Dragons, witches and wizards – the latest map off our presses is something quite unique! The Mappa Discworld is an impressive metre-high map that captures all the colourful characters and creations from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. The much-loved series of 41 books has been turned into a richly illustrated depiction of Discworld, that’s already a fan favourite. We find out more from Discworld Emporium’s Ian Mitchell, the map’s creator.

Can you tell us more about Discworld Emporium?

Discworld Emporium is a producer and purveyor of all kinds of wares from the world of Terry Pratchett. Our founding members, Bernard and Isobel Pearson, created the first ever Discworld merchandise. They opened the shop in 2000 along with Terry. My partner and I became co-owners in 2007. Discworld Emporium became a place Terry could meet his fans and chat with them, which was good fun!

Discworld mapDiscworld Emporium has devised many incredible ideas for Discworld wares. How did the idea for The Mappa Discworld come about?

We were trying to find a way for readers to explore Discworld differently, and that’s something you can do evocatively with a map. We wanted to do something really ambitious, a map that wasn’t just geography, but looked at the history, myths, legends, commodities and people of Discworld. Mappae mundi were famous medieval maps, many of which expressed so much on one map. We thought it’d be fun to do something similar for Discworld.

How was Terry Pratchett’s estate involved in the creation of the map?

Everything we do is always checked over by the estate. We work very closely with them, and we’re licensed by Dunmanifestin, the company Terry set up with his daughter and assistant. Dunmanifestin was really supportive of the project.

Is this the first time Discworld has been mapped?

The first Discworld book was written in 1983 and Terry famously wrote in the front, “There are no maps. You can’t map a sense of humor.” In 1993, his friend Stephen Briggs proved him wrong! He approached him with a street map of the major city of Discworld – Ankh-Morpork – that he’d created. They worked on the map together and it went down well. More maps followed. What marks The Mappa Discworld out is that all the Discworld stories are included. This was the first time we knew that Terry’s work had been completed.

mappa-discworld-map-great-atuin-colour-nothingfjordWhat makes The Mappa Discworld so special?

It’s a pictorial map, that not only serves as a map, but carries the history and stories of Discworld. When fans look at the map, they can visit all the places they picture when they read the books. I would say it offers readers of Terry’s work a chance to explore Discworld in minute detail, in a way that feels sympathetic to his writing. We wanted it to be a document you could pour over for hours and spot new details. A tiny shipwreck in the Bay of Mante comes from a small mention in the book of Mort. In a fleeting passage it mentions a shipwreck in the bay, a throwaway line. There are some references on the map that only hardcore fans will get.

The map is an incredible one metre high and almost as wide. Why did you decide to make it so large?

It had to be as big as was sensibly possible to print, so we could work as small as humanly possible to get as much detail in. It’s one of the more ambitious things we’ve done.

And why did you decide to make the map double sided?

When we tried to cram as much detail as humanly possible into one side, we realised there wasn’t room for any words! Now one side is in full-colour and feels much more alive. The other is a sepia annotated map that offers a more academic depiction for those who really want to study it. We also wanted the names of places to be as large and legible as possible for readers.

Talk us through the process of creating the map

We started in February 2022, and it was completed in August of that year. It took a good 1,000 hours from start to finish. The research had to be taken as seriously as possible. Every time we start a project we start reading back through the books or listening to the audio books. Isobel, one of the shop’s founders, is the fount of all Discworld knowledge. She keeps an incredible system of notes on every topic from the books. I worked with Marc Moreau, a Discworld expert and a fantasy cartographer, to create the map. We worked digitally, as he’s in France. We’d develop individual sections and tiny illustrations and then go backwards and forwards over email. Everything, every tree, forest, mountain, river and person, was drawn individually by hand. The Rimfall (the waterfall all the way around Discworld) is made up of individual lines the width of human hairs and built up. It’s a big job for an illustrator to draw an entire planet.

What was your favourite part of working on the map?

One of the joys of working in fantasy mapping is that no one can go there and test your theory! Discworld is flat planet with water falling off the edge. When you’re working in a magical world you can get away with quite a lot.

How have Discworld fans responded to the release of the map?

We’ve had some fabulous feedback. Terry’s fans are without doubt some of the nicest fans in the world. We serve the most wonderful community, and we want to give them stuff that will wow them. We hope to do the same with our next few projects too.

Next few projects? Tell us more…

We’re excited to be working with Dennis Maps on a new project. It’s a very different project. I can’t say much other than it’ll be magical!

All images courtesy of Discworld Emporium Limited.

Dennis Maps is one of the leading map printers in the world, producing more than two million maps and charts every year. We offer comprehensive pre-press services, large format print solutions using both large format litho printing and large format digital print technologies, plus specialised map folding and map finishing techniques.


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