The Atlas of Remote Places is one of the most beautiful books I've seen in a long time. If I had the money I'd buy everyone I know a copy. Judith Schalansky both wrote and designed this small tome after weeks of what I assume was a rabbit-hole's worth of research in Berlin's state library. The fine design and printing of the book would have been enough to make me want it but it's her essays, magical, probably true* vignettes or histories of each island that make the book a marvel. It is no wonder it won the 2009 prize for Most Beautiful Book in Germany.
* The author:
That’s why the question whether these stories are "true" is misleading. Every detail stems from factual sources…however I was the discoverer of the sources, researching them through ancient and rare books, and I have transformed the texts and appropriated them as sailors appropriate the lands they discover.The librarian in me took a deep pleasure in sliding this book next to my copy of the Dictionary of Imaginary Places, a book I've been bringing with me everywhere since I got it in fourth grade. Without getting preachy, I really look forward to a future where the only books that continue to be printed are works of beauty for intimate perusal like this one.
And just because I love it so I'm tacking on Lewis Carroll's map of the ocean from The Hunting of the Snark:
He had bought a large map representing the sea,
Without the least vestige of land:
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
A map they could all understand.
“What’s the good of Mercator’s North Poles and Equators,
Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?
So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply
“They are merely conventional signs!
“Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!
But we’ve got our brave Captain to thank:
(So the crew would protest) “that he’s bought us the best—
A perfect and absolute blank!”