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 forebears to the modern genre of fantasy, as it might have influenced later authors.

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

  • 2
    You'd have to determine where the fantasy genre starts in order to answer. If the definition is that Tolkien invented the genre - well then you have the answer there. If the definition is something with fantastic creatures in some historical setting... well, the Iliad? Some version of Odyssey in print, together with a map?
    – Amarth
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 15:36
  • @Amarth: Good point. Tolkien had a huge influence on contemporary fantasy writing. But let's start with the early 19th century, taking the cue from the History of Fantasy article in Wikipedia, which points out the difference between older stories that contained fantastical elements and more modern stories that were explicitly intended to belong to fantasy worlds. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_fantasy Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 15:53
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe predates LotR by 4 years
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 17:36
  • 2
    Honorable mention for The Dictionary of Imaginary Places which collected (travelogue-style) such map up through the early 1980s (and later in editions after the 1st).
    – Lexible
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 23:23
  • 1
    NKCampbell: Yes, the Narnia map (1949) is older than The Lord of the Rings (personal.bgsu.edu/~edwards/baynes.html), but not older than The Hobbit (1937). Commented Sep 11, 2019 at 0:30

3 Answers 3


1885: H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines had a map. This book isn't always categorized as fantasy, but it has an imaginary land and a witch with some powers, plus plenty of mythic destiny, so I think it counts. So does Wikipedia; it is counted among 1885 fantasy novels.

Map from *King Solomon's Mines*

1914: If King Solomon's Mines isn't considered suffiently fantasy, what about L. Frank Baum's Oz books? The eight book in the series, Tik-Tok of Oz, came with an official map.

enter image description here

1932 (addendum): The first "true" fantasy map for adult fantasy may be Robert E. Howard's map of the Hyborian Age, hand-drawn by the writer himself in 1932. The style is very close to the maps we see in fantasy novels today.

enter image description here

  • Both good! Interestingly, Haggard's book ties into the exploration of Africa that was going on at the same time. Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 10:54
  • It probably doesn't qualify as fantasy, but Robert Louis Stevenson's *Treasure Island" (1883) had a map of the imaginary Skeleton Island. upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c6/… Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 12:46
  • That Oz map seems to have East/West the wrong way round.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 13:42
  • @OrangeDog: Not as far as I can see. East is to the right, and North on the top, as on most maps. Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 14:32
  • @KlausÆ.Mogensen Munchkin Country (blue) should be East and Winkie (yellow) West.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 14:59

Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson, serialized 1881–82, published in book form 14 Nov 1883.

Wikipedia calls its genre "adventure fiction".

Contains map of titular island:

enter image description here

  • 1
    nothing sci/fi fantasy about that story though, so doesn't really answer the question here
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 20:43
  • Also, I already linked to that map in a comment to my above post. Commented Sep 13, 2019 at 7:57

Unfortunately, my copy of Jeremiah Post's An Atlas of Fantasy (1973, 1979) is in storage and unavailable.

But there is a list of the contents here:

An Atlas of Fantasy

Note that many of the maps included may have been drawn and published years, decades, or centuries after the stories were first published (and may have been published in fanzines, etc. instead of editions of the stories), and that not every work included may qualify as science fiction or fantasy. Also note that the two editions vary a bit in the maps included.

Therefore it should take some research to decide which is the earliest published fantasy map among the maps published in An Atlas of Fantasy (1973, 1979), and of course it is possible that the first fantasy map published is not reproduced in the book.

  • 1
    "Centuries after" indeed; I hardly think the map of Eden is contemporaneous with the story. :)
    – DavidW
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 15:38
  • 3
    ...this would be better as a comment since none of the research that the answer says would be necessary to actually answer the question is provided. Good info that the book exists though but other than that (and even as you say, it's hard to know if anything in the book is original to the time of the works in question anyway) it's not much use as an answer
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 17:36
  • @NK Campbell It would probably be too long to fit as a comment. Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 15:28
  • @M.A.Golding I don't have a copy of An Atlas of Fantasy at hand, but, as you pointed out, Wikipedia has its table of contents and most of the works mentioned therein are linked. As it turns out, the table of contents is given approximately in chronological order. The oldest map is Thomas More's Utopia (1516), which is hard to classify but could be considered as either fantasy or proto-science fiction... (cont.). Commented Sep 18, 2019 at 12:35
  • ... And the earliest after the arbitrary cutoff date of 1800 is the fantasy map of Allestone drawn by the young son of Benjamin Heath Malkin and (apparently) printed in A Father's Memoirs of His Child (1806). A map drawn for the 1821 edition of John Bunyan's classic The Pilgrim's Progress is also worthy of note. If you would like to draft an answer pointing out the Malkin map, I can check it as correct so we may reach closure. I think I had a good idea with this question, but the difficulties in answering it meaningfully have become obvious. Commented Sep 18, 2019 at 12:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.