The Dictionary of Imaginary Places: The Newly Updated and Expanded Classic

ISBN: 0156008726
ISBN 13: 9780156008723
By: Alberto Manguel Gianni Guadalupi

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About this book

From Atlantis to Xanadu and beyond, this Baedeker of make-believe takes readers on a tour of more than 1,200 realms invented by storytellers from Homer's day to our own. Here you will find Shangri-La and El Dorado; Utopia and Middle Earth; Wonderland and Freedonia. Here too are Jurassic Park, Salman Rushdie's Sea of Stories, and the fabulous world of Harry Potter. The history and behavior of the inhabitants of these lands are described in loving detail, and are supplemented by more than 200 maps and illustrations that depict the lay of the land in a host of elsewheres. A must-have for the library of every dedicated reader, fantasy fan, or passionate browser, Dictionary is a witty and acute guide for any armchair traveler's journey into the landscape of the imagination.

Reader's Thoughts

Espen Helgesen

** spoiler alert ** BoB: Ikke på BoB

Garry Rogers

The armchair explorer's guide to the geography of imaginative literature. I thought I knew some of the places well, but I learned more when I saw them through Manguel's eyes. This book could be a resource for writers, but it's mainly just fun.


I fell upon this book when it was first published like a punter attacking an ice-cream during the interval in an over-hot theatre. Just the title had me drooling, and once inside the book I was in seventh heaven. First of all it took places described in a range of literary works as literally true by giving each a Baedeker-style travel guide entry. Then, like any good Baedeker it provided maps and charts giving visual aids to familiar and unfamiliar locations. There have been at least two revised editions since 1980 but this was the first attempt to give an overview of dystopias, utopias, fantasy worlds and comic geographies from different cultures, languages and centuries. The mock-seriousness is sometimes leavened with equally tongue-in-cheek humour though I found that at times the terseness of some entries could be wearing.Just a few examples of entries, almost at random, may give you a flavour. Bluebeard’s Castle, for example is described as “somewhere in France; the exact location remains unknown. The castle is famed for its many riches and fine furniture, tapestries and full-length mirrors with frames of gold. Travellers – in particular female ones – should proceed with caution…” Some places are in distant lands, such as King Solomon’s Mines, “discovered by Allan Quatermain’s expedition to Kukuanaland, Africa, in 1884″, or Shangri-La, which can “only be reached on foot and visitors are infrequent.” In contrast Ruritania is “a European kingdom reached by train from Dresden” while Wonderland is “a kingdom under England, inhabited by a pack of cards and a few other creatures.”Here you can find entries for Atlantis and Oz, Camelot and Treasure Island, Middle Earth and Erewhon, Arkham and Hyperborea, Lilliput and Gormenghast, plus a plethora of more obscure places culled from even more obscure titles. Graham Greenfield’s wonderful line drawings have an antique quality about them which only adds to the sense of strangeness and wonder, while the maps and charts by James Cook are a joy to peruse and explore. Some maps from 1980 needed revision (Narnia, for example, had some crucial omissions and misplacements), but their consistent olde-worlde look (with hachures rather than contour lines, for instance, and Renaissance-style typefaces) is charming and lends character to the whole presentation.In addition to the alphabetical listing of places, the authors include an index of authors and titles to help you cross reference. For example, if you can’t remember some of the cities visited by Marco Polo in Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities they are handily included here. Which only helps to underscore that The Dictionary of Imaginary Places is a treasure chest to dip into again and again.


To find out what kind of places exist in other people's imaginations turn to this book. There are maps and guides. I enjoyed studying the map of Oz. Who knew? This is a welcome addition to the bookshelf for anyone who enjoys fantasy/sci-fi. Each name is given a complete explanation. Helpful.

Peter DiCicco

This is just a fun reference guide to a nearly endless list of imagined places. It sticks pretty strictly to literature and mythology (because, seriously, the editors would be researching it forever otherwise), so no Fortress of Solitude or Galaxy Far, Far Away. You can't have everything. I spent hours flipping through it when I first got it and still do on occasion. There aren't many places where you can easily flip back and forth between compendiums of knowledge on the Land of Oz and Middle-Earth!


This is basically a D&D player's dream come true packaged to appeal to a more general audience. Would make for an excellent bathroom book if it weren't so heavy.

Jacquelyn Weinbrenner

Pretty awesome. I've showed this to everyone. It's so cool. I wish it had maps from Catherynne M. Valente's books!

Megan Vaughan

This is an absolutely fabulous book for anyone of any age. If you're capable of letting your mind wander to far off and completely fictional places, you'll be entranced immediately. Its the kind of thing you read a few pages of before bed to ensure charming and enchanting dreams.

Ann aka Iftcan

interesting over-view of famous (and some no longer quite so famous) imaginary places. Written mostly in the manner of a guidebook for the various locales, it still has wit and some humour.

Marna Carlozzi

Loved this book when I was younger and love having it to share with my child.


This is a big omnibus of 19th Century fantasies. The kind where the hero washes up on an island where everyone wears their hats upside down for some reason.


I first got the 1987 edition of this book as a gift from my uncle in the mid-nineties, and it has since been one of my favorite volumes to idly peruse. Though it contains lengthy entries on the most frequently visited of imaginary places, such as Middle-earth, Earthsea, and Oz, its entries on less familiar regions such as Sylvia Townsend Warner's Kingdoms of Elfin are welcome, and this updated edition includes such recently-explored places as Hogwarts and Neverwhere.This work was my first introduction to Arkham, Gormenghast, and Erewhon, and inspired me to find each source work. I've found it both a useful reference as well as fine pleasure reading due to Manguel and Guadalupi's jovial prose, which treats each place as if the reader might really be planning to travel there in the near future.


One of my favorite books for browsing. An inexhaustible index of imaginary lands in literature from The Grand Duchy of Fenwick to Burrough's Pellucidar to Carroll's Wonderland. Many entries are illustrated with maps and all come with detailed descriptions of the lands. The fact that the writers treat these entries like they are real places that you may travel to, simply lends a delightful air in the enjoyment of this book. I've had this book since its first publication in 1987 and I never fail to find something new each time I pick it up.

Artur Coelho

Nesta era em que cada milímetro quadrado do planeta está mapeado com rigor, observado pelo olhar lenticular dos satélites em órbita, cada recanto registado pelas suas coordenadas no espaço abstracto dos meridianos e paralelos, fotografado nos espectros do infravermelho ao ultravioleta, calcorreado por exploradores, aventureiros ou servos de gigantes tecnológicos apostados em digitalizar o planeta, traçado em atlas e mapas pixelizados, precisamos talvez mais do que nunca de espaços desconhecidos, de vazios nos mapas que prometem dragões e ao fazê-lo despertam os voos mais exóticos da imaginação humana. Foi este o meu primeiro pensamento ao folhear este delicioso tomo. Escrevi isto antes de o abrir com olhos de leitor, e só depois li o fantástico prefácio de Manguel, que espelha com precisão esta necessidade de imaginar o desconhecido na era onde as luzes do conhecimento iluminam o mais recôndito, longínquo ou obscuro. Não só, mas também o fascínio pelos voos de imaginação, pelos locais que existem em mapas que mapeiam não a geografia física mas os escolhos e penedos da imaginação sonhadora.


What's not to love about reading about those places you've already imagined?Organized as a traditional dictionary, learn more about your favorite setting created by your favorite authors.

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