On Exactitude in Science

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"On Exactitude in Science" or "On Rigor in Science" (the original Spanish-language title is "Del rigor en la ciencia") is a one-paragraph short story by Jorge Luis Borges, about the map/territory relation, written in the form of a literary forgery.

Plot[edit]

. . . In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.

The story elaborates on a concept in Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno Concluded: a fictional map that had "the scale of a mile to the mile". One of Carroll's characters notes some practical difficulties with this map and states that "we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well".

The Borges story, credited fictionally as a quotation from "Suárez Miranda, Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV, Cap. XLV, Lérida, 1658", imagines an empire where the science of cartography becomes so exact that only a map on the same scale as the empire itself will suffice. "[S]ucceeding Generations… came to judge a map of such Magnitude cumbersome... In the western Deserts, tattered Fragments of the Map are still to be found, Sheltering an occasional Beast or beggar..."[1]

Publication history[edit]

The story was first published in the March 1946 edition of Los Anales de Buenos Aires, año 1, no. 3 as part of a piece called "Museo" under the name B. Lynch Davis, a joint pseudonym of Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares; that piece credited it as the work of "Suarez Miranda". It was collected later that year in the 1946 second Argentinian edition of Borges's Historia universal de la infamia (A Universal History of Infamy).[2] It is no longer included in current Spanish editions of the Historia universal de la infamia, as since 1961 it has appeared as part of El hacedor.[3]

The names "B. Lynch Davis" and "Suarez Miranda" would be combined later in 1946 to form another pseudonym, B. Suarez Lynch, under which Borges and Bioy Casares published Un modelo para la muerte, a collection of detective fiction.[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ J. L. Borges, A Universal History of Infamy (translated by Norman Thomas de Giovanni), Penguin Books, London, 1975. ISBN 0-14-003959-7.
  2. ^ a b http://www.borges.pitt.edu/1946
  3. ^ http://www.borges.pitt.edu/node/144

External links[edit]