Behold All 42 Maps from Jules Verne’s Extraordinary Voyages, the Author’s 54-Volume Collection of “Geographical Fictions”

Jules Verne’s tales of adven­ture take his char­ac­ters around the world, through the deep­est seas, even into the cen­ter of the Earth—on jour­neys, that is, dif­fi­cult or impos­si­ble in the 19th cen­tu­ry. Verne him­self, how­ev­er, spent most his life in France, writ­ing of places he had not seen. In one apoc­ryphal sto­ry, the young Jules Verne is caught try­ing to sneak aboard a ship bound for the Indies and promis­es his father he will hence­forth trav­el “only in his imag­i­na­tion.” Whether or not he made such a vow, he seemed to keep it, though the idea that he nev­er trav­eled at all is a “tire­some canard,” writes Ter­ry Har­pold in an essay titled “Verne’s Car­togra­phies.”

Verne’s famed nov­els Twen­ty Leagues Under the Sea, Jour­ney to the Cen­ter of the Earth, and Around the World in Eighty Days con­sti­tute only a frac­tion of the 54-vol­ume Voy­ages Extra­or­di­naires, a col­lec­tion of fic­tion con­ceived on the basis of a sci­ence we might not think of as a rich field for mate­r­i­al.

“Of the 80 nov­els and oth­er short sto­ries he pub­lished,” geo­g­ra­ph­er Lionel Dupuy writes, “62 make up the cor­pus of Extra­or­di­nary Voy­ages (Voy­ages Extra­or­di­naires). These books, in which imag­i­na­tion played a vital role, were termed ‘geo­graph­i­cal nov­els,’ a cat­e­go­ry the author him­self used for them.”

Verne would also use the term “sci­en­tif­ic nov­el,” but he made it clear which sci­ence he meant:

I always had a pas­sion for study­ing geog­ra­phy, as oth­ers did for his­to­ry or his­tor­i­cal research. I real­ly believe that it is my pas­sion for maps and great explor­ers around the world that led me to write the first of my long series of geo­graph­i­cal nov­els.

As a geo­graph­i­cal nov­el­ist, and mem­ber of the Geo­graph­i­cal Soci­ety from 1865 to 1898, it was only fit­ting that Verne include as many maps as he could in his quest, as he put it, “to depict the Earth, and not just the Earth, but the uni­verse, for I have some­times car­ried my read­ers far away from the Earth in my nov­els.” To that end, “thir­ty of the nov­els” in the first edi­tion of Voy­ages Extra­or­di­naires” pub­lished by Pierre-Jules Het­zel, “include one or more engraved maps,” Har­pold points out. “There are forty-two such engrav­ings in all.” View them here.

“These images and design ele­ments are nuanced, grace­ful, and evoca­tive; draft­ed and engraved by some of the finest artists of the time,” Har­pold writes. “They rep­re­sent the pin­na­cle of late nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry pop­u­lar-sci­en­tif­ic car­tog­ra­phy.” They also rep­re­sent the author of geo­graph­i­cal fic­tions who, as both a sci­en­tist and artist, refused to let either form of think­ing take over the text, com­bin­ing myth and poet­ry with obser­va­tion and mea­sure­ment. As Dupuy puts it, “in Extra­or­di­nary Voy­ages, the pas­sage from real­i­ty to imag­i­na­tion and back is encour­aged by the emer­gence of a ‘mar­velous’ that we can call ‘geo­graph­i­cal.’”

In one sense, we might think of most kinds of fic­tion as geo­graph­i­cal, in that they describe places we have nev­er seen. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly so in fic­tions that include maps of their imag­ined ter­ri­to­ries, such as those of William Faulkn­er, J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Louis Steven­son, and so on. We might look to Jules Verne as their tow­er­ing for­bear. “Sev­er­al of the maps appear­ing in the Het­zel Voy­ages were draft­ed under Verne’s close super­vi­sion or were based on his sketch­es or designs. Maps in three of the nov­els (20,000 Leagues [top], Hat­teras [fur­ther up], Three Rus­sians) were draft­ed by Verne him­self, whose tal­ents in this regard were appre­cia­ble,” writes Har­pold.

Verne’s maps mix real and fic­tion­al place names and are “always ambigu­ous and semi­ot­i­cal­ly unsta­ble objects.” They appear almost as admis­sions of the myth­mak­ing that goes into the sci­ence of geog­ra­phy and the act of explo­ration. Near the end of his life, maps became more real to Verne than the world out­side. As he grew too weary even to leave the neigh­bor­hood, he wrote to Alexan­dre Dumas fils, “If I have main­tained a taste for work… , noth­ing remains of my youth. I live in the heart of my province and nev­er budge from it, even to go to Paris. I trav­el only by maps.” See all of Verne’s maps from the Het­zel edi­tion of Extra­or­di­nary Voy­ages, such as those for Around the World in Eighty Days (above) and Five Weeks in a Bal­loon (below), here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jules Verne’s Most Famous Books Were Part of a 54-Vol­ume Mas­ter­piece, Fea­tur­ing 4,000 Illus­tra­tions: See Them Online

An Atlas of Lit­er­ary Maps Cre­at­ed by Great Authors: J.R.R Tolkien’s Mid­dle Earth, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Trea­sure Island & More

William Faulkn­er Draws Maps of Yok­na­p­ataw­pha Coun­ty, the Fic­tion­al Home of His Great Nov­els

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness


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