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The Dictionary of Imaginary Places

4.24  ·  Rating Details ·  1,180 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews
A guide to more than 1,200 cities, islands, countries, and continents invented by writers and storytellers from Homer's day to the present. Over 250 black-and-white illustrations.
Paperback, 454 pages
Published September 1st 1987 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P (first published 1980)
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Jan 26, 2008 Rob rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rob by: John; Creighton
More of a novelty than anything else, the Dictionary of Imaginary Places is just that... a big fat alphabetized compendium of places that exist only in legends and myths and novels and other stories. It's the kind of book that aspiring novelists put on their coffee tables to impress other aspiring hipster novelists.

"What's with all those sticky notes and penciled in remarks?"

"Oh, you know. Research. Annotations."

"And this whole sheet stuffed in there?"

"I was trying to see what it would look like
Megan Vaughan
Sep 04, 2007 Megan Vaughan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE!
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.
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 ...more
Artur Coelho
Feb 09, 2014 Artur Coelho rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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, ...more
Oct 09, 2008 Branduno rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 introd
Feb 21, 2013 Hannah rated it it was amazing
I'm so tickled by the existence of this book. The title pretty much sums it up - this is an encyclopedia of imaginary places ranging from the fantastical (Middle Earth, Narnia, Wonderland) to the more realistic (Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe's island, Xanadu). In fact, this dictionary is worth looking at just for the extensive descriptions of Middle Earth and Narnia.

The authors treat every location as though it actually exists, which is part of the fun of reading it. There are also some wond
Nov 01, 2009 Marvin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any one who has an imagination.
Shelves: fantasy
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 t ...more
Douglas Summers-Stay
It's not really a dictionary; some parts are written like a tour guide, others more of an atlas. The entries describe locations from fantasy novels, from Gulliver's travels through Harry Potter. I noticed it included a few of Calvino's invisible cities, and some lands that Borges described, which is appropriate for such a Borgesian enterprise. The maps and illustrations are well done. It's a fun way to browse for new things to read. If you're willing to put up with an older edition (no Hogwarts) ...more
Js Absher
A vast and entertaining encyclopedia of invented places, from Homer to the Marx Brothers' movies and Borges' Urnland, where the whole of literature and language "consists of one word, undr, which means 'wonder' and is sometimes represented by a fish and sometimes by a red pole and a disc. In that word, each and any listener will recognize his labours, his loves, his secret acts, the things he has seen, the people he has known - everything." With detailed maps and drawings.
Amelia, the pragmatic idealist
This book is absolutely amazing, it is insightful, and it is a must-have for anyone attempting to write fantasy. included are:
- mythical places like Valhalla and Hades
- classical locations like Thomas More's Utopia, the places in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels...
- EVERYWHERE in the Middle Earth universe! (that alone deserves 5 stars)
- and recent locations, like J.K. Rowling's Hogwarts!!!

Ohhh and the pictures are wonderful, too!
May 10, 2013 Jeremy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an entertaining read, great fun. It's not anywhere near exhaustive, though, which is understandable given the subject matter. The authors try to cover all of the major imaginary worlds in literature, and world literature at that, not just anglophone. Maybe it would be good to have several different volumes, each one devoted to a different nation or language.
Nov 20, 2008 Denis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The perfect dictionary for anyone who's a dreamer. You don't need to be a fantasy or sci-fi fan (I'm not) to appreciate this astonishing book, which opens the doors to a myriad of imaginary places you wish you could go right now. The depth of the author's knowledge is breathtaking, and he writes about those places in the most delightful way.
Dec 30, 2008 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I certainly haven't read all of this voluminous book. It’s somewhat akin to reading and reviewing an encyclopedia, which is precisely what this book is. I was pleased to find the entries on places I’ve already read of in books, but I’m most excited about the prospect of discovering new books to read by referencing them in this book.
Apr 10, 2011 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A pretty interesting (and international!) compendium of imagined worlds. Not exactly complete by any means, even for the most recent update (1999), but still fun to poke through. Definitely worth the $9.99 I originally paid for it off the Waldenbooks bargain pile.
An interesting, if quirky, volume. While many mainstays of fantasy are represented -- Tolkien, Baum, etc. -- many entries are of obscure 18th and 19th century European authors who very few have heard of.
Alexandra Paiva
In our progressively shrinking world, it is no small feat to map the mysterious nor to put to paper, as much as one can, the lands that only a small group of people dared to tread. There were so few of these folk and so wild were the stories that reached us, that any person of sensible, rational persuasion can only but doubt and lay aside these tales as the (not so) simple work of fanciful creativity and wild imagination. Some voices might even call out – with that shrill, grey voice boring peop ...more
Unprecedented, witty, and utterly delightful, this encyclopedia of magical worlds uses a tongue-in-cheek, tour guide sensibility combined with a genunine love for its source material, which together are incredibly effective. It remains equally engaging whether flipped through at one's leisure or read straight through, and also serves as a enlightening survey of the worlds we create, over centuries. Much can be said about humans by looking at their Utopias and Dystopias, and the proliferation of ...more
Jeremy S.
Dec 31, 2010 Jeremy S. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, scifi, reference
this was a magical find for me years ago and it's uniqueness in the world of giant reference books is begging for me to get an updated version in hard back.

there exists one other giant tome in the category of fantasy literature. while it contains more granular information, Imaginary Places stands as a more playful resource. plenty of maps, drawings and geographical information can be looked up about Mordor, Oz and many other places.

Make sure you have plenty of room on your bookshelf, because I
Peter DiCicco
May 08, 2007 Peter DiCicco rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: bookworms; fantasy buffs
Shelves: fantasy, mythology
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-Ea ...more
Jul 12, 2013 Brianne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: research
This book lived up to all of my expectations.

It is in a dictionary format and, therefore, can't be expected to go into depth about each of the many magical lands that it documents. I use it as a reference for ideas and inspiration, but then branch out to other sources when I want specific details about any of the places it covers. It is a beautiful thick, hardcover that I find, not only informative, but a wonderful edition to the shelves of any folklore or fantasy enthusiast.
Rasmus Skovdal
Jul 10, 2013 Rasmus Skovdal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A mostly pointless, and entirely wonderful book.

It is exactly what it says on the tin - a reference book to places from fantasy novels. 800 pages of that. With maps and illustrations. Your immediate reaction to that description probably says a lot about you as a person.

It's not something you'd ever sit down and read from beginning to end, but I'm delighted that it now sits on my bookshelf, and that it exists.
Jun 05, 2012 Kellie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful book including details of a plethora of fictional places we read about every single day. Included copious maps of places like Oz, Middle Earth, Atlantis and soo many more obscure mythical places. This book hasn't been updated in a while, but I keep my copy around for nostalgia and also the articles on the fictitious cities are very informative not to mention entertaining.
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.
May 28, 2014 R.L. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mike (the Paladin)
It's a good read. The only negative I had was my surprise at a few places not in the book...but there are so many imaginary places it's slightly unfair to expect them all to be here (that's humor if you didn't get it).

So...head for you favorite places like maybe...Hogworts and look around.
Mar 19, 2014 Ed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So fascinating to find places that had only existed in books to be sometimes very well mapped out and have a substantial history. This book made me want to search out the stories that some of these places were based on.
So, it made me want to read more.
I like that.
Ilana Waters
May 08, 2012 Ilana Waters rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somehow, in such a scholarly form, this volume makes the places in our imaginations seem . . . less imaginary. As if you could start planning a trip there any minute. Needless to say, a must-own for all true fantasy fans!
Apr 09, 2010 Natalie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, I haven't read it all. It's giant. But, I have it and it's awesome. It really is a dictionary full of all imaginary places. Hogwarts, Neverland, Middle Earth,'s got everything with full descriptions. Really awesome library collection.
The Dictionary of Imaginary Places: The Newly Updated and Expanded Classic by Alberto Manguel (2000)
Jul 24, 2009 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Fantastic book - it's not really a book to sit down and read cover to cover (but I may do that yet) but one that I like to flip through for fantastical images when I have just a few minutes to read.
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Alberto Manguel (born 1948 in Buenos Aires) is an Argentine-born writer, translator, and editor. He is the author of numerous non-fiction books such as The Dictionary of Imaginary Places (co-written with Gianni Guadalupi in 1980) and A History of Reading (1996) The Library at Night (2007) and Homer's Iliad and Odyssey: A Biography (2008), and novels such as News From a Foreign Country Came (1991). ...more
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