katherine kerr of the Hermitage, her site

AS50 Map Challenge: Mapping the Kingdom of Lochac from Large to Small: [T-O and Zonal Maps] [Itineraries and Route Maps] [Local Maps] [Isolario – Mapping Islands] [Kingdom and World Maps]
Earlier Maps: [Columbus Letter: De Insulis Novae] [Kingdom Map]
Inflammatory Maps: [Southron Gaard Map, the first] [Ecce Ildhafn]

Crescent Isles: a Period Name?

Below is a submission from some years ago now containing my thoughts on the New Zealand naming debate, in particular in relation to the proposed name of "Crescent Isles".

It was a hot issue for a while, but the Crescent Isles has become the default term of choice. For the lands across the Straits of Lochac, the general usage tends to be The Continent; some still use the term Terra Rosa. And we still get Australians saying "welcome to Lochac" to see if they can get a rise, but I guess it makes a welcome change from the old sheep-shagging jokes which is the other way Australians greet Kiwis....

Unto Lord Wakeline (Crux Australis Herald of Lochac) does katherine kerr
of the Hermitage send greetings,

I'd like to add my small mite's worth to the deliberations on what to 
call our native land.

I've monitored the discussions of this over the years and seen the 
hundreds of variations that have been proposed. And after having 
taken another look at them, and the arguments advanced for this or 
that, I have to say that my preference still rests with "the Crescent 

I can remember the first time I heard the term, when King Cornelius 
came to take our Barony into the Kingdom of Lochac - it both startled 
and delighted me, and instantly felt like the place I called home. I 
chose to start using it from then on.

I feel that this name has a number of important features that should 
be considered:

(1) it has already been adopted and in use by a significant 
proportion of the populace, for the past three years or so

(2) it acknowledges our origins within the Society, and has 
historical resonance for many people which allows us to recognise and 
celebrate our past

(3) it is descriptive of our lands both as isles and, to stretch the 
point a tad, in the way in which it lies

Arguments that I have heard advanced against it:

(1) too many people use it already and therefore it should be dumped 
for something neutral that will not annoy anyone

(2) it hearkens back to our Caidan history which should be expunged 
from memory

(3) it is equivalent to 'the misty glen of the purple unicorn' and is 
not a period form

The latter point has been stated to me personally and is, arguably, 
the most important of the negative aspects. It clearly relates to the 
long-term point of view - perhaps one day we will consider becoming a 
Principality and thus must have a 'proper' name that can be 
registered with the College of Heralds. 

However, although I have heard it asserted that 'the Crescent Isles' 
is not a period form, I have yet to see any evidence or explanation 
as to why it should be declared as such.

I have been researching period cartography for many years now, and 
have difficulty understanding what appears to have been a blanket and 
categorical rejection. So, in lieu of any actual terms of reference 
for name proposals being provided, I would like to raise (and answer) 
the following possible objections:

* Is it because there are no examples of a collection of islands 
being described collectively as 'the x isles'?

As a cartographer I know that place names certainly could be 
descriptive, with some form of adjective defining a collection of 
islands based on a whole range of things, including their history, 
their location and their perceived attributes.

Thus we have the Fortunate Isles, the Blessed Isles and the Western 
Isles. These names are certainly both intended as a collective name 
for a group of islands as well as a descriptive one. To take one 
example, from the 7th-century St Isidore of Seville, who noted in his 
Etymologiarum sive Originum libri (quoted in a 1472 publication cited 
at http://www.henry-davis.com/MAPS/EMwebpages/205mono.html):

'The western limit of the world is furnished by the Fortunate Isles, 
so named because 'they are blessed with abundance of produce; their 
woods yield apples naturally, their ranges of hills are clad with 
unplanted vines and everywhere there are crops and vegetables in 
place of pasture. Hence the false opinions of pagans, and the poems 
of secular poets, claiming that these islands were Paradise. They are 
situated in the Ocean off the coast of Mauretania.'

* Is it because our land mass is too large to be referred to as a 
collection of islands?

Yet we have the term 'the British Isles' used in period to denote a 
land mass comparable to ours in geographical area. Giovanni Magini 
(1596), Abraham Ortelius (1570) and Sebastian Munster (1550) all 
produced maps bearing the term "British Isles". 

* Is it because it contains an historical heraldic reference to Caid 
as the founding Kingdom of these lands, and there are no examples of 
this sort of usage in period?

Yet we have the following quote relating to the Azores, alternatively 
named for their discoverers, as discussed in the text accompanying 
the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum atlas maps by Ortelius (1527-1598) 
produced from 1584 on:

'Our Dutchmen call them De Vlæmsche eylanden, that is, The Flemish 
Isles, because they are thought to have been discovered by certain 
Flemish Merchants from Bruges.

* Is it because islands weren't named in period for their shapes?

Yet, depending on which source you read, the eel-shaped island of 
Anguilla got its name from Columbus in 1493 (anguilla being Spanish 
for "eel") or by Pierre Laudonnaire in 1556 (from the French for eel, 

Allegedly, Columbus got even more inventive with Virgin Gorda ('fat 
Virgin'), said to have been so named because he thought the shape of 
the island mimicked the body of a reclining pregnant woman; he 
originally wanted to name the island "pregnant virgin," but since 
that is physically impossible, he settled on "fat"!

Dalkey Island  ("Thorn Island" from the Irish Deilginis), in County 
Dublin, was called that as the island's shape resembles a thorn. 

Strogili is a pre-12th century name for Santorini, in the Greek 
Cyclades island group. Strogili means the "rounded", named such 
because of the round shape of the island group.

* Is it because the name is in English rather than in Latin?

Yet by the mid-1500s, maps were being produced with English, Flemish, 
Dutch, German, French and Portuguese labels, titles and texts. 

Sebastian Munster's map Anglia II Nova Tabula was issued in over 
twenty-five separate publications of his Geographia and Cosmographia 
from 1540 until 1588, and included a panel translating the Latin 
names into English.

Abraham Ortelius' Angliae, Scotiae et Hiberniae Sive Britannicar. 
Insularum Descriptio, produced in the 1570s and based on Gerard 
Mercator's work, saw 30 different publications, with descriptive text 
in a variety of languages including Latin, German, Dutch, French, 
Spanish, Italian and even English; Mercator's own work also underwent 
translation into English in period.

And British mapmakers, themselves, such as Christopher Saxton and 
John Norden, used English extensively on their maps produced in the 
1570s and beyond.

* Is it because mapping is considered to produce more complex results 
than a mere geometrical name might suggest?

Yet map-makers weren't above simplifying the shapes of the maps they 
produced, for both practical and aesthetic reasons. In a conference 
paper and discussion notes, Wilcomb E Washburn and others have 
discussed the tendency in the 14th and 15th centuries to use stylized 
shapes, including 'perfect circles, quarter moons, half moons, 
propeller-shaped and three-leaf-clover-shaped islands'.

Rolando A. Laguarda Trias, quoted in Washburn's paper, noted that the 
Berlengas Islands off the coast of Portugal were normally depicted in 
14th-century portolan charts as a half moon with the concave portion 
oriented to the south and the longest dimension represented in an 
east-west direction. In 15th-century maps, the islands begin to take 
a more oval form, oriented in a north-south direction, which 
corresponds more closely to their actual appearance.

* Is it because there's no shape that relates to any crescent in New 

The large-scale sweep of the country may not have been apparent to 
pre-1600 mappers, had we any in these waters. Though judging by their 
maritime mapping, sea-farers may well have recognised this -- they 
had the boot shape of Italy (a comparably sized land mass) clearly 
depicted in period, for example.

Certainly the Romans were able to discuss the shapes of large land 
masses. Ortelius, in his text accompanying his map of the British 
Isles, has this to say:

"Tacitus, based on Livius and Fabius Rusticus says it resembles a 
flail, or the warlike weapon Bipennis. Iornandes says  it is 
formed like a Conus, that is, like a Geometrical object which, like a 
taper, is broad at the bottom and pointed at the top. Nubiensis, the 
Arab who wrote about five or six hundred years ago says it resembles 
the head and neck of an Alnaama, an Ostrich."

Rayleigh Skelton (in the discussion notes to Washburn's presentation 
cited above) said that a stylized outline of geometrical character 
was adopted for islands, coasts or lands the existence of which was 
reported to or inferred by a cartographer, but who lacked precise 
information on their location or extent. This stylization was 
relatively common in the 14th and 15th centuries. 

The idea of New Zealand being given a name describing the recognised 
shape of an unknown or ill-mapped land seems very fitting. And, to 
take it one step further into the "what if" of period practice, I 
believe that it would be easy and justifiable to produce a period-
style map which stresses the crescent form of our island group as a 

At a smaller scale, crescent-shaped forms were a common early 
depiction of coastlines, particularly bays. If you want to imagine 
our SCAdian founders arriving from across the sea here, that is just 
what they would have hit in the form of Pegasus Bay, a large curved 
bay that defines the Canterbury coastline where Southron Gaard is 

That's all the possible objections I can think of at present, only 
some of which I have heard, though the latter mostly in passing 
rather than clearly elucidated.

While it may be reasonable to reject 'the Crescent Isles' on other 
grounds - a clear majority vote by the populace of these lands, for 
example - I haven't been able to come up with any reason to support 
declaring the name unacceptably non-period. 

I would certainly be interested to hear of any that are raised, to 
see if such claims can, in fact, be borne out by evidence.

Yours cartographically,
katherine kerr of the Hermitage, in the Crescent Isles, 
Baroness of Southron Gaard, Kingdom of Lochac

Some more thoughts, based on further discussions:

Is it because it's not medieval enough -- too late in period?
Well, that doesn't seem to halt our individual play at all, so I'm not sure why it should be a requirement for the name?

I can see the argument that an Anglo-Saxon may prefer the name to be in Anglo-Saxon, or should that be Middle English or French or German....or possibly a combination of as many as we can, so no-one feels left out.

But I think we should recognise that the..er..lingua franca we all have here is English. Certainly there are more than enough examples of other SCA territories which have English names and late-period ones too.

Is it because it's not named after the people, in the way that period countries are (eg France after the Franks, English after the Angles)?
Yet again we have more than enough acceptable SCAdian examples of that. (Hmm, Lochac = Ocker? Sounds plausible)

If you want to think about our founding routes (yes, deliberate spelling), we did come to the Knowne World late, so it would have been appropriate for our founders to have named us after something that had meaning for them in their homelands.

So, as with New Holland or New Amsterdam, the Crescent Isles offers a plausible name for our discoverers to call these new lands.

I guess we could cite Columbus and call ourselves the Virgins....

Is it because it's too backward-looking?

Frankly I'd rather celebrate our past than ignore it. And, of course, there are more than enough period examples of lands being named by those who looked back to where they had come from (see above examples).

Is it because it's not the name of a country but a place?

I'm not sure why the name has to be in country form -- that doesn't seem to have been a requirement for most other parts of the Known World. If England is happy to be Insula Draconis without it being seen as somehow demeaning of their status as a mundane country, then Crescent Isles is no less for us.

There's a lot of room for discussion regarding how and when names were adopted, whether as long-standing countries with names going back into the mists of times, or as recently discovered places named by the discoverers under a whole host of naming schemas.

The more I think about this, the more I'd like a name which actually reflects our history, both mundane and SCAdian, in some fashion both in terms of our founding and our more recent change of Kingdom, so I think there are resonances there which suit the CI style of name.

That is, we weren't/aren't a separate country but a part of a relatively recently discovered place which may or may not achieve independence eventually, like the British Virgin Islands or the Cayman Islands or the Cook Islands or the Gilbert Islands...

I don't think we have to necessarily require our name to reflect the ancient Goths or whoever we allegedly came from in trying to insert ourselves into the European setting as an independent country format from the start. That, to me, is far falser in terms of the conceit (to use both senses of the term :-).

Is it because it sounds exactly like something out of a D&D book?

Well there are plenty of names that sound, to use the term I gather is popular with heralds, "twinky" -- both in period and in the SCA.

Fortunate Isles, Blessed Isles, the Emerald Isles, the Western Isles - - all are period, all are also used in lots of fantasy books both allegedly set in these places and not. However, I don't think their adoption by unimaginative B-grade writers necessarily makes their in-period usage less valid in some fashion.

I think that there are distinct differences between something like the Crescent Isles and, say, the Misty Valley of the Purple Unicorn [see below]. I can picture the former on a map other than one appearing in front of a Tokein pastiche; the latter I can't. But I'll cheerfully agree that that may well be because I have read too many maps and not enough schlock fantasy....

More questions or comments? Tell me.

Aside: We were travelling through the French countryside one misty morning when I spotted a sign which said something like Valle de Licorne Purpure...Bartholomew wondered why I almost choked laughing....

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