So, as I mentioned below in a post a few days ago, it was suggested that the map I include as part of my novel be a reproduction of some sort of sacred map that the village elders use to show Lirak how to get to and from the destination of his quest.

Oh, pictures need to be first, so here’s a picture of some buckskin decorations from a search I did for Native American artifacts.

eagle clan apron

Back to my investigation about how to make a leather map.

I had no idea how ignorant I was about the products humans have devised from a variety of animal skins. I am afraid that I had a horribly simplified view of tanning, curing and working with animal hides. It turns out that there is an entire field of study that relates to such products. But more to the point… it turns out that some of my assumptions about working leather are simply dead wrong.

For example, it turns out that tooling leather is not something you can do with just any old animal skin. Something as simple and common as a tooled leather belt or wallet turns out to be something that is very hard, or even impossible to do on most animal skins. The terminology I have seen is that most animal hides “can’t hold a line.”

So that means that a map made out of deer or goat skin would not look like a map made out of cow leather. Cow leather appears to be remarkably suitable for not only tooling, but for turning into actual products. I never knew that cow leather was that unique and useful.

For my book what it means is that the $10 piece of “tooling leather” turns out to have been a waste since the leather made by the people in my book would not have the properties of “tooling leather” unless I change the book rather radically and introduce cows into the world.

It seems that in the absence of tooling cow leather there are really three ways to make a map out of the leather that is available to the villagers in the book. Those are: pigmentation, burning and/or cutting. “Tooling” where you can embed detailed graphic elements in the leather itself, is pretty much right out. And burning is very problematic since non-cow leathers are not nearly as robust and thick as cow leather. Which is a shame because that’s exactly what I had intended to do, and what I think looks the coolest.

Of course I could totally ignore authenticity and just do it. I doubt a single reader would notice or care.

But I care.