Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Inspiration: Septentrionalium Terrarum

Septentrionalium Terrarum descriptio (A map of the North Pole); Gerardus Mercator, 1595

Submitted for your approval is the region of the North Pole as Mercator believed to be at the tail-end of the 16th century.  (The above map is available in a greater resolution at Wikimedia Commons.)  It is 'inaccurate' in many respects, but for purposes of gaming this is more of a virtue than a fault.  Opportunities for exploration and adventure abound.  Perhaps a party of player characters form an expedition for the Northwest Passage?

A mountain marks the position of the North Pole and a separate mountain placed at the magnetic pole.  Pygmies evidently inhabit the lower right-hand Arctic 'quadrant.'  The biblical Gog and Magog appear near Meractor's 'longitude' of 170 - 180°.  Special attention is paid to Frisland (350°) with an inset in the upper left-hand corner.

A more detailed depiction of the fanciful Frisland is shown below from a map in the possession of the National and University Library of Iceland.  It could be used as a remnant of Atlantis or a stronghold of anachronistic Vikings.

Frisland; Pietro de Nobili, 1590


  1. Old maps are a great world-building resource.

  2. Boo. Hiss. This is the most intolerable post you have ever done.

    (Actually, it is great, but people were starting to talk, so I had to give you a thumbs down.)

    It would be nice to see you do a post on Charles Hapgood's Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings as a companion post to this one. His contention that Antarctica was ice-free almost 10,000 years ago and was mapped by a lost sea-faring nation, which became the basis for the Piri Reis (spelling) map is a bit silly, but entertaining.


  3. Good idea. Hapgood was a kook (not that there's anything wrong with that), but we can still exploit his ideas. Piri Reis drew some beautiful maps, but cartography was different in his day; it is fallacious to apply a modern cartography paradigm to his work.