I’m not sure whether it comes from my dad or my love of history (probably both), but I love looking at maps…especially old maps. Before I started writing, I never really had a reason to purchase old maps, but now that I’m knee-deep in the Regency, my map passion has taken on a life of its own.
In London this past fall, I purchased (and Jilly bought for me — thank you!) a couple of interesting things from Stanfords. One was Patterson’s 24-miles Around London (1791). Want to know where the Rt. Hon. Wm. Pitt lived? Near Holwood Hill in Kent. Where was HRH the Duke of York’s estate? In Surrey, south of Houndslow Heath, along the Thames (it was called Oatland Park). I’m finding it incredibly invaluable for naming estates, neighbors, towns, etc.; finding out what local landmarks are nearby (Woolwich Marsh); and other things that I hope will add to the realism of my story.
The other thing I got while in London is “The A to Z of Regency London” by Harry Margary. It’s a map book that shows not only every street in Regency London (1813-ish), but attempts to show every house number! I had to purchase a magnifier when I got this book, because in some cases the print is so small, it’s nearly impossible to read unaided. What I like this for is the ability to pick a street where my characters live, and assign a house number that isn’t actually a working house number (just in case they haven’t changed — I wouldn’t want someone to see their address in my book).
My latest purchase was a map of the provinces of France (1818). My story takes place just as Napoleon is leaving Elba for Paris, in late Feb – March 1815, to begin his 100 Days (of course, at the time, he didn’t know it’d only be 100 days). I wanted to be able to chart Napoleon’s trek across France, seeing the towns, roads, rivers, etc. that he traversed or crossed in order to get there (it is important to my story, actually). The map I found is perfect! I have charted his progress on my map with a trail of tiny sticky notes from the south of France near Cannes to Paris, adding for certain cities the dates I knew he was there. Again, for someone trying to be as real as possible, this sort of thing is invaluable.
Now, some of you will probably say that several of these maps can be found for free and online. You’re right. In fact, I’ve downloaded a few, but what I find I miss with those maps is the exploratory nature of letting my eye roam wherever it wants. Digital maps are great if I know what I’m looking for and set out to find it, but if I want to just let my eyes wander, and let my mind cogitate on the different streets/towns/landmarks I see and how they’ll fit into my story, a map I can hold in my hands is by far preferred.
Next on my list of maps I wish to acquire are those from the early Caribbean settlements. My next story involves Susannah’s sister, who resides in Jamaica. It’d be nice to see what early 19th century Jamaica looked like.
What sorts of collections have you started since you began writing?