Mentions of the fabled atlas known as the Imaginarium Geographica have been found in historical documents dating back more than 2500 years. Archaeological evidence supporting the documentation is understandably scarce, particularly with regards to anything predating the High Renaissance. But the literary trail of breadcrumbs is nevertheless very compelling, and has been strengthened in the last few centuries by something more powerful than facts: Desire.
People want to believe the Geographica exists.
And, as with the recent archaeological discovery of the mythical city of Troy, sometimes it is that belief in the face of opposition which leads one to the magnificent hidden reality.
The actual Imaginarium Geographica, which contains the original handmade maps referred to in HERE, THERE BE DRAGONS has not yet been located. But over the centuries, a number of facsimile editions have been produced, and those editions, created by craftsmen separated by both time and geography bear such striking similarities that one can only conclude they were based on the same source: the real Geographica.
The English scholar Francis Bacon published the earliest verifiable edition of the atlas in the year 1598. It is believed that he gave it the name â€˜Imaginarium Geographicaâ€™; however, he was not the originator of the term â€˜Caveo Principiaâ€™, which it is believed originated with the Welsh scholar Geoffrey of Monmouth nearly five centuries earlier.
Bacon is believed to have only possessed the original Geographica for a short time prior to the death of Queen Elizabeth. However, several copies of his facsimile editions survived: one is in the Vatican Library in Rome; a partial, badly burned copy is at the Huntington Library in Pasadena; and a third was rumored to have been buried with the poet William Butler Yeats. An 18th Century letter stating Bacon published 243 copies is uncorroborated by secondary sources.
At the beginning of the 19th Century, there was documentation of eleven more copies, all of which were in private hands before being purchased for vast sums by a man who identified himself only as the Caveo Principia. He claimed to have actually been born among the islands of the great Archipelago described in the atlas, and said that he was buying all of the books in order to safeguard them from being used for evil purposes. It was only after the books had been sold to him that one seller managed to discover the man had burned them allâ€¦ All, that is, save one.
The last copy of Baconâ€™s facsimile of the Imaginarium Geographica was entrusted to a Viennese bookseller, who was paid to keep it in reserve for a family member of the man who would one day come to claim it. As compensation for this task, the bookseller was given twenty-six gold coins, each of which was more than two thousand years old, and was stamped with the phrase, â€˜Saeculum Novumâ€™.
The name of the man, who had only been known as Caveo Principia, and who never returned to the bookshop, was Zeloxhehad Owen. That was in 1855.
In 1994, James Artimus Owen traveled to Europe, spending at least three days in Vienna. He returned with several parcels of books in his possession.
HERE, THERE BE DRAGONS, the first book in The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica, was published in October 2006.