Maps We'd be lost without them. But look too closely and you can lose yourself in them quite easily. Cartomania is an infectious condition and Frank Jacobs &mdash the compiler of this bizarre and delightful atlas &mdash is a paid-up cartomane who runs a wildly popular blog (strangemaps.wordpress.com), a gallery of lost and found maps for similarly afflicted people for whom the map is the territory.
In an introduction titled &lsquoNot for Navigation&rsquo, Jacobs makes it clear that his inclination is for imaginative and imaginary geographies real atlases, he says, bore him. Of course, this is not uncharted territory either. Strange Maps recalls another recent volume Katharine Harmon&rsquos You Are Here Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination. Jacobs&rsquos book is not nearly as beautiful as Harmon&rsquos (though it includes some of the same maps) and I can&rsquot help wondering if this isn&rsquot down to its Internet origins. Cartomania is close to bibliomania, but if you are a serious paper-fetishist, You Are Here is what you want.
Yet, in this changing world of Google Earth and net navigation, Strange Maps has its own charms, which will draw you inexorably into cyberspace to Jacobs&rsquos wonderful blog and elsewhere. There&rsquos a typographic world map of top-level domain names (Internet country codes), which had me wildly googling to find the distinction between TLDs and FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standard) datacodes (.bs belongs to the Bahamas in one and the ephemeral coral reef of the Bassas da India in the other). Another world map &mdash an overlay of the continents as antipodes &mdash led me to discover that India&rsquos only terrestrial antipode is Easter Island (on the other side of the world from the Jaisalmer/Barmer district boundary). See www.antipodemap.com.
Other favourites include a map of the first moonwalk and the satellite image of a Nebraska-shaped field in Nebraska. Actually (and fittingly), this one is on Jacobs&rsquos website. It&rsquos one of those loopy paradoxes that took me straight to Borges&rsquos conundrum of infinite regression a perfect map of England drawn on a field in England, which must contain an image of itself. Oh dear, now I have to go to Google Earth and see if I can zoom in on myself zooming in on myself. Maps are strange indeed. Buy this book. It&rsquos a real waste of time, in the best way.