"Mad Mapmaker" on Exhibit at Morgrave
SHARN -- Was Valtreaux the Mad a lunatic prospector or visionary arcanist? Visitors to Morgrave University will have the chance to answer that question for themselves when his maps go on display next week in the Dezina Museum of Antiquities.
Valtreaux is the nom de plume of a dwarf wizard and prospector who traveled the length and breadth of Khorvaire in search of dragonshards some five hundred years ago. His maps are marvels of the mapmaker's art, but their painstaking detail is often obscured by coded references and magical obfuscations.
Several oddities are common to all of Valtreaux's maps. For example, north and south are always reversed, and tiny script around each map compass reads, "Every needle points south as well." In addition, many of his maps include seemingly unnecessary details, such as astronomical charts superimposed on maps of underground caverns.
But these maps are more than just oddities -- they have artistic value as well. Unlike most of his contemporaries, Valtreaux used rare pigments to color his maps, and those hues remain vibrant five centuries later.
Aurak Janirra, Cartography Professor Emeritus at the university, has offered several maps from his private collection for the showing next week. The professor freely admits to a long-standing interest in these maps and their maker.
According to Janirra, Valtreaux earned his "Mad" appellation long after he created his maps. "When Valtreaux retired from prospecting," the professor explained, "he arranged to have his journals published. Because readers found them difficult to comprehend, they began calling him Valtreaux the Mad."
Valtreaux's journals are full of cryptic historical references, allegorical tales, and numerical ciphers. Readers report that the most striking quality of his journals is the simplicity of their language -- in fact, many claim that Valtreaux's writing resembles poems and rhymes written for children.
"Compilations of Journeys of Valtreaux the Mad are still popular among rare book collectors," Janirra said. "The fact that some volumes have been lost to history makes the narrative even more difficult to follow.
"Calling Valtreaux mad is a bit cruel, really," continued Janirra. "Just because we don't fully understand his writings is no reason to assume that his mind was not in full working order. As I have often told my students, it might be more accurate to call us dullards for not understanding his wonderful writing and cartography."
About the Author
David Noonan is a designer/developer for Wizards of the Coast. Before coming to Wizards, he was a daily newspaper reporter in Washington state. Apparently the city hall beat is good practice for an Eberron campaign.