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The Dictionary Project, Volume X: Islands of the Pacific

The Dictionary Project is a post-a-day exploration of The Century Dictionary and Cylopedia, a twelve-volume set printed in New York in 1901. The Project runs from October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015, and matches volume numbers to calendar months. Volume X is The Atlas, and today is Day 28.

I have been to some of these islands: New Zealand and Fiji, to be precise. Bula!

1897 Map of Islands of the Pacific

I love how creative the mapmakers were with the arrangement of these island chains, and making them all fit together on a double-page spread. That had to take some doing, because the Pacific is BIG; who knows how many thousands of square miles of empty ocean were cut away to make this jigsaw puzzle work. You lose all sense of scale and relative position, of course, but choices have to be made. At least they included Tonga’s nickname, Friendly Islands. Makes you want to go visit! Well, it does me, anyway.

Still a bunch of colonialism evident here, with all the countries shown in brackets to reflect which European power controlled the area. Lots of (British) and (French), with a couple of (German) territories for flavour. That, combined with the crammed-togetherness of the island chains, reinforces my thought that this Atlas was created with the American schoolchild in mind. It’s more of a “who owns what” than a “what is where” kind of map, this one.

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