Mapping radiation

On the 26th April 1986 technicians at the Chernobyl Power Plant in the Ukrainian SSR turned off the power to the number 4 reactor, hoping to test back-up generators used to keep the cooling waters circulating in case of a power outage. During the test the power-levels dropped to unexpected and dangerous levels. Following instructions that didn’t allow for such a possibility, meant that the test proceeded, leading to a chain reaction releasing a huge amount of energy which immediately vaporized the cooling water, caused a devastating steam explosion and then the escape of a large radiation cloud. Wind conditions and proximity to the site meant that most of this radiation fell on the Byelorussian SSR.

This map, made post-independence in 1992, shows the density of pollution caused by Caesium-137 at different levels of contamination (a radioactive isotype that reacts with water, which as a consequence makes it easy to move around the body. It is one of the two most prominent isotypes released after the accident, and will continue to be a major health hazard in the area for the next two hundred years). The strong use of colours, more reminiscent of coloured-layering, is here used to show dramatically the area of contamination. There is also an inset of the area nearest the nuclear site showing strontium and plutonium radiation (Chernobyl is at the bottom centre of the map, Черновыль). What the map doesn’t show, of course, is the human cost to this tragedy. Only the title, ‘…until January 1992’, hints at a lethal problem still in place 6 years after the event. An updated version from 1993 manages to convey this cost though. Text in a number of languages states ‘…a catastrophe broke out – the major break-down of the power unit at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station. By its scale, complicity and long-term consequences it is the most severe catastrophe throughout the entire World history of atomic energy use…after the Chernobyl accident Belarus has become the zone of of the ecological disaster‘.  The text is in a number of languages; Russian, English, French, German and Polish, and when you carry on reading you realise why. As well as a map to show the spread of radiation following the accident the map is also a plea for international aid, ‘But the extent of the consequences of the catastrophe of the Chernobyl Power Station is so enormous that, it is regrettably, impossible for Belarus to liquidate them alone. The Republic badly needs medicines…The Byelorussian people, guiltless victims of the severe catastrophe, need the help of the international community.’

This extract comes from the back of the 1993 map, which includes the appeal for international aid. The three maps show the spread of the contaminated cloud between the April 27 and May 1st.

Maps have played a crucial roll in showing the aftermath of the Chernobyl incident. From tracking the contaminated cloud spreading across Eastern Europe to the more long-term mapping of contaminated lands maps have been the most useful medium to show the immediate and long-term effects of the disaster.

The Bodleian holds maps from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Office for Official Publications of European Communities and the Hungarian Academy Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences as well as commercial publishers on Chernobyl and there are a number of interesting websites on the disaster, including Chernobyl Exclusion Zone Map – Chernobyl 35 years laterNew mapping of radioactive fallout in Western Europe | EU Science Hub (europa.eu) and  ESA – Mapping Chernobyl fires from space

Карtа Радиационной Обстановки на территории Республики по на Январь 1992 г (Map of the radiation situation on the Territory of the Republic until January 1992) 1992 C403 (101). The 1993 map, Republic of Belarus. Review – topographic map with the data on radiation contamination is at C403 (104). Both maps are at 1:1,000,000

 

How to make a map Soviet style

On the reverse of a map of Minsk from 1991 there are some interesting and unusual sections. As well as including instructions on measuring distances there are also examples of the same area at different scales (1:1,000,000 going down to 1:10,000 and centring on the village of Borovsty). Shown here are the 1:1,000,000, 1:500,000 and 1;200,000 scale maps as well as two pictures about orientation

 

Map reading instructions and examples of different scales aren’t uncommon features, what makes this particular map stand out is the little diagram showing the process of making a map, from planning (ПроеКт) through surveying (aerial as well as ground-work) to drawing

 

and production and finishing with sales. Can the whole exercise be included as proof that the Soviet system still worked despite the Union breaking apart?, the Byelorussian SSR itself declared independence the same year the map was made, becoming Belarus.

The end result of all this work is the main map, made by the Soviet Cartographic Department, the Glavnoe upravlenie geodezii i kartografii, more commonly known as the GUGK (Main Directorate of Geodesy and Cartography). The use of oranges and greens here is a common feature of Soviet maps, immediately recognizable as a product of the GUGK.

 

Mинск и окрестности (Minsk and surroundings) 1991. C40:12 (40)

 

Field patterns

Recent work on the Laxton map reminds us how beautiful maps often are, but also how beautiful the patterns made by field systems can be as well.

The central part of the Map of Laxton, 1635, MS. C17:48 (9)  (see notes at end for more information on Laxton)

Fields are a natural part of the landscape, but the dating of the fields can vary greatly depending on where you are. Areas of the West Country still have what is called Ancient Countryside, fields and farm land untouched by Enclosure acts. Fields at the tip of Cornwall on

the Penwith Peninsula are thousands of years old, a crazy pattern with small fields and many angles, utilizing boulders in the landscape too big to move or pre-existing ancient monuments such as standing stones and burial chambers. Due to the construction of these boundaries they are hard to move or alter, and it’s because of this that these field boundaries are, despite their age, still in use today. This type of landscape can also be found in areas as diverse as the Welsh borders and Essex, Sussex, Kent and Surrey. This extract comes from the 2nd edition Ordnance Survey 6 inch map of Cornwall, sheet LXI S.W., 1908. The Ordnance Survey shows fields up to and including maps at a 1:25,000 scale.

Laxton is an example of an Estate map. These are almost always manuscripts, with a cartographer commissioned to survey and produce a map with details such as field size, use and often details of individual field ownership.

Being a one-off often led to a beautifully illustrated and informative map. This example shows the  fields surrounding the Down Hall Estate in Essex (MS C17:28 (38), 1718), and was surveyed by William Cole, who was also a schoolmaster in Colchester. Down Hall Estate (home of Bake Off no less) features in the middle of the map, with details of the kitchen gardens surrounding the house.  Further examples of estate maps can be found here and here

One of the best maps of Oxfordshire, Richard Davis’s map from 1797, falls in-between the old practise of open fields and the new approach, that of Enclosure. This sheet shows the area to the East of Oxford (the county boundary followed the Thames until the 1970s) and has both big open fields and the new, smaller, patterns in place. The map shows the start of a new type of landscape, called Planned Landscape, neat fields with straight lines, without any of the quirks found in older field patterns, which often followed ancient parish boundaries and streams.

with an extract here

A new map of the County of Oxford : from an actual survey; on which are delineated; the course of the rivers and roads, the parks, gentlemens seats, heaths, woods, forests, commons &c. 1797                C17:49 a.1

This blog has been partly inspired but a recent series of programmes on the BBC called Winter Walks. Over 5 episodes people such as Simon Armitage, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and the Rev. Richard Coles have walked in Yorkshire and Cumbria, holding a portable camera and accompanied by a drone giving aerial views of the incredible landscape and field systems on show. These field patterns can be seen in this Ordnance Survey 3rd edition sheet of Grassington (Yorks CXXXIV N.W., 1910). The field boundaries shown on the map would have been efficient way of using up stones found in the fields when ploughing. Dry-stone walling would also have the benefit of letting the wind through, reducing damage.

Be it from drone footage or walking in the country-side field patterns are revealed as objects of beauty as well as important agricultural features. They are also a chance for us to show off more beautiful maps from the collection at the Bodleian.

* The Laxton map, A Plat and Description of the Whole Mannor & Lordship of Laxton with Laxton Moorehouse in [y]e County of Nottingham and also of the Mannor & Lordship of Kneesall Lying Adiacent to [y]e Aforesaid Mannor of Laxton,   measures 178 x 203.5 centimetres on 9 rectangular pieces covering the villages of Laxton and Kneesall, around a dozen kilometres northwest of Newark-on-Trent. Dating from 1635. Approximately 3,333 separate field strips are shown on the map, which is made from sheep-skin. The area is still farmed using the open-field system, incorporating crop rotation, though to a lesser extent than at the time of the map.                           The Map Librarian at the Bodleian, Nick Millea, talks about the map here

St Petersburg in colour

This large, beautiful map of St Petersburg was recently donated to the Bodleian Map Room. Measuring just over a metre square, it shows the city in great detail. Every building is marked and the layouts of parks and gardens around the city are shown. The fortress on Zayachy Island is shown in detail (below). The water depths in the Neva river and estuary are included. The title makes reference to some of the earlier plans on which the map is partly based, beginning with that of Fedor Shubert in 1828; it was updated from surveys in the 1850s and 1860s. It was published in St Petersburg in 1868.

The reverse of the map carries a handwritten note, “Petrograd”, which would date its acquisition by a previous owner to some time in the ten years from 1914 to 1924. Previously the city had been known as St Petersburg, since its founding by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703 (on the site of an earlier Swedish fort); he made it the capital of Russia, which it remained until 1917. In 1924, shortly after the death of Bolshevik leader Lenin, it was renamed Leningrad in his honour. In 1991 the name reverted to St Petersburg.

The map is delicately coloured in red, green, blue and black. At first glance it appears to be hand coloured as the colouring is so smooth, but closer examination suggests that it was lithographed; very slight offsetting can be seen in places (where the green plate does not exactly line up with the coastline on some of the islands, for example, as can be seen in the detail above).  Colour printing of maps took off in the twentieth century; this is an unusually fine early example.

A final thought: This blog post replaces our Christmas blog post (below) as the 12 days of Christmas are now over in the UK and much of the western world. However, the Christmas season is just beginning in the Russian Orthodox Church, so we would like to wish everyone celebrating a very Happy Christmas!

Plan S. Peterburga : sostavlen na osnovanīi plana Shuberta 1828 g., posli͡edneĭ rekognost͡sirovki Voenno topograficheskago depo 1858 g., gidrograficheskikh kart Nevy i ei͡a ustʹi͡a izdanīi͡a Gidrograficheskago departamenta Morskago ministerstva 1864 g. i rekognost͡sirovok proizvedennykh 1867 i 1868 godakh redaktorom T͡Sentralʹnago statistichesk: komiteta M. Ī. Musnit͡skim / ispolnen v Kartograficheskom zavedenīi A. Ilʹina. S. Peterburg : Kartograficheskoe zav. A. Ilʹina, 1868. C400:50 St Petersburg (24)

Sail away to Christmasland

Everyone has heard of Christmas Island, but have you heard of Christmasland? The (fictional) island appears on this cartographic Christmas card from the 1930s. Christmasland: Captain Jolliman’s voyage of discovery in ye “Friendship” (see what they did there?) shows a route from Humdrum Drearyland, with its Workaday Coast, to Christmasland.

The island has many seasonal placenames such as Mistletoe Bay, the Forest of Greetings (the forest symbols being, appropriately enough, Christmas trees), Welcome City, Kiddies Country and the Coast of Old Friends. The River Gin and the River It combine to form Cocktail River (hurrah!) and there are various plays on words relating to place names, such as Port Wine, and the Sound of Bells. The captain’s route continues past Pudding Point, through the Financial Straits, amongst the Hangover Rocks and past Resolution Point to New Years Land.

Cartographical allegories like this have been produced for centuries. Maps along these lines illustrating the “land of love” or themes around courtship and marriage became popular in seventeenth century France, and soon spread to other European countries including England. Allegorical maps with a morally improving theme also appeared, illustrating the spiritual journey through life. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth century allegorical maps as games were also popular. Meanwhile, in the nineteenth century, the Christmas card was gaining in popularity, as outlined in this recent blog from the Bodleian’s John Johnson collection.  But Christmasland, combining the two, may be a one off.

The card was donated to the Map Room recently, after it was spotted in the Oxfam shop in Chipping Norton by a Bodleian reader. Such ephemeral material often doesn’t survive so it was a welcome addition to the collection.


The card is printed inside with an address in Hillcrest Avenue, Pinner, then as now a pleasant road in an affluent commuter town on the outskirts of London. It is signed by hand, and dated Christmas 1936. There is also a quotation:

Hope shall brighten days to come
And memory gild the past

From a poem by the Irish writer Thomas Moore. These words, and a printed greeting with

Remembrance and kind thoughts for Christmas with good wishes for your happiness in the future

is something we need in the current difficult times. Happy Christmas!

Reflections on the Alps

December 11th is United Nations International Mountain Day, so we’re celebrating with this unusual Alpine panorama.  This map of an Alpine road appears at first glance to be a view of mountains reflected in water.  Closer examination shows that a road runs along the centre of the map; it is printed on a long strip, folded concertina style, with the road shown as a straight line and panoramic views of the mountains on either side. Unusual formats like this have been used in other Alpine maps, to address the challenge of portraying a long vista on paper; a panorama of the view from the summit of Mont Blanc featured in an earlier blog post.

The map was drawn by the poster artist Louis Guerry, and published in Grenoble in 1896 by Joseph Baratier. It shows the road between Vizille and Briançon in France, close to the border with Italy. Side roads wind off into the mountains and small Alpine settlements are marked along the way. Highest and most dramatic of the mountains is La Meije, with five peaks and glaciers flowing down either side; it was one of the last major Alpine peaks to be climbed, and also features on the cover illustration (above). Other names, such as Galibier and Alpe d’Huez, will be familiar to fans of the Tour de France cycle race;  the road up to Alpe d’Huez did not at this time reach all the way to Huez itself, which appears as a high isolated village.

This copy came to the library recently, a donation from the grandson of Thomas Arthur Rumbold. When Rumbold joined the Alpine Club in 1902 he was their youngest member. His application shows an impressive list of climbing experience from the late 1890s; it includes  mountains in the French, Italian and Swiss Alps, many of them “without guides”, and rock climbing in the Allegheny Mountains in Virginia. The map was donated along with Rumbold’s trench maps from his time serving in WWI, which were a welcome addition to our collection. Happily, Rumbold  survived the war; he went on to become Secretary to Sir George Schuster, Governor of the Bank of England. He also found time to enjoy more Alpine fun in the snow (see below) and eventually became the oldest member of the Alpine Club!

Thomas Rumbold and friends enjoying St Moritz. Photo shared by his grandson.

The map folds into a small cover with a conventional route map on the back.

The map when extended is over 2 metres long.  As we admired it in the Map Room office, we reflected that in these times of Covid restrictions it is rare to find a map so long that more than one person can look at it at once while social distancing.

Dépliant Alpestre : Excursion en Oisans. Projection sur 100 kilometres des sommets du Massif / dessiné par Louis Guerry. Grenoble : Joseph Baratier, [1896]. C21:44 (48)

You can see more about this map at the website of the Bibliotheque Dauphinoise.

Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving, celebrated in the United States and Brazil on the 4th Thursday in November (Canada celebrates on the 2nd Monday in October with a few other countries throughout the World using either of these or dates around these days as well). Thanksgiving is a harvest based celebration, and, more importantly here, is also connected with early English settlements in the United States. It’s a chance for us a post a blog featuring one of the treasures of the Library, John Smith’s beautiful map of Virginia, dated 1612.

Smith was Governor of the Colony of Virginia and one of the founders of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the United States. Smith’s map is orientated with west at the top, the best way to represent on paper this elongated stretch of country. The Chesapeake Bay is the horizontal stretch of water just below the centre of the map with Jamestown, in red, on the Powhatan (now called the James) River. Smith shows the areas both explored, often by himself, and unexplored, using crosses on the rivers to show the limits of European knowledge. Most striking though are the images of Native American life, on the left is a scene showing the local chieftain Powhatan and members of the Powhatan tribe while on the right is a Native American with the inscription ‘the Sasquesahanoughs are a gyant like people & thus a-tyred’. Maps played a crucial role in the early history of the United States. Dutch, English and French interests in territory made the setting down of ownership and boundaries on maps and documents a way of establishing claims and legitimacy to land which would go on to play a crucial role in the way the early history of the country developed.

This map comes from a book Smith wrote about his time in Virginia, called ‘The First Booke of the First Decade contanying the Historie and Travaile into Virginia-Britania‘, and came to the Bodleian from the collection of Elias Ashmole, founder of the Ashmolean Museum. Ashmole had donated his collection to the Ashmolean in 1677, this was then passed onto the Bodleian in 1860.

MS. Ashmole 1758. 1612

Measuring distances, a wheel or a chain?

John Ogilby has to be one of the most interesting of all the cartographers. Before turning to making maps aged 66 he had at various times been a dancer and dance instructor, theatre manager and publisher, with career changes usually the result of misfortune of some kind. His dance career ended after suffering serious injury during one performance, his career in the theatre in Dublin came to an abrupt end due to Irish rebellion against the English in 1644 and then finally he lost most of his publishing stock in the Great Fire of London.

It was the fire that set Ogilby on a new path as a cartographer. After mapping the devastated city to aid in redevelopment Ogilby embarked on the project that would not only give him lasting fame but introduced a new way of mapping  roads. In 1675 Ogilby published the Britannia, an atlas of 73 routes at a scale, for the first time, of one inch to the mile (1:63,360). As can be seen from this example Ogilby revolutionized the way maps were shown by only focusing on the relevant information for the road user and by making the best use of space while creating maps full of useful information and easy to understand.

Miles are marked on the road maps with furlongs in between the miles shown by dots (a furlong being the length of a furrow in a common field, by Ogilby’s day there were 8 to a mile). Compass roses show north and hills are drawn in a way to show if you are travelling up hill or down. The cartouche includes figures surveying and using tools that would have been used to map out the route and recorded the miles.

The wheel on the end of the stick was called a way-wiser that recorded each turn of the wheel on a dial,  while underneath that a winged figure called a Putto is using a Gunter’s chain, invented in 1620, which was laid along the ground to measure distances. The chain measured 66 feet divided into 100 links, ten chains length was a furlong, 80 a mile.  The figure on the horse is holding a compass.

Ogilby died the year after the publication of Britannia, but his work stayed in print, first through the efforts of his step-grandson William Morgan (who like Ogilby was appointed ‘His Majesty’s Cosmographer’), and then through, acknowledged or often not, the works of later cartographers, all making use of such a rich and inventive source of information.

There is one more intriguing chapter to the story. Ogilby was closely allied with Charles II, and there is a theory that Britannia was published to help with a proposed invasion from France to restore the Catholic faith in the country. For some the emphasis that Britannia places in routes to poorly populated ports and locations in Wales and the West Country and the publication date being so close to a signing of a secret treaty with France (so secret it didn’t come into public knowledge till 1820) shows that this was a road map with a hidden agenda, and it is only with this agenda in mind that some of the seemingly random things shown on the maps; a house in the middle of nowhere, mines in one location but not others for instance, begin to make sense.

In the corridor outside the Map Office here at the Bodleian nine portraits are hung. Two are of cartographers; John Speed, the famous Tudor map maker, and John Ogilby, both of whom originally were named in their picture. Ogilby’s name has at some point been painted out, this may be due to changing fashions as none of the other, later, seven portraits name the person in the picture. We can’t be sure though if his name has been erased deliberately, another layer of mystery attached to a man who had more than his fair share throughout his life.

Britannia, volume the first, or, an illustration of the Kingdom of England and Wales by a geographical and historical description of the principal roads thereof…1675. Vet A3 b.10

 

 

Treasure Unearthed!

Shelf checking a printed book collection I came upon an uncatalogued atlas which looked very interesting.  Although it had engraved and letterpress title pages for Visscher’s Atlas Minor it was, in fact an atlas factice of mainly seventeenth century maps from atlases of various publishers. It is contained in the Bodleian’s collection of books belonging to John Locke (1632-1704), philosopher and influential Enlightenment figure.

Locke was awarded his master’s degree from Christ Church, Oxford in 1658 and developed into polymath and in 1668 was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society but his interests also covered amongst others medicine, political theory and religious tolerance and influenced by Bacon, Descartes and Hobbes.  Throughout his life he wrote and disseminated his ideas on this range of subjects so it is no surprise that he would have amassed a collection of maps.

 

After his death in 1704, his library was left to his cousin Peter King, later Lord King when in 1947 the Bodleian bought some of the books and manuscripts. The remainder were found at Ben Damph Forest, the seat of the Earl of Lovelace (as Lord King later became) and were later bought by Paul Mellon who then presented this collection to the Bodleian in 1978.

 

The volume itself contains 48 maps, charts and plans produced and published by the leading cartographers contemporary with Locke, so along with Visscher, Frederik de Wit, Carel Allard and Peter Schenk also featured.  Additionally included is an ephemerides by Jean Baptiste Coignard which would have sat well with the maps. Map number 15 A New Chart of the Sea Coasts Between England and Ireland by Richard Mount is uncommon and unusually oriented with west at the top.

The binding is the original vellum with blind stamped border and corner pieces; and large ornament with evidence of ties. There is a spine title in manuscript (Locke?) Visscher Atlas. There is a circular red morocco bookplate with a gilt image of stook of corn and lettering “Oak Spring, Paul Mellon” indicating its later provenance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atlas factice of mainly Dutch 17th century maps  Locke 22.1

To the readers hello

This remarkable early example of a town plan shows the French port of La Rochelle under siege in 1573.

During the French Wars of Religion La Rochelle had become a centre of Huguenot support, and was besieged by troops loyal to the Catholic Duke of Anjou. The siege was lifted in the year the map was made and La Rochelle became one of the few cities in France where Protestants were allowed to worship.

In the box in the top left, ‘Aux lecteurs salut’ (To the readers hello) the cartographer first claims he has made this map to meet the desire of the most curious, and then sets out what his map shows; the defences and how the rebels holding the city were besieged both from the land and the sea, the damage caused within the walls and the names of locations. The text ends by stating that the Royalist forces did not spare any lives or goods in order to deliver to the King victory, though the siege was lifted in June 1573 without outcome. The brief publishing information at the bottom of the map is intriguing. The text tells us it was made by F. Desprez in the Rue Montorgueil, Paris, there is then the words ‘au Bon Pasteur’ (the Good Shepherd or Pastor) which may relate to the fact that Desprez worked close to the Church of Saint-Eustache.

The map clearly shows the formidable fortifications La Rochelle had, full of thick and angled walls designed to deflect cannon fire and force attacking troops into narrow spaces easy to attack from the walls. More on this type of fortification and the beautiful maps that show them can be found here

The map publication date of 1573 means it is a very early example of a town plan held in the Bodleian. The earliest for Oxford is from 1578 (Ralph Agas, see an image here,). For London 1572, a map that comes from an atlas of town plans called Civitates Orbis Terrarum, an earlier blog post gives more information about this celebrated atlas here

Portraict de la Rochelle, & des Forteresses q les Rebelles y ont faict, depuis les p’miers troubles jusque á pňt. 1573. (E) C21:50 La Rochelle (1)