When The old mapmakers got to the end of the known world, they used to write:
BEYOND THIS PLACE THERE BE DRAGONS
Of Exactitude in Science
…In that Empire, the craft of Cartography attained such Perfection that the Map of a Single province covered the space of an entire City, and the Map of the Empire itself an entire Province. In the course of Time, these Extensive maps were found somehow wanting, and so the College of Cartographers evolved a Map of the Empire that was of the same Scale as the Empire and that coincided with it point for point. Less attentive to the Study of Cartography, succeeding Generations came to judge a map of such Magnitude cumbersome, and, not without Irreverence, they abandoned it to the Rigours of sun and Rain. In the western Deserts, tattered Fragments of the Map are still to be found, Sheltering an occasional Beast or beggar; in the whole Nation, no other relic is left of the Discipline of Geography.
—From Travels of Praiseworthy Men (1658) by J. A. Suarez Miranda
The piece was written by Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares. English translation quoted from J. L. Borges, A Universal History of Infamy, Penguin Books, London, 1975.
The story elaborates on a concept in Lewis Carroll‘s Sylvie and Bruno Concluded: a fictional map that had “the scale of a mile to the mile.” One of Carroll’s characters notes some practical difficulties with this map and states that “we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well.”
Map (1520s, shortening of M.E. mapemounde “map of the world” (late 14c.), from M.L. mappa mundi “map of the world,” first element from L. mappa “napkin, cloth” (on which maps were drawn), said by Quintilian to be of Punic origin (cf. Talmudic Heb. mappa, contraction of menafa “a fluttering banner”))
a visual representation of an area—a symbolic depiction highlighting relationships between elements of that space such as objects, regions, and themes. Many maps are static two-dimensional, geometrically accurate (or approximately accurate) representations of three-dimensional space, while others are dynamic or interactive, even three-dimensional. Although most commonly used to depict geography, maps may represent any space, real or imagined, without regard to context or scale [Wikipedia and Online Etymology Dictionary]