Should this be a map or 500 maps? pairs perfectly with The Analytical Language of John Wilkins


This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought—our thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography—breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other. This passage quotes a ‘certain Chinese encyclopaedia’ in which it is written that ‘animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) suckling pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies’. In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that.

— Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences

I wonder if Borges or Foucault knew about Tomás Lopez.

Speaking of maps, National Library of Scotland has recently added Ordnance Survey 1:1,250 and 1:2,500 maps of England and Wales, 1940s-1970s. Not full coverage, but detailed enough to show the Anderson shelter that was in the back garden of my parents’ house.

NLS does amazing work putting maps online. Obviously they have a Scottish focus, and I wish there was a similar project with an English focus. There are maps I’ve had to go to Kew to view in person, and although that was fun, it seems like it would be better for the documents if we scanned them, put them online, and stopped handling them so much. I’ve paid for some of them to be scanned and sent to me, I can only assume that all that’s missing is the last step - a map server to host them.

A joke I only just got: in Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Gwendolen and Cecily are both obsessed with marrying a man with the Christian name Ernest. The joke is that women are supposed to marry men for their surname. That’s what he’s satirizing.

Wikipedia says “Some contemporary reviews praised the play’s humour as the culmination of Wilde’s artistic career, while others were cautious about its lack of social messages”, which I find incredible, because from our vantage-point the play is chock full of social commentary. Did his contemporaries not see his critiques, or did they just prefer to ignore them?