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Maps & Manuscripts

Following are links to online cartographic collections and portals to those rare and mysterious manuscripts that have come to us from the past.

Maps & Manuscripts

Resources for cartography (traditional and otherwise) and mysterious tomes and manuscripts. discusses ancient languages and alphabets. Brief articles and copious links make this site an excellent resource.

Archæology in Fiction — I previously Dispatched the address of Anita Cohen-Williams’ excellent online annotated bibliography of Archæology in Fiction — not just the boring stuff, mind you, but archæology as it should be, with lost Roman legions and undiscovered races populating the Hollow Earth. I’ve just discovered that Ms. Cohen-Williams has an even more extensive list of Archæology in Fiction at another site. Enjoy!

Creative Cartography — This map of “Our Planet Earth in 1910” was designed for the Æronef universe (scroll along down the thread, the final map comes at the bottom), but might be of use to TI players. I thought it was particularly interesting that the cartographer shared the image step-by-step, so if one were to know a bit about using image-editing software, one might be able to create custom maps for one’s own use. Be sure to have a look at the original thread mentioned in the first post as he provides links to some of the resources he uses on this map.

D&D Map-A-Week Archive — While some of these gorgeous free maps are indelibly intended for fantasy campaigns, many can be adapted for other uses. They depict a variety of ruins, caverns, ghostly lighthouses, &c. Perfect imaginative stimulants for the Terra Incognita game master.

The David Rumsey Historical Map Collection is a great resource for cartographic images. From the website’s blurb: “The David Rumsey Historical Map Collection contains to date over 7,180 maps online and focuses on rare 18th and 19th century North and South America cartographic history materials. Historic maps of the World, Europe, Asia and Africa are also represented. The collection categories include old and antique atlas, globe, school geography, maritime chart, state, county, city, pocket, wall, children and manuscript maps.”

If you’re looking for some primary documents for Nags to discover in those ancient tombs, have a look at the Duke Papyrus Archive. Many of the manuscripts are reproduced in images for easy printing and distributing as player handouts or set dressing.

ERB Atlas — My continuing foray into Edgar Rice Burroughs finds me a third of the way through The Land That Time Forgot and thoroughly enjoying myself. There are many online resources concerning Burroughs. For the cartographers, the ERB Atlas

Flat Planet — One of the core mandates of the NAGS Society is to uncover, discover, and produce accurate cartographic representations of terra incognita. The FlatPlanet Map Catalogue is a great resource for a variety of excellent maps.

Floorplans Galore — Finding the perfect floorplan online can simplify the process of fleshing out an adventure. Authentic Historical Designs has a collection of floorplans for American Victorian houses. If you need more variety, should satisfy. There’s even a cool castle with all the conveniences.

The ever-helpful Dirk Collins has unearthed this excellent site containing scans of old maps: Hipkiss’ Scanned Old Maps.

Matthew White’s Historical Atlas of the Twentieth Century site is an impressive collection of maps of the world and all its components. Coupled with the extensive collection of links to other relevant sites, the Atlas is an invaluable resource.

The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, with its unpronounceable title, indecipherable text, and unidentifiable author, is one of the most puzzling, enigmatic and fascinating books ever conceived. Since its publication (1499), it has surprised its readers with its vast knowledge of architecture and landscape and garden design, but also engineering, painting and sculpture. Part fictional narrative, and part scholarly treatise….” MIT Press hosts the entire book in facsimile, perfect for printing as player handouts. Perfect to add to one’s library, right next to the Voynich Manuscript.

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili — I will freely admit that I don’t know what any of this means. But I like it.

If you need a quick map on the building, city, or continental scale, try the online Instant Map Makers from Irony Games. The terrain and clearing maps are quite nice, and all maps can be downloaded and printed.

The Internet Sacred Text Archive provides online versions of a plethora of sacred texts. The major religions are represented, of course, along with outré works such that of Charles Fort, the Piri Re’is map, Atlantis, even Tolkein.

According to the site itself, “The Invisible Library is a collection of books that only appear in other books. Within the library’s catalog you will find imaginary books, pseudobiblia, artifictions, fabled tomes, libris phantastica, and all manner of books unwritten, unread, unpublished, and unfound.”

Lost maps or manuscripts, lost libraries, gothic winds is Richard Pangburn’s Listmania! suggestions from The selection of books looks fascinating.

Lexus - Dwellings Volume 1 — This new $3.00 download from looks interesting: Lexus - Dwellings Volume 1. It apparently uses Javascript to create buildings according to your specifications. The blurb says, “From a cave to a mansion, simply click a few buttons to find the size, construction materials, types of rooms, and what’s inside. This gives you the furniture, lighting and all manner of miscellaneous items with a few easy steps. There’s even a few buttons to generate the overall quality of the building and its furnishings.”

Library of Congress, Map Collections 1500–1999 — “The Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress holds more than 4.5 million items, of which Map Collections represents only a small fraction, those that have been converted to digital form.”

Map of London in 1859 by the UCLA Epidemiology site. Click on the sections to zoom in for street level detail.

The ever-helpful Dirk Collins sent along this link to some great royalty free maps and Victorian images from Veer.

Mayan Online — If you ever have need to create some impressive player handouts in authentic Mayan hieroglyphics, the Yamada Language Center site from the University of Oregon has everything you need — Mayan fonts (Macintosh only), a primer on writing your name, and some useful phrases.

Although this falls out of the TI timeline, sometimes one has to go to original source material. The website Le miroir du monde, ou Epitome du Théâtre d’Abraham Ortelius reproduces a lovely world atlas from 1598, when terra was truly incognita. The text is in German, but non speakers (such as myself) ought to be able to find their way around.

Old Historic Maps & Prints — “Featuring fine and rare antique maps from the 15th to 19th Centuries. Thousands of maps from all parts of the world illustrated and described” and for sale.

Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection — An excellent source of cartographic images.

Profantasy has released an expansion entitled Perspectives to their popular map making software Campaign Cartographer. Perspectives allows you to create those marvelous isometric maps you see in commercial adventures. Unfortunately, the program doesn’t (and apparently never will) run on Macintosh, so I can’t offer a review, but it looks invaluable!

Pike’s Catalogue — Those gaming in the early portion of the Terra Incognita timeline (mid nineteenth century) might encounter inspiration in the free Pike's illustrated descriptive catalogue of optical, mathematical and philosophical instruments, manufactured, imported, and sold by the author; with the prices affixed at which they are offered in 1848.

Planetocopia is Chris Wayan’s fabulous website devoted to alternate planetary geographies, and a great source of novel terræ incognitæ. [N.B.: Having no Latin, I made up that plural; if it’s correct, it’s due to serendipity.]

Random Dungeon — Sometimes one gets that hunger for an old fashioned, doesn’t make a lot of sense but it’s fun, randomly generated “dungeon.” Now, for a historical game, it might be repackaged as the city sewers, or newly discovered catacombs, or a cave complex, but the heart of the idea is the same. Years ago, Jamis Buck created an online random dungeon generator which will do all of the work of creating and populating one for you.

Theban Mapping Project — Maps and images of Egyptian tombs in the Valley of the Kings.

Verne’s Maps — If you need some cartographic examples to inspire, here is a collection of scans of the maps from Jules Verne’s novels. You’ll find both a map of Lincoln (the “Mysterious”) Island as well as a chart of 20,000 leagues beneath the sea. Useful stuff!

I love “world conquest”-style boardgames. Viktory II has a few interesting innovations, including the size (it doesn’t take a weekend to play a game) and the hex-based map that changes with every game, a la Settlers of Catan. A different take on exploring terra incognita.

Voynich Manuscript Resources — Information regarding the mysterious manuscript. Noticing that most of my old links to Voynich MS websites have disappeared (mysteriously…), I offer this new one by René Zandbergen, named, appropriately, The Voynich Manuscript.

The Zombie Nirvana Games website features a series of articles about creating fantasy maps using Photoshop. Of course, who’s to say one couldn’t create fantastic Victorian or pulp adventure maps using the same techniques?