Archive for December 2013

2013 in review   Leave a comment

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted December 31, 2013 by atroll in Uncategorized

Cool Maps from Ancient Tomes, No. 2   Leave a comment

When I did the ancient map from Harold the Webbed last time, i already had a second one in mind. This is a map of legendary Persia, and it isn’t quite as fanciful as the map of Viking Britain that Trader Horn gave us, but it does show a rider on horseback and thus contains the same travel theme as the last one. This map comes from a book called THE ADVENTURES OF HAJJI BABA OF ISPAHAN by James (Justinian) Morier; illustrated by Cyrus LeRoy Baldridge. New York, Random House, MCMXXXVII  (1937). Hajji is a kind of Islamic Huck Finn, and his adventures serve to illustrate the nature of life in medieval Persia (which is now Iran). The book is well written, well bound, oversized, well illustrated with both color plates and black and white line sketches, and seems to have made almost no impression on the American public at the time. As it turns out, James Morier was a British diplomat and novelist who lived in the early 1800s–this book was first published in 1824. Morier spent part of his life as the British ambassador to Persia–he spoke the language and knew the country intimately. Both artist and illustrator have articles about them in wikipedia, and both seem to have been outstanding men of their time. Baldridge did the gorgeous illustrations that fill the book, and my guess is that he did the map as well.


The map spreads across two pages as a kind of frontispiece before the title page. I had to scan it as two pages. My son James did a little cut and paste and cropping magic to put the two pages together for this picture.

Hajji is more of a historical novel than a fantasy in the same sense that Tom Sawyer is a historical novel. It still seems like something from the Arabian Nights.

I liked the name Ispahan so well that I incorporated it as a fantasy country in some of the fantasy swords and sorcery I wrote when I was younger. One of those stories was published as “Some Legends Should Remain Forgotten” decades ago. Find it if you can. 🙂

If you have ever read anything by James Morier or seen the art of Cyrus Baldridge, please leave a comment.


Posted December 27, 2013 by atroll in Uncategorized

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Cool Old Maps from Ancient Tomes   1 comment

Well, if you agree that anything published before the year 2000 is old, and anything from before 1950 is ancient, then I have something for you.

I love maps–especially drawn maps of fantastic places that never really existed.  I’m not so keen on aerial surveys. I’m currently reading an old book that I rescued from an antique shop several years ago.  It is called Trader Horn: Harold the Webbed.  The title page is the kind of thing that isn’t done in publishing anymore.  It says:

Harold the Webb or The Young Vykings:  being volume two of the life and works of Trader Horn

. . . the works written by Alfred Aloysius Horn at the age of seventy-three, & the life with such of his philosophy as is the gift of age and experience, taken down and here edited by Ethelreda Lewis; with a foreword by William McFee. New York, The Literary Guild of America, Inc., MCMXXVIII.

Wikipedia has this to say about Mr. Horn:

Alfred Aloysius “Trader” Horn (born Alfred Aloysius Smith; 1861–1931) was an ivory trader in central Africa. He wrote a book, Trader Horn: A Young Man’s Astounding Adventures in 19th-Century Equatorial Africa (ISBN 1-885211-81-3), detailing his journeys into jungles teeming with buffalo, gorillas, man-eating leopards, serpents and “savages”. The book also documents his efforts to free slaves, meet the founder of Rhodesia, Cecil Rhodes, and liberate a princess from captivity.

I’ve read that book. I may have it around the apartment somewhere. It’s rather a fantastic tale of 19th century Africa, something straight out of H. Rider Haggard, and it became a sensation is the 1920s when it was made into a film using a lot of actual footage of wild animals shot in Africa. Some of that footage was recycled into the Johnny Weismuller Tarzan movies. What people don’t know is that after the success of his first book, Horn thought he could do it again by creating a medieval romance about the days of Viking England. He chose as his hero a 16 year old boy with webs between his fingers and toes, which made him a very good swimmer. The tale is the most ridiculous claptrap anyone has ever read. Horn called upon his family traditions from Lancashire, and thought he would make up a tale of derring-do that would catch the fancy of the romance-reading public the way his first story about rescuing a white woman from a native tribe did. Although the book was handsomely produced, I’m sure it sank like a stone when it came out. The tale involves a crew of teenage pirates sailing in British waters at the time when Julius Caesar was invading England. They spend some time with the legendary Irish chieftain Fingal and rob a Phoenician trader.  Horn calls his characters Saxons and Vikings although both of those races lived hundreds of years after the Romans invaded Britain.  The story is just plain silly. I, who am a lover of medieval romances, sagas, and heroic literature, am having a hard time reading this.

But the book came with this map.  Isn’t it a beauty?


The map not only shows the travels of the hero, but also shows a portrait of the author at 73, placed in his native Lancashire, and shows a Norman castle as the stronghold of an Irish chieftain. Surely this map of the British Isles is as much a creation of fantasy as any map of Atlantis would be.  In the tradition of ancient maps, it even has a sea serpent drawn into it, though if there is a sea serpent in the book, I haven’t found it yet. 🙂

The publisher did a nice job with this book back in 1928 when it came out.  It is bound in green buckram, has gold stamping of a Viking ship on the front cover, `and the title stamped in gold on the spine.  It’s only 275 pages, and most of the book is full of the ignorant and racist musings of old Albert Horn, but it’s printed on good quality paper, and a book like this might easily survive for a century or two if someone would just take care of it.

I have a fairly large collection of old books.  I’m thinking I might share a few more of their beauties with anyone willing to read these blogs.  If I can just rescue the maps and some of the ancient illustrations from oblivion, it will be worth the effort.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Trader Horn, or read anything by this old geezer, why not leave a comment? I’m fairly certain that Edgar Rice Burroughs would have been aware of Horn’s African tale at the very least.  And I wonder how much more “White Hunter” literature survives from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Don’t mention Haggard to me. I’ve read most of his stuff. But is there anyone else worth reading?