Like many readers, I was enraptured by the maps in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (1954-55) and The Hobbit (1937). After their 1965 reprinting in a widespread American edition, maps became more common in works of science fiction and fantasy. I particularly enjoyed the maps of an imaginary kingdom in Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles(1964-68) and star charts in Cherryh's Chanur series(1982-92).

I think it would be worthwhile to split this question into science fiction and fantasy genres, as these genres have often taken separate paths in literature. I am not sure whether to classify Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726) as science fiction or as fantasy. This is certainly an early example of speculative fiction illustrated with maps, but I would be more satisfied to find the earliest use of a map in the modern genre of science fiction that began in the 19th century with authors such as H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, as it might have influenced later authors.

To sum up: What was the earliest printed map in the modern science fiction genre? (That is, not merely the earliest map to be mentioned in a text.)

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    Gulliver's Travels is science fiction because of the episode in Laputa. His parody of the Royal Society "projectors" is the progenitor of the "mad scientist" trope. And the Houyhnhnms are the progenitor of the "superior alien race" trope.
    – Spencer
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 15:15
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    Well, going back even further in time, There is a map in Thomas More's Utopia.
    – Spencer
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 17:42
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    Spencer: Somehow, I knew Utopia (1516) would be next, though I've never seen the map before. Thanks! But let's see if we can push back the use of maps in modern science fiction, that is, from the 19th century onward. The earliest example I gave in SF was from Cherryh (1982), and I'm sure it will be possible to find an earlier example than that. Ah: Here is one from Burroughs' Pellucidar (1915): en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pellucidar#/media/File:Pellucidar-map.gif Commented Sep 11, 2019 at 0:44
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    As per the answer to a previous question, there is a map for Dune (1965). However, I'm not sure it was in the first edition. scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/3825/… Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 7:54
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    @KlausÆ.Mogensen: Well, regardless of the status of Pellucidar, I think that Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World (1912), with dinosaurs discovered on a South American plateau, can be counted as science fiction, and it has a map: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lost_World_(Conan_Doyle_novel)#/media/… Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 10:58

1 Answer 1


If you define “modern” that way, then the first such maps are probably the maps of the north pole made for the first half of Jules Verne's Les Aventures du capitaine Hatteras (The Adventures of Captain Hatteras), published some time between 1864 and 1866. They show a partly fictional map of the north pole, of which the geography was not yet known at the time.

The maps match Verne's invented description in the second part of the novel. Part 2 chapter 21 describes that after leaving the huge fictional island of New-America at north 87° 05′ latitude and west 118° 35′, the expedition could sail on open ocean. The same chapter also gives some technobabble on why the characters are hoping that there would be a land near the North Pole. In chapter 22, they indeed find a small volcanic island right at the pole, and name it Queen's Island. This island provides the dramatic end for Captain Hatteras's journey. I believe this makes this clearly a sci-fi map, even if its southern areas show real world geography, as opposed to eg. the maps for Les Enfants du capitaine Grant, which do not contain such imaginary elements.

See a medium quality scan of the map. This was scanned by the crew of the Illustrated Jules Verne site, which claims that the illustrations are from 1866 by Édouard Riou and Henri de Montaut. The map probably appears chapter 14.

  • This is a good example, though the date needs to be pinned down. Google Books includes two early French editions. One from 1866 has no illustrations, but an 1867 edition contains the map on page 100. I'll leave the question open until it is clear that no earlier examples are forthcoming. Thanks! books.google.com/… Commented Sep 18, 2019 at 20:19
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    @InvisibleTrihedron The Illustrated Jules Verne site claims "jv.gilead.org.il/biblio/voyages.html#AH" that the combined volume was published in 1866 but dated 1867. Since this map is in the first half of the novel but illustrates what we only find out in the second half, it probably comes from the combined volume.
    – b_jonas
    Commented Sep 18, 2019 at 21:41

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