What I love most about Thomas More’s Lucian-inspired (among other sources) text Utopia isn’t the descriptive text, the building of a somewhat egalitarian community, the observations on crafts, the framing narrative, or its dual-purpose as satire. It’s all of the visual world-building which it, in turn, inspired.
There are earlier maps of imaginary places, although I love the ones made for Utopia, this one from 1516, this one from 1518 edition, or these later ones. (The 1518 Ambrosius Holbein edition is available online for browsing in its entirety. See also this selection of eighteenth-century illustrations of Utopia.)
But I know of no earlier instance of an alphabet being developed for a fictional world. Either More, or his friend Peter Giles, developed it for the book. You can see the full version of his Utopian alphabet and a sample use of it on the British Library’s website. And, if you really like fictional languages, the alphabet is even available to download as a True Type Font.
Utopia is on display currently at the British Library as part of its Out of this World: Science Fiction But Not As You Know It show which is available, for free, until this Sunday. The library is open until 18:00 today.