You know what everyone loves in their epic science fiction/fantasy? Maps. Our favorite characters quest through a variety of environments, planets, lands, and dimensions during their journeys and it’s fun to know just where everything is in relation to each other, as well as what might lay just offscreen…
In the last two decades, as the Star Wars universe has expanded in every format, this astrographical curiosity has gotten larger and larger. Interestingly, maps have followed suit with this expansion. Below the cut, we’ve assembled a history of Star Wars maps.
Although the original Star Wars trilogy is over 30 years old, the need to map the galaxy didn’t arise until Star Wars began expanding into post-Return of the Jedi novels, comics, and games. With the addition of more worlds, more races, and more characters came a need to house them.
Even still, a map wasn’t entirely necessary, and an official map never released, until Del Rey began the New Jedi Order novel book series. The multi-book arc concerned an extragalactic threat that would
squish Chewbacca flat grow to consume many familiar worlds. The publishers knew readers would appreciate knowing what worlds were threatened, so in the 1999 debut novel Vector Prime they introduced the first official detailed map of the Star Wars galaxy.
Vector Prime came out a few months after the first Star Wars prequel
A Heartful of Yippee The Phantom Menace, hence the placement of Naboo, a planet whose appearance effectively ties together a fictional era in the Star Wars universe spanning six decades, from the prequels to the Expanded Universe.
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Incidentally, it seems a rough version of the above map had been circulating, as a sparse version was seen in this rough chart from the Episode 1 edition of Inside the Worlds of Star Wars.
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The next key novel in the New Jedi Order series, 2000s Balance Point would show an updated version of this map, showing the various war fronts in play. To the reader, it seemed like the invading Yuuzhan Vong were making mincemeat out of the New Republic.
Not all hope was lost, however, even if most of the Solo kids were. For the final installment, 2003s The Unifying Force, the galaxy map was cleared of war fronts and updated to include all the discoveries made in the series’ 20+ titles.
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In another era, on the eve of another war, we got a peek at a galaxy map in Episode 2,
A Begrudging Love Story Attack of the Clones. This beauty, readily available in the Jedi Archives on Coruscant, doesn’t offer any identifying details but does seem to imply that the Star Wars galaxy is a lot like our own in that it has at least two dwarf galaxies orbiting it. In fact, Star Wars wiki Wookiepedia counts seven possible satellite galaxies, far outnumbering the Milky Way.
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In 2003, the official galaxy map gained more worlds and full color! This map first appeared in The Official Star Wars Fact File issue #1 in 2002, then resurfaced in issue #65 of Star Wars Insider in February 2003.
It was very nicely done, but perhaps a silly move on the part of the magazine when they knew Star Wars Episode 3
NOOOOOOOOOO Revenge of the Sith would be out in two years, calling for the need of yet another map. (Or perhaps not, considering how happy Lucasarts is to have its customers buy and rebuy the same basic product.)
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The Star Wars New Essential Guide to Chronology (2005) contained a map updated for Episode 3 and that was mostly concerned with illustrating the main commerce routes of the galaxy. While not quite as detailed, it was certainly helpful in planning your next jump into hyperspace.
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The official mapping of the Star Wars galaxy would remain stable for the next few years, as the fervor around Star Wars died down, although variations on the above maps were still showing up in fan design efforts and ensuing video games like Knights of the Old Republic.
New information wouldn’t be added in until the 2009 publication of Star Wars: The Essential Atlas, which included over 200 worlds, asteroids, and notable sites. (Up substantially from the 30 or so in the first official map.)
Now not only could you figure out which planets were less prone to tourism and crowds, but you could learn when they had been settled. It was a sight better than the simple regional maps that had been created in the past.
But the greatest from The Essential Atlas was the straight up map, written and compiled by Daniel Wallace and Jason Fry and illustrated by Ian Fullwood, Modi, Chris Reiff, and Chris Trevas.
Finally, in blistering detail, containing all the planets named in both the prequels and the Expanded Universe (and updated regularly at the above Atlas link) was a map that any good smuggler would be proud to keep for reference in his ship’s rec room. Oogle to your heart’s content.
The astrography ends there for now, but we’re sure we’re not yet done with Star Wars galaxy maps. Star Wars as a space fantasy tale has always resisted analysis, but it’s uncertain how long it can hold out against the enterprising graphic designer, the bored statistics fiend, or the burgeoning physicist. Thirty-plus years later, we’ve still only barely explored this galaxy far, far away.
Emily Asher-Perrin cosplayed as Rose Tyler at San Diego ComicCon 2010 with a fantastic Ten—yes, it was awesome. She writes for Starpulse.com and Examiner.com and likes tweeting just as much as you do.