History in my hands

africa map 1860 webFunny how tastes can change.

When I was in high school, I got out of geography class by taking U.S. History twice. You could do that back then. I also somehow got credits for all three times I took intro to public speaking, and the first half of my days as a senior was a series of art and craft classes.

Yeah, I was not the guy voted most likely to become a journalist and wannabe novelist.

Geezus. I can’t believe it’s been nearly 26 years since I graduated. Yes, graduated. Just barely.

Nowadays I love learning about new lands and peoples. Over the last few years I’ve been working on my historical novel, I’ve also learned to love maps.

Old maps. New maps. I like to see exactly, or fairly closely, where things are. And I like to see how places have change.

Which brings me to today’s blatherings.

When I had the dream about the characters in my antebellum novel about slavery and adventure and searching for family, I didn’t know just how much time I’d spend staring at maps.

Not only did I need to plot the course—some of my people travel from Michigan to New York to the western edge of Central Africa to South Africa to Northern South Africa to Southern Central Africa.

And, better yet, since the story takes place in 1860, many of the locations no longer exist on modern maps. And, if they do, most of them—the overseas ones—have different names.

Some of the places have changed names numerous time.

Try planning a fictional trip between two villages that haven’t been around for 160 years.

I dare ya!

Luckily, there are lots and lots of online resources.

Recently I stumbled upon an 1860 map of Africa that was for sale and in my price range.

It’s an original two-sided J. H. Colton map of Africa/Oceanica on one side and Australia & New Zealand on the other.

According to Wikipedia, J. H. Colton Company maps were printed using engraved steel plates, which produced higher quality prints than maps made with less costly wax engravings.

And, they were often individually hand water-colored and were recognized for their decorative borders.

I’ve gotta say, other than a torn corner and a few tiny age spots, the map is in great shape.

It’s so cool to have a piece of history in my hands from the time when my story takes place.

Anyway, I’d better get back to work.

I’ve got a hundred or so pages of this roughly 400-page manuscript left to revise.

And there is some serious lifting needs to be done in this final quarter to bring all my plot points and character arcs to satisfying conclusions.