places. Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale of action and adventure in Treasure Island contained a detailed map on the inside cover that showed the location of a career’s worth of looting by the notorious pirate Captain Flint. The map was integral to the story. X marked the spot of the buried treasure and so the hunt began.
The map is well drawn which makes it believable. It contains all elements of topographic detail you’d expect; depths and rhumb lines finish the nautical chart and the title cartouche and pictorial flourishes add to the intrigue and resonate with the reader of the book and the characters in the book. It contains annotations which, of course, many maps do as personalised geographies are added over time. It’s a vital part of the story and making the map believable and tangible made the story that much more believable. The map and the story have become patterns for pirate stories ever since but above everything the parable here is that maps lie. X didn’t actually mark the spot so no matter how well designed, aesthetically pleasing and believable a map may appear to be…they may be telling completely fictitious stories.