Wednesday 26 September 2012

Hyborian Musings: Mappa Mundi, Secunda Pars

As a follow-up to my musings on Hyborian Age Cartography, there's been a veritable avalanche of activity on the subject at the Robert E. Howard Forums, and I simply have to share some of the results.

First of all, earlier this year Trent provided a rather brilliant map based upon Amra's extrapolations. Amra's work ignored the previous official maps of the Hyborian Age, choosing instead to work from Howard's original maps. This "back to basics" approach followed Dale Rippke's paradigm-shifting research and Vincent Darlage's subsequent inferences: nonetheless, Amra's visualisations go in a different direction from those of Rippke and Darlage*:

I have my quibbles with this and Amra's map (viewable here), mostly in regard to the Black Kingdoms and the extent of change in the eastern lands, but it's by far one of the best extrapolations of the southern and eastern lands of the Hyborian Age out there. But ever since then, things have been getting very exciting. I've taken the liberty of uploading some of the images here to save bandwidth and for posterity, because this is really brilliant stuff.

Those of you with slower modems, beware, for these waters are rife with large images!

While discussion of Hyborian Cartography has been ongoing at since at least April of 2003, starting from September, Forumer Halfdane had an idea, with plans to apply Hyborian outlines to different projections:

Looked up the 1926 Compon's Pictured Encyclopedia on Amazon, etc. on a whim last night. Decided I couldn't spend $100-$200 on a ten volume set! BUT then I found Vol. 3 on ebay for $12. So, I am soon to own the same map that REH traced.

My plan is to:
1) find or create a Full World Map with the same1 projection & meridian as Compton's Map
scan Compton's Map and layer/align it over the Full World Map
3) scan REH's Maps2 & layer/align them over Compton's Map & the Full World Map

GOAL: With the above steps accomplished, we will be able to accurately translate Howard's map of the Hyborian Age into ANY PROJECTION. Seems to me like a pretty good resource for anybody creating a Hyborian Age map.

My footnotes are the things I need help/advice on:
1 We need to show the Compton's Map scan that Mr. Henderson provided (p. 17 of this forum) around to some cartography forums to figure out the EXACT information needed to replicate the projection. "It's a conic projection" just isn't going to cut it. We need to verify the meridian is 20°, figure out what kind of conic projection it is, etc.
2 I will need to use the highest quality copies of REH's maps. Two of them in the Del Reys are rather small, and the third has had its contrast bumped; and, when removed from the book, is misaligned due to being spread across two pages. Is there another better source available to me that I can pull these from???

FURTHER THOUGHTS: I will be removing the map pages from Compton's Pictured Encyclopedia at the spine. I only feel a little bad about destroying an 86 year old encyclopedia. I'm bored of seeing maps of the Hyborian age that assume that up=N/assume that Howard used a Mercator projection (even the meridian on Compton's map is slightly angled; it does not place N at top-center or S at bottom-center). The Vilayet points NNE, damn it -- a full 30° difference. Well, it points to our NNE, at least -- does anyone know where the poles were moved to during the Hyborian Age???

After layering/aligning all of the maps, I can turn them to a Mercator projection. The distinct layers & alignment will be preserved. Then the Mercator projection can be easily converted to any projection. I even have a filter that will convert a Mercator projection to a printable globe template!

Brajah leapt in with some images of his own, based on Europe Lambert Conic projection, Mercator projection, and even a globe:

Later, Brajah would return with some more based on Bonne's Projection:

But, just like buses, it seems Hyborian Cartographers always come in threes, as arus brought his own work to the table (and later redid some in high definition):

Polyconic Projection

 Mercator Projection

Lambert Conformal Conic Projection

Miller Oblated Stereographed Projection
 Plain Composition of all three maps

Spinning Globe

Did I say three? Because seemingly no sooner than Brajah and arus joined the fray came another contender, but instead of new projections, J. Bernardes created a Hyborian Map using current scientific ideas about the geological past, specifically the last Ice Age, and altering the national boundaries to better fit what was known of the geographical era. Hence, Shem and Stygia are now in Africa, the Bay of Biscay cuts between Zingara and the Pictish Wilderness, and so forth. Some things I'd quibble with, like the use of the Niger and Nile to represent the Styx and the horseshoe-shaped Koth, but it's a really fascinating "what if" in the vein of "what if Howard created the Hyborian Age with what we currently know":

This wasn't the first time we've seen such a concept (more will be seen in an upcoming post), but it's certainly a very interesting one.

Lunatic also got involved with a photoshopped picture of Hyborian Earth from Space using a picture of Ice Aged Eurasia and Africa (man, I really wish I had these guys back in 2005):

Halfdane also kindly provided images of brobdingnagian proportions (600ppi? Back at college our computers could barely handly 400ppi) of two Hyborian maps and my hastily-arranged composite for those who want to play along at home:

Compton's Map Extra ('extra' space at bottom allows room for all of H1)

H1 layered on Compton
H2 layered on Compton
H3 layered on Compton (temporary!!!)

The following maps are intended to be layered on top of Compton's Map Extra. All of the 'extra' space is so that the files line up when you layer them.
H1 referenced for Compton
H2 referenced for Compton
H3 referenced for Compton (temporary!!!)

Here are Brajah's estimates of Compton's map:
PROJECTION: Bonne (or Polyconic -- we'll see!)
SCALE: 1:25,200,000

Finally, I must give props to Deviantart's J.D. Martinez for his magnificent work (check out his other work, it's fantastic, and always wonderful to see Star Trek and Conan cross paths), with links to larger versions:

That's insane.

All in all, it looks like a great time for Hyborian Cartography, and it gets back to the main problem with current published Hyborian maps (another future post): that they contradict not only what Howard wrote in the text, but frequently his very maps. Getting back to the original sources, including Howard's maps, has only been really manageable since the Del Reys publication of the pure texts and original documents - which is what the new age of Hyborian scholarship is all about.

Of course, it's still all a work in process at the moment, but by Crom we're getting there!

*Edited for clarification, my wording wasn't very good. Thanks Amra!


  1. A little off topic, but what did you think of the dark horse hyperborea arc? I was planning to do a review of the storyline as a whole, as well as the series

    1. One of my least favourite arcs. It's a cool idea for a fantasy comic, but it's more like something from Conan the Adventurer or the later Savage Swords than anything Howardian (IMO, naturally).

  2. I think that Trent and I went a completely different direction than Vincent Darlage's maps or ideas. I was inspired to start investigating my own ideas after finding inconsistencies (in my view) of Dale Rippke's cartography and chronology.


    1. By "inspired by," I meant more that you were following them in drawing a map that had nothing to do with the established ones, not that you were following their directions (as a perusal of their maps and yours would attest). Sorry for the confusion, and I'd like to commend you again for the fine work!

  3. Trent and I are working on another map using the current discoveries showing only what Howard showed in terms of area.