1918 Bernard Sleigh 'Ancient Mappe of Fairlyand'

An Anciente Mappe of Fairy Land newly discovered and set forth.

1918 Bernard Sleigh 'Ancient Mappe of Fairlyand'


An idylic fantastical land created by Bernard Sleigh at the end of the Great War and which then stood in sharp justaposition to bomb-blasted Europe.

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An Anciente Mappe of Fairy Land newly discovered and set forth.
  1918 (undated)    16.5 x 59 in (41.91 x 149.86 cm)     Scale of Thoughts'


An extraordinary 5 foot long edition of Bernard Sleigh's 1918 fantastical map of Fairy Land. This wonderful map offers a wide birds-eye view style panorama of the island of 'Fairy Land' which it describes as 'newly discovered and set forth'. Fairy Land, as set for the by Sleigh, is a wonderful juxtaposition of European fairy tales, literature, and Greek mythology. One can travel from King Arthur's Tomb to Peter Pan's House to the 'Bay of Moaning,' or the visit the roost of Dragons, watch Perseus save Andromeda, chat with Hercules, or visit the 'Harbour of Dreamland.' There are in essence four sections, the leftmost section represents a Tolkien-like world of elves and dragons. This segues into a land populated by children's fairytales. The third section features figures from Arthurian legends and medieval myth. The rightmost, fourth, segment draws its inhabitants from Greek and Roman mythology. A red line indicates the route of passage 'From the World' to 'a place that never was and always will be.'

Sleigh wrote of this map,
In the Heart of every child, is hidden away a little golden key which unlocks the door …

many boats waiting always to take their willing travelers to the distant gates of Ivory. Some there be who venture forth into a new world, breathing fearlessly its unaccustomed air; enter some dainty, carven shallop and set forth to those rainbow-guarded shores …

stout is the heart that faces these dangers, daring the soul that braes these troubled seas, to enter at last the hidden entrance to the Harbour of Dreamland...
As pointed out by map historian Tim Bryars, this map was printed in 1918, the final year of World War I. Bryars astutely asks,
Could the map constitute a yearning for a return to pre-1914 Edwardian innocence? Compared with the devastated, bomb-blasted landscape of northern France, this vision of a make-believe land may have seemed a seductive escape for a European society bearing the psychological and physical scars of mass conflict.
Another approach to this map is to study it within the context of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Sleigh was a close associate of Robert Morris and this map clearly follows Arts and Crafts Movement ideology. The typeface and decoration are very much in the style of Morris's Kelmscott Press and its embrace of tradition pre-industrial ear production techniques.

Sleigh's map most commonly appears folded. The present example was never folded, is backed on linen, and appears to have been varnished over in the manner of wall maps. It was designed by Bernard Sleigh, printed by Vincent Brooks Day & Son, London, and published by Sidgwick and Jackson of Adelphi London. There appear to have been several printings of this map in various sizes. The present example is a medium sized edition issued by Vincent Brooks Day & Son.


Bernard Sleigh (1852 - 1954) was a British author, muralist, stained-glass artist, illustrator and wood engraver active in London in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Sleigh was born in Birmingham, England and studied at the Birmingham School of art. He was a student of Arthur Gaskin. His work is deeply influenced by his early association with William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement. He was a member of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists between 1923 and 1928. His most famous cartographic work is An Ancient Mappe of Fairyland, Newly Discovered and Set Forth, published at the end of the Great War or World War I. He also published several less well known maps of Birmingham and other parts of England. Sleigh retired to Chipping Campden in 1937. For those who are unacquainted with 'Chipping Campden' or 'Chippy,' in the heart of England's picturesque Cotswolds, it is a place that seems more akin to 'Fairy Land' than to the modern industrial world.


Good. Backed on linen. Old Varnish.


Baynton-Williams, A., The Curious Map Book, pages 212 - 213. Bryers, Time, and Haper, Tom, A Histroy of the Twentieth Century in 100 Maps, pages 58-59. Boston Public Library, Leventhal Collection, G9930 1917 .S5.
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