Here be dragons. The words supposedly contain every difference between ancient maps and our own. Where old maps were illustrated and incomplete, ours are accurate and photographed from the sky. Old maps were pricey and precious; ours are nearly free and ubiquitous.
Most importantly: Old maps—early modern European maps—contain uncharted territory, across which beasts rumble and serpents writhe. They have dragons.
Our technology might be indistinguishable from magic, but it does not contain magical creatures. Google Maps does not have dragons.
Or that’s the story, anyway. But I’d always wondered: Do any old, original maps actually say those words, “Here be dragons?”
The answer, it seems, is … No.
Not a single old paper map presents those exact words—“Here be dragons”— in the margins or otherwise. Nor does any paper map include “Hic sunt dracones,” the words’ Latin equivalent.
But a globe does.
That’s right: One globe—just one—contains the words Hic sunt dracones. Called the Hunt-Lenox Globe, it was built in 1510, making it one of the first European globes ever made. It’s tiny and made of copper—you can see it pictured above. Now in the possession of the New York Public Library, the Hunt-Lenox Globe contains the famous warning on the southeast coast of Asia:
No dragons are near the words themselves, but the globe hides various sea beasts throughout.