Antipodes: In Search of the Southern Continent (Avan Judd Stallard, Monash University Press)
This remarkable book is about an imaginary place: Terra Australis Incognita, the Unknown Southern Land. Avan Judd Stallard tells the story of a geographical obsession and how it developed in the Western imagination. He shows how imagined geography or cosmography and actual geography met and interacted, and just how long it took empirical fact to win out over wishful thinking. People wanted the southern continent to be there so badly that they simply bent and twisted the existing facts until they fitted in with the prevailing cosmography. It was drawn on maps as if it existed and merely needed to be found. Explorers went looking for it as if it were an established fact. This is an informative and entertaining mixture of geography, history and epistemology, at once academically rigorous and approachable. It is also about the history of ideas and how ideas interact with reality. It is lavishly illustrated with numerous wonderful and obscure maps, and will appeal to readers with an interest in geography and old maps, as much as those fascinated by the history of exploration and the great journeys of discovery. This book is a visual and intellectual feast.
Dave Martus is a freelance writer and former bookseller