The fictional island Frisland appears in the lower left corner of this 1596 map of the Arctic by Gerardus Mercator.
Ancient Maps Show Islands That Don't Really Exist
For centuries, mapmakers have conjured up islands that only exist in the imagination.
The treaty that drew the first borders of the newly established United States after the Revolutionary War refers to an island that does not exist. The northern boundary of the new nation, the 1783 Treaty of Paris declared, shall pass “through Lake Superior northward of the Isles Royal and Phelipeaux.” It sounds clear enough, but when surveyors went out to map the border in the 1820s they discovered a problem: Isle Phelipeaux was not there.
The long and fascinating history of such phantom islands is the topic of Malachy Tallack’s new book, The Un-Discovered Islands, which he discussed recently in an interview with National Geographic. Inspired by the book, we’ve rounded up a collection of vintage maps that feature