This is an extension of the Depicting the Landscape feature.
Even the simplest of map legends is able to spark the imagination. Whether the map itself is particularly interesting, the legend can suggest endless possibilities in the mind of landscapes that could exist.
Fantasy Insets on Serious Maps
Some legends make the imaginary landscape a little more concrete. In order to best illustrate and label the variety of features that the map may contain, these mapmakers decided to create what is essentially a fantasy map - a made-up location that contains all of the features they need to illustrate. Sometimes, this can be the most exciting part of the map!
Part of what makes these legend insets so appealing is that though they can improve understanding of the symbols, they can be considered in a wholly practical sense unnecessary flourishes.
The fantasy insets often focus on water features, including many charming depictions of bridge types and river features:
Some insight into the mapmaking process is provided by looking at maps from the same agency over time, to see how symbology and design evolves - like these four examples (one repeated from above) of an evolving legend inset from maps of British colonial territories:
The following a variety of interesting legends, including the full legends that the insets above were found in. For the most part, as an extension of the Depicting the Landscape feature, these are pulled from "mundane" maps in Stanford's collections. Though they may not be the most beautiful, they are interesting and exciting in their own way.
Compiled by Chris Hacker, with help from Olivia Diaz. See further information, and a lot more maps, in the main Depicting the Landscape feature.