Tag Archives: Geography

Marginalia, no.101

Being constantly devoured by cranes, they have to live in caves in order to escape.

~ Matteo Ricci, from the Impossible Black Tulip map

We prefer to believe outrageous things when possible.  A Jesuit missionary to China, Ricci made his annotated map of the world for the Wanli Emperor in 1602.  Here he describes a race of dwarfs supposed to live in northern Russia.  He tells how, after a season of oppression, they charge from their caves on the backs of goats to destroy the nests of their enemies.  Thanks to things like the rise of international trade and satellite imagery, geography as a form of popular fiction has been exiled to distant planets and parallel universes.

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