The Phantom Atlas

The Greatest Myths, Lies and Blunders on Maps

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About The Book

A STUNNINGLY ILLUSTRATED BOOK REVEALING THE GREATEST MYTHS, LIES AND BLUNDERS ON MAPS
'Highly recommended' - Andrew Marr
'A spectacular, enjoyable and eye-opening read' - Jonathan Ross


The Phantom Atlas is an atlas of the world not as it ever existed, but as it was thought to be. These marvellous and mysterious phantoms - non-existent islands, invented mountain ranges, mythical civilisations and other fictitious geography - were all at various times presented as facts on maps and atlases. This book is a collection of striking antique maps that display the most erroneous cartography, with each illustration accompanied by the story behind it.

Exploration, map-making and mythology are all brought together to create a colourful tapestry of monsters, heroes and volcanoes; swindlers, mirages and murderers. Sometimes the stories are almost impossible to believe, and remarkably, some of the errors were still on display in maps published in the 21st century. Throughout much of the 19th century more than 40 different mapmakers included the Mountains of Kong, a huge range of peaks stretching across the entire continent of Africa, in their maps - but it was only in 1889 when Louis Gustave Binger revealed the whole thing to be a fake. For centuries, explorers who headed to Patagonia returned with tales of the giants they had met who lived there, some nine feet tall. Then there was Gregor MacGregor, a Scottish explorer who returned to London to sell shares in a land he had discovered in South America. He had been appointed the Cazique of Poyais, and bestowed with many honours by the local king of this unspoiled paradise. Now he was offering others the chance to join him and make their fortune there, too - once they had paid him a bargain fee for their passage... 

The Phantom Atlas is a beautifully produced volume, packed with stunning maps and drawingsof places and people that never existed. The remarkable stories behind them all are brilliantly told by Edward Brooke-Hitching in a book that will appeal to cartophiles everywhere. 

About The Author

Photograph © Alex Anstey

Edward Brooke-Hitching is the author of the critically acclaimed books The Phantom Atlas (2016), which has been translated into nine languages, The Golden Atlas (2018) and Fox Tossing, Octopus Wrestling and Other Forgotten Sports . The son of Franklin Brooke-Hitching, collector of the largest and most comprehensive library of British exploration and discovery ever accumulated, he is also a writer for the BBC series QI and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He lives in London. 

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (November 2016)
  • Length: 256 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781471159459

Raves and Reviews

‘A bonkers book…Highly recommended’ 

– Andrew Marr

‘A spectacular, enjoyable and eye-opening read... A wonderful book, with beautiful illustrations throughout’ 

– Jonathan Ross

Beautifully illustrated…brain-boggling…an excursion into the minds of men imagining an as yet uncharted world’ 

– Spectator

This intriguing book…shows how places that aren’t there can endure, sometimes for centuries, once a map-maker has inked them in’ 

– The Times

Beautiful… Brooke-Hitching [has] an eye for a good story and his book is gloriously illustrated with ancient mistaken maps, each accompanied by a thoroughly researched tale of the men whose errors led to them.’ 

– Daily Express

Extraordinary’ 

– Historia Magazine

‘Excellent... Arranged alphabetically in fifty-eight short chapters, with lavish deployment of illustrations, the book provides a captivating chronicle of our battle with ignorance’ 

– Literary Review

Unreservedly recommended’ 

– The Monocle

‘From the magnetic mountain at the north pole to Australia’s inland sea, Edward Brooke-Hitching charts five centuries of misrepresentative maps.’ 

– The Guardian

A rich selection… [that] shows how lively minds made use of limited knowledge, but also how rumour, guesswork and downright lies can persist in the scholarly imagination.’ 

– The Economist

‘One of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen in my life…full of fascinating quirky things.’ 

– Jen Campbell, author Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops

‘The fascination and beauty of maps both emerge clearly in this well-written, witty and thoughtful book…this is a spirited and enjoyable study’ 

– Standpoint

Exquisitely produced… Gorgeous illustrations of countries and islands that were once thought to exist...For any fans of maps this is a must’ 

– The Australian

'Fascinating ... and beautifully illustrated'

– Rosamund Urwin, Evening Standard

'The Phantom Atlas describes some 50 "myths, lies and blunders" and illustrates them in delightful detail...deserve[s] a place on the coffee table, but only after it's been read: there is as much to absorb as to see.'

– John Ure, Country Life

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More books from this author: Edward Brooke-Hitching