National Geographic Society Newsroom

Of National Geographic Maps and Urban Legends

Rarely a year goes by that I am not asked the following question: “Is it true that, for copyright purposes, National Geographic cartographers always embed an error or two on their maps?“ I always respond with an emphatic NO! Quite the opposite is true of maps published by National Geographic. National Geographic cartographers strive for...

Rarely a year goes by that I am not asked the following question: “Is it true that, for copyright purposes, National Geographic cartographers always embed an error or two on their maps?

I always respond with an emphatic NO!

Quite the opposite is true of maps published by National Geographic.

National Geographic cartographers strive for accuracy on all of their maps and map products—be it a locator globe the diameter of a quarter or a map frame from our World Atlas or Trail Maps apps. That said, we sometimes take a few liberties when it comes to map content on our general reference maps. Not only do we want to assure that these maps are comprehensive, but that they also portray some unique or lesser-known places. Our new England and Wales map, correction England and Wales (Cymru) map, is a perfect example. Not only did we assure that Welsh place-names were shown in Wales, but that Manx place-names (as used by natives of the Isle of Man) were also noted.

As to other liberties taken with this map, prior to shipping the files to press we noticed the omission of one very interesting Welsh place-name:

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

(pronounciation)

National Geographic’s 2012 England and Wales (Cymru) classic-style map

Among one of the world’s longest place-names, our final map proof showed only the short form name of this town—Llanfairpwllgwyngyll—of some 3,000 inhabitants.
We would have been remiss had we not portrayed this name on the map. Our copyrighted map now shows both the long and short form versions of this place-name:

Llanfairpwllgwyngyll (Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch)

Juan José Valdés
The Geographer
Director of Editorial and Research
National Geographic Maps

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Meet the Author

Juan Valdes
Juan José Valdés is The Geographer and National Geographic Maps' Director of Editorial and Research. He guides and assists the Map Policy Committee in setting border representations, disputed territories, and naming conventions for National Geographic. As NG Map's Director of Editorial and Research, he is responsible for ensuring the accuracy and consistency of its maps and map products.