The Incomplete Encyclopedia: A Matter of Place

In the following we shall speak touching the vexing matter of place; what it is, how cosmographers, geosophists and poets treat of it, and some examples thereof.

Inasmuch as place is passing difficult to define shortly and with clarity, in this part I will treat of what place may be. For some of the things a place may be may not be the whole of the place always.

I.  A place may be part of another place. Efnisian says, “Before I went to sea, the Rush was only the part of the river near my home. But when I left, the whole river became the Rush. And a city may be a part of a province, and a province a part of a kingdom. Is it the kingdom or the city that is the true place? Wise poets give many and diverse answers.” To which I add but one exception, the world, because all places belong to the world, which cannot belong to another greater place or it would not be itself.

II. The borders of a place may be understood by means of mountains, rivers and forests. The Thith is its own place because it is the space in between the Rush and the Knarry, and in the direction of the sea it is bounded by Föhrewood, and in its border to the north and west it is bounded by mountains. And not only by encompassing mountains, rivers and forests can a place be known, but by walls and doors, and by the nature of the things that are enclosed within them.

III. A place may appear or disappear, and that in so short a time as a twinkling. For men say that in ancient times there was a great fortress in the mountain pass at Wirral, but it collapsed in an earth-shaking and was lost, for the slopes there are very steep. And places may grow and wither, and fences be torn up, and lakes be dried up, to be absorbed by the bigger places they once belonged to, or else by the neighboring places. From this observation the geosophists deduce the rule of conservation of place: the amount of place in the world remains constant over time, though the number of places changes often.

IV. A place may be a unit of space. But cosmographers reject it as a unit because they say the world is the only true place, it being so big that it is of little use for measurement, and geosophists reject it because they measure in regions – in example the part of the Rush across from wise Efnisian’s home cannot be a region, but it is manifestly a place – and poets reject it because they care for different quiddities. So in this matter I am soundly overruled.


2 thoughts on “The Incomplete Encyclopedia: A Matter of Place

  1. Chantel says:

    Are you following a writer or the style of a particular era when you write these pieces? They’re so seamless; your modern voice never breaks through.
    “the rule of conservation of place” 🙂

  2. jemzlinde says:

    Haha, yeah, I’m loosely imitating the style of the middle english encyclopedia On the Properties of Things. (some words and phrasings borrowed from Chaucer and Malory, who write quite a bit later) Last semester I did a seminar paper on the way it classifies animals vs humans; this semester I’m looking at how it handles conflicting sources that couldn’t easily be verified and comparing that to current information gathering projects (especially DH related projects). So I thought it would be fun and maybe useful to try sketching out my own encyclopedia. This entry is also influenced by my prep for another project on figuring out how individual places contribute to “regional literature.” Ie is regional lit directly about the region or just lit written by authors who have some long-term engagement with places in the region?

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