collections

Geographical Fun: Being Humourous Outlines of Various Countries (1868)



This series of fantastic anthropomorphic maps of European countries, each footnoted by a witty quatrain, was produced by London publisher Hodder and Stoughton in the 1860s. The images here are separate prints from the Library of Congress, but they also can be found on the Internet Archive in book form, the title page of which credits the introduction and descriptive lines to a certain “Aleph”, the alias of London surgeon and “frequent contributor to periodical literature” William Harvey. Although in the few recent mentions we can find of Geographical Fun Harvey is credited as the artist behind these wonderful maps, we wonder if this is really true. The most convincing case against this is that in the very first line of his introduction Harvey states the following:

The young lady who is responsible for these Sketches is now in her fifteenth year, and her first idea of Map Drawing is traceable to her meeting with a small figure of Punch riding on a Dolphin, and contrived to represent England. The thought occurred to her when seeking to amuse a brother confined to his bed by illness.

Given that he goes on to give the book’s purpose as “educational” and hopes it might “prove of service to young scholars”, I suppose it is conceivable that the teenage sketcher could be a ruse to encourage closer connection to his youthful audience, but it seems maybe a little far-fetched. And perhaps it is better to take Harvey by his word, and imagine these excellently executed figures as the creation of a teenage girl, perhaps a family friend, or even his own daughter, too shy to have her name in lights. The Library of Congress offers this description of the twelve plates that follow:

The resulting fanciful caricatures include England in the form of Queen Victoria; Scotland as a gallant Piper struggling through the bogs; Wales in the form of Owen Glendowr; Ireland as a Peasant, happy in her baby’s smile; France as an Empress of cooks, fashions, and the dance; Spain and Portugal joined in lasting amity; Italy as a revolutionary figure complete with liberty cap; Prussia in the personages of Friedrich Wilhelm and Prime Minister Bismarck; Holland and Belgium as female figures who represent a land . . . and perfect art made grand; Denmark as a female figure with ice skates; and Russia as the classic bear.

More anthropomorphic cartography here in these cartoon maps of Europe from 1870 and 1914, and also (in a slightly different direction) these landscapes containing human faces.

The Library of Congress
Underlying Work: PD Worldwide | Digital Copy: No additional rights
Download: Right click on image or see source for higher res versions

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  • Inconstant Reader

    Does anyone know why the last map ignores most of Russia’s territory?