CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is
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A Turkish Delight of musings on languages, deflations of metaphysics, vauntings of arcana, and great visual humor.

A Blank Map vs. A Blank Page

There are crucial differences between a blank map and a blank page. Unlike a blank page, a blank map:
  • is designed by a cartographer
  • is a frame
  • represents a space or "territory"
  • has orientation
  • is readable
  • has accuracy
  • suggests scale (though may sacrifice exactitude in favor of visual utility)
  • is informative (unavailability of data does not equal nonexistence of data)
  • is something unexpected
There is nothing so perfect as a blank map. A blank map represents:
  • simplicity
  • all that can still be discovered
  • infinite creative possibilities
  • a clean slate
  • a future of one's own making
  • the difference between emptiness and nothingness
  • freedom from error
  • freedom from distortion
  • freedom from bias
  • organization
  • openness
  • changeability
  • purity
  • unity
  • an unformed universe waiting to be shaped
Below are pages from the Carte Blanche Atlas of Uncharted Territories.  The softcover edition is currently available from for $12.

February 28, 2015 (permalink)

Here's a blank map from Provincial and State Papers (New Hampshire), 1867.

February 5, 2015 (permalink)

"A whiteness moved in the whiteness of the fog. ... It was his first introduction to the dread summer berg of the banks."  From Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling, 1897.

October 16, 2014 (permalink)

Here's a blank map of the White Sea, from This Giddy Globe by Peter Simple and illustrated by Oliver Herford, 1919.  (Thanks, Jonathan Caws-Elwitt!)

September 21, 2014 (permalink)

"A sort of phantom limb sensation motivates me to draw closer to the (        ) which interests me most. We think we feel ourselves where we can't possibly be, an extension of our body. We go to examine the sensation, and discover the absence of ourselves. But there is something there. There is still a tingling. We know it is a lie, but we want to believe it is an extension of us. When and where did we lose this limb, that we feel a hankering after it? What battle occurred in time immemorial or before our conscious existence?" —William Keckler

July 29, 2014 (permalink)

Here's a contentless book scanned by Google and spotted by TheArtOfGoogleBooks.  It's technically Essays by Oliver Goldsmith (1756).

April 27, 2014 (permalink)

"Towards the Unknown": a illustration from Great Explorers of Africa (1894).

April 26, 2014 (permalink)

"Benighted": an illustration from The Portsmouth Road and its Tributaries by Charles George Harper (1895).

March 26, 2014 (permalink)

We're delighted to see our atlas of blank maps profiled at the Bibliotheca Invisibilis, which collects all sorts of conceptualizations of the invisible.

April 16, 2013 (permalink)

Photo courtesy of Ano Lobb.
"Nothing tells us where we are and each moment is a place we have ever been." —Enrique Vila-Matas, Dublinesque

November 6, 2011 (permalink)

A blank(ed) map from a 1901 issue of Scribner's magazine.  The caption reads, "He had seen an empire ... wiped off the map in twenty minutes."

May 6, 2011 (permalink)

"Before making judgments which will affect the environment and other people, it is vital to reconstruct a map's 'missing essence.'  The best way to do so is through imaginative map use."
Phillip Muehrcke & Juliana O. Muehrcke, Map Use (1998)

Pictured is a "map's essence," photographed by Dorian Cavé.  See full image here.

April 19, 2011 (permalink)

"Only two novels in the past 67 years have not been described somewhere on their dust jackets as 'compassionate,' and both of them were atlases." —M.J. Arlen, "How to Tell a Novel by Its Cover," LIFE (Aug. 21, 1964)

April 6, 2011 (permalink)

"On the map missing data stare out as a blank, often risking giving a misleading impression."
John Langton & Robert John Morris, Atlas of industrializing Britain 1780-1914

Photo by wirehead2501.

March 9, 2011 (permalink)

"Why didn't you tell me in the map room there was a map missing?"
Gwyn Cready, Aching for Always (2010)

(This delightful snippet is scanned from Book Sales of 1895.)

February 11, 2011 (permalink)

The first page of the maps section in Polybius' Histories was intentionally left blank. (We approve!)

November 25, 2010 (permalink)

what words can follow me here
to the edge of the end of a horizon
—vox anon, "a honeycomb"

September 12, 2010 (permalink)

"To penetrate as far as possible into the great white area on Dawson's map, south of the Kananaskis Lakes, marked with the magic word 'Unexplored,' that most fascinating and suggestive of all names to any lover of the wilderness."
Canadian Alpine Journal

Photo by drain.

August 25, 2010 (permalink)

A blank map from James Whale's classic film The Old Dark House:

A flooded road in Wales; a map with running ink.

August 20, 2010 (permalink)

Here's a poem addressed to our interactive "Follow Your Bliss Compass," by a nifty guy who goes by the name "700 miles to infinity."

June 22, 2010 (permalink)

75 uncharted territories for off-the-beaten-pathfinders.
Thanks to the Wacky Web Sites blog, who covered our atlas of blank maps:

According to webmaster Craig Conley, there are fundamental differences between a blank page and a blank map. A blank page is empty, whereas a blank map suggests space and orientation and is still designed by a cartographer. Conley takes this one step further, presenting blank maps suggested by history, folklore, or literature such as a landscape purified by snowfall, the unknown path Cleopatra must have taken after Actium, or what Babel looked like before it was built.

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