Strive For Authenticity, Not Admiration

Samaritan's Song

I’ve been reading a book about maritime maps lately.

You’ve probably seen these maps and not known it.  Even some of the oldest ones are ornate and colorful with islands decorated like little red and green jewels and with fanciful, elaborate drawings of people and creatures and buildings on the landforms.  (If you can’t quite picture one, think of a map that says “here there be dragons” with relevant illustrations and you’ll be close.)

Many of those that remain are on display in various museums or scholarly collections.  But here’s the funny thing: many of those meticulously crafted and elaborate maritime maps never actually went to sea!  These gorgeous originals were kept, more often than not, on land: the salt water and humid climate and rough handling of a sea journey would degrade them too quickly for them to be of use.  Instead of soiling them, sailors and cartographers produced…

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