Terence's Reviews > An Atlas Of Fantasy

An Atlas Of Fantasy by J.B. Post
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Sep 10, 08

bookshelves: sf-fantasy, reference-works
Read in January, 1980

I have managed to acquire a copy of this childhood favorite. It was only $1.98 but they got me with shipping and handling. Still it only came to about $8, less than I paid for the original copy, which fell apart because the binding couldn't take the constant page turning.

Poring over these maps eventually led me to the works of James Branch Cabell, E.R. Eddison, Austin Wright, Leigh Brackett and Clark Ashton Smith. I even heard about William Faulkner from this book since there's a map of Yoknapatawpha County in it (though, sadly, I didn't actually read him until I had to teach The Sound and the Fury for a high school Comp class).

Two of the more interesting maps are those of E.R. Burroughs' many worlds. Not only to we get his sketches of Barsoom and Pellucidar but also of Amtor (from his Venus novels) and all the lost cities Tarzan managed to stumble across in his African adventures. The other is that of the land of Allestone, the imaginary country of a boy who died before he was six years old -- Thomas Williams Malkin (1795-1802). As the author notes "[a] calendar and dating system, a history and a culture, and a geography were created for Allestone. The stories may read a bit crudely but consider that they were written by a six-year-old child." I'd love to find a copy of his father's memoirs, where the maps, histories and stories are appended, but it was written in 1806 and I doubt there are many copies still wandering about.
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message 1: by Astraea (last edited Nov 12, 2008 10:44AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Astraea Thank you for identyfying this book for us -- we've had an awful time trying to catalogue and track down all the books we read at university.

The Internet Archive now has the complete "A Father's Memoirs of His Child". Malkin the elder (a headmaster at a local school) wrote this lengthy philosophical biography partly because, of course, he missed the kid terribly. But he had other motives. The day after Malkin Jr.'s death (from what sounds like peritonitis secondary to inflammatory bowel disease) some moron with a degree visited the family and informed them that it had been obvious the kid was doomed to die from the beginning, owing to his extreme intelligence and constant intellectual activity. Something about the brain being too large and overworking. The parents actually had to arrange for an autopsy to prove once and for all what killed him. This must have been heartrending.

Malkin Sr.'s detailed account is designed to explain that Jr. (along with his brothers) had been engaged in these intellectual and creative pursuits almost from infancy on his own -- along with the usual outdoor play, and had enjoyed excellent health up until he caught this bug or whatever it was. Malkin Sr. had made a point of, rather than pushing the kids, not stopping them. As if he could have.

Dinah Maria Craik's chapter on the Malkins in The Unkind Word also takes this pathological view -- that the kid was pushed and overworked to an early grave. She was a folklorist and educator, but she'd obviously never met a child like Malkin Jr. One may as well ask a river not to flow as to try to prevent kids like that from doing their thing.

The Malkin boys were all homeschooled, or rather unschooled, with no set lessons but engaging in whatever pleased them at the time with a minimum of parental direction other than as referees, field trip guides and consultants on things like the correct spelling of antidisestablishmentarianism.

The Memoirs would probably be even more obscure than it already is were it not for the fact that Malkin Sr. was a friend of William Blake, who designed a nice frontispiece for it. In fact, Blake's life story is briefly covered by Mr. Malkin in the opening chapters.

The Allestone stories and the map are there. In a book called "The Real Blake", by E.J. Ellis, Malkin and son are covered and it's Ellis' opinion that "If that boy had lived, and had passed through a phase of Swedenborgianism [spiritualism, I guess:] we feel as we read that Blake would have been completely out-Blaked. His Jerusalem would have been child's play to this child, hard reading as it is to most of us. It is doubtful whether a more literary, artistic, and inventive mind ever existed."

Real Blake
The unkind word, and other stories.

Terence Astraea, thank you for this information. You mention an "Internet Archive." Are the Allestone stories available online in some form?

Astraea The Allestone stories (I believe all of them) and a fair number of the letters are included in A Father's Memoirs, which is on the Internet Archive in several forms, including straight text, a PDF and something called a "flipbook" which imitates reading an actual book.

You will find the Internet Archive extremely helpful, useful and entertaining for a lot of things. When you get there, type "Benjamin Heath Malkin" in the top search bar, and Father's Memoirs is the one and only hit.

Be careful not to search using the "Wayback Machine" -- that's only for searching for archived pages of long-dead websites.

Unfortunately the drawings seem to be pretty faint and I have yet to see what happens when I try to print from the PDF which I downloaded. Anyway, good luck, hope you enjoy it!

Terence Astraea,

Indulge me: WAY COOL!!!

Obviously, I haven't had time to read it but just skimming over some of the pages is fascinating.

Thanks again.

Astraea Consider yourself indulged. And you're very welcome. :)

message 6: by Dan (new)

Dan Schwent This sounds pretty cool.

Terence Dan wrote: "This sounds pretty cool."

Yes, it is :-)

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

This is such a cool book, isn't it? I'm jealous you had it as a kid - I would have been turned onto some good stuff earlier, had I had this as a kid. Books that find you other books are almost invaluable.

Terence Ceridwen wrote: "This is such a cool book, isn't it? I'm jealous you had it as a kid - I would have been turned onto some good stuff earlier, had I had this as a kid. Books that find you other books are almost inva..."

The Dictionary of Imaginary Places: The Newly Updated and Expanded Classic and John Clute's The Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction and The Encyclopedia of Fantasy are also cool books to browse through to find obscure but fascinating authors/books (and the first book has pictures and maps, too!).

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