Category Archives: Fantasy

Sail away to Christmasland

Everyone has heard of Christmas Island, but have you heard of Christmasland? The (fictional) island appears on this cartographic Christmas card from the 1930s. Christmasland: Captain Jolliman’s voyage of discovery in ye “Friendship” (see what they did there?) shows a route from Humdrum Drearyland, with its Workaday Coast, to Christmasland.

The island has many seasonal placenames such as Mistletoe Bay, the Forest of Greetings (the forest symbols being, appropriately enough, Christmas trees), Welcome City, Kiddies Country and the Coast of Old Friends. The River Gin and the River It combine to form Cocktail River (hurrah!) and there are various plays on words relating to place names, such as Port Wine, and the Sound of Bells. The captain’s route continues past Pudding Point, through the Financial Straits, amongst the Hangover Rocks and past Resolution Point to New Years Land.

Cartographical allegories like this have been produced for centuries. Maps along these lines illustrating the “land of love” or themes around courtship and marriage became popular in seventeenth century France, and soon spread to other European countries including England. Allegorical maps with a morally improving theme also appeared, illustrating the spiritual journey through life. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth century allegorical maps as games were also popular. Meanwhile, in the nineteenth century, the Christmas card was gaining in popularity, as outlined in this recent blog from the Bodleian’s John Johnson collection.  But Christmasland, combining the two, may be a one off.

The card was donated to the Map Room recently, after it was spotted in the Oxfam shop in Chipping Norton by a Bodleian reader. Such ephemeral material often doesn’t survive so it was a welcome addition to the collection.


The card is printed inside with an address in Hillcrest Avenue, Pinner, then as now a pleasant road in an affluent commuter town on the outskirts of London. It is signed by hand, and dated Christmas 1936. There is also a quotation:

Hope shall brighten days to come
And memory gild the past

From a poem by the Irish writer Thomas Moore. These words, and a printed greeting with

Remembrance and kind thoughts for Christmas with good wishes for your happiness in the future

is something we need in the current difficult times. Happy Christmas!

Stories 1 – The War of the Worlds

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These extracts come from the War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells. Set in real locations in and around Woking and London Ordnance Survey and other maps are used to show the locations of parts of the book.

‘No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own…The planet Mars, I scarcely need remind the reader, revolves about the sun at a mean distance of 140,000,000 miles, and the light and heat it receives from the sun is barely half of that received by this world. It must be…older than our world; and long before this earth ceased to be molten, life upon its surface must have begun its course…Nor was it generally understood that since Mars is older than our earth, with scarcely a quarter of the superficial area and remoter from the sun, it necessarily follows that it is not only more distant from life’s beginning but nearer its end…’

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The journeys of the inner planets around the Sun, taken from The Solar System, A1 (38)

‘That last stage of exhaustion, which to us is still incredibly remote, has become a present-day problem for the inhabitants of Mars. The immediate pressure of necessity has brightened their intellects, enlarged their powers, and hardened their hearts. And looking across space with instruments and intelligences such as we have scarcely dreamed of, they see, at its nearest distance only 35,000,000 of miles sunward of them, a morning star of hope, our own warmer planet…’

‘Then came the night of the first falling star…By very early in the morning poor Ogilvy, who had seen the shooting star, and who was persuaded that a meteorite lay somewhere on the common between Horsell, Ottershaw, and Woking…’

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The 6″ sheet, Surrey XVI N.W., by the Ordnance Survey, dated 1920. This is the western part of Horsell Common.  The map is sufficiently detailed to show the different types of trees planted. The pine-woods into which the second cylinder fell would be similar to Coxhill Green.

‘A few seconds after midnight a crowd in the Chertsey road, Woking, saw a star fall from heaven into the pine-woods to the north-west. It had a greenish colour and caused a silent brightness like summer lightning. This was the second cylinder’.

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The eastern half of Horsell Common, from Surrey XVII N.W., dated 1920. On this map places in the text; the Chertsey Road leading north out of Woking, the Common itself and the Oriental College can be seen.

‘About six in the evening, as I sat at tea with my wife in the summer-house …I heard a muffled detonation from the common, and immediately after a gust of firing. Close on the heels of that came a violent, rattling crash quite close to us, that shook the ground; and, starting out upon the lawn, I saw the tops of the trees about the Oriental College burst into smoky red flame, and the tower of the little church beside it slide down into ruin. The pinnacle of the mosque had vanished, and the roofline of the college itself looked as if a hundred-ton gun had worked upon it. One of our chimneys cracked as if a shot had hit it, flew, and a piece of it came clattering down the tiles…my wife and I stood amazed. Then I realized that the crest of Maybury Hill must be within range of the Martians’ Heat-Ray now the college was cleared out of the way’.

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The Oriental College, with mosque and church with Maybury to the south, from sheet Surrey XVII.5 of the Ordnance Survey 1:2,500 County Series, 1914.

These extracts come from the War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells. First published in 1898 after appearing in magazine form a year earlier it is generally regarded as one of the first books of alien invasion.

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The title and first pages from the first edition of the book, published in 1898 by William Heinmann, Walpole e.746.

War of the Worlds was first published in serial form in Pearson’s magazine in 1897

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Pearson’s Magazine, 1897. Per 2705 d.69