Here it is in dragons. The native supposedly save every difference between ancient maps and also our own. Wherein old maps were illustrated and also incomplete, ours are accurate and photographed indigenous the sky. Old maps to be pricey and precious; ours room nearly complimentary and ubiquitous.

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Most importantly: Old maps—early modern European maps—contain uncharted territory, throughout which beasts rumble and also serpents writhe. They have dragons.

Our modern technology might be tantamount from magic, however it does not contain wonder creatures. Google Maps does not have dragons.

Or that’s the story, anyway. Yet I’d constantly wondered: Do any old, original maps in reality say those words, “Here be dragons?”

The answer, that seems, is … No.

Not a solitary old file map gift those specific words—“Here it is in dragons”— in the spare part or otherwise. No one does any file map incorporate “Hic sunt dracones,” the words’ Latin equivalent.

But a globe does.

That’s right: One globe—just one—contains the words Hic sunt dracones. Referred to as the Hunt-Lenox Globe, the was built in 1510, making it among the first European globes ever before made. The tiny and made that copper—you can see the pictured above. Now in the possession that the brand-new York publicly Library, the Hunt-Lenox Globe consists of the renowned warning on the southeast coastline of Asia:

Library that Congress, via FYeahMaps 
(That beast, by the way? nearly certainly a walrus as described by sailors. The German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller made the Carta marina—he also first dubbed the continents across the Atlantic “the Americas.”)

Of course, Europe doesn’t have actually a monopoly on monstrous maps. A enormous dragon ring a 19th century Japanese map, the Jishin no ben.

But if Here it is in dragons is only on one map, why carry out we think that it as “typical?” Erin C. Blake, currently a curator of unique collections in ~ the Folger Shakespeare Library, muses:

It have to at the very least pre-date the publishing of Dorothy L. Sayers" short story "The Learned Adventure the the Dragon"s Head" in Lord Peter see the Body (London: Gollancz, 1928), in i beg your pardon a personality refers to having seen "hic dracones" on one old map . Does it pre-date the publication of the message of the LenoxGlobe in 1879? Why dragons, and not one of the various other terrifying creatures shown on old maps? 

The last answer, Blake writes, may be simply this: “We don’t know.”

Maybe that this: Those famed words served as a warning to the map’s initial users and also a type of thrive from the map’s artisan makers. Come us, castle seem to comment both on the travails the the terrain (“We don’t recognize what’s here!”) and around the threats of ignorance (“There might too be dragons in this unknown spot!”).

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Now, we use here be dragons to surname our novels full of knights and also kings, our treatises on fantastic maps, and even our investigations right into extraterrestrial life. The native remind united state how different our contemporary map-making is: Shot from cameras in the sky, and easily accessible on every smart phone, maps are ubiquitous and photographic, and, the creatures they magazine are too small to see.