"On Exactitude in Science"
or "On Rigor in Science"
(the original Spanish-language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...
title is "Del rigor en la ciencia"
) is a one-paragraph short story
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...
by Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo , known as Jorge Luis Borges , was an Argentine writer, essayist, poet and translator born in Buenos Aires. In 1914 his family moved to Switzerland where he attended school, receiving his baccalauréat from the Collège de Genève in 1918. The family...
, about the map/territory relation, written in the form of a literary forgery
Literary forgery refers to writing, such as a manuscript or a literary work either deliberately misattributed to a historical or invented author, or a purported memoir presented as genuine.- History :The common, or popularly known, instance of literary forgery may involve for example the work of a...
The story elaborates on a concept in Lewis Carroll
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson , better known by the pseudonym Lewis Carroll , was an English author, mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon and photographer. His most famous writings are Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, as well as the poems "The Hunting of the...
's Sylvie and Bruno Concluded
Sylvie and Bruno, first published in 1889, and its 1893 second volume Sylvie and Bruno Concluded form the last novel by Lewis Carroll published during his lifetime. Both volumes were illustrated by Harry Furniss....
: a fictional map
A map is a visual representation of an area—a symbolic depiction highlighting relationships between elements of that space such as objects, regions, and themes....
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 "Suarez Miranda, Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV, Cap. XLV, Lerida, 1658", imagines an empire where the science of cartography
Cartography is the study and practice of making maps. Combining science, aesthetics, and technique, cartography builds on the premise that reality can be modeled in ways that communicate spatial information effectively.The fundamental problems of traditional cartography are to:*Set the map's...
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..."
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
A pseudonym is a name that a person assumes for a particular purpose and that differs from his or her original orthonym...
of Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares
Adolfo Bioy Casares was an Argentine fiction writer, journalist, and translator. He was a friend and collaborator with his fellow countryman Jorge Luis Borges, and wrote what many consider one of the best pieces of fantastic fiction, the novella The Invention of Morel.-Biography:Adolfo Bioy...
; 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
A Universal History of Infamy, or A Universal History of Iniquity , is a collection of short stories by Jorge Luis Borges, first published in 1935, and revised by the author in 1954. Most were published individually in the newspaper Critica between 1933 and 1934...
). The names "B. Lynch Davis" and "Suarez Miranda" would be combined later that year to form another pseudonym, B. Suarez Lynch, under which Borges and Bioy Casares published Un modelo para la muerte
, a collection of detective fiction.
The story is readily available in its entirety online: