Alaska before Alaska

This striking map of North America from 1836 first came to our attention because of the labeling of Alaska, here called Russie Américaine. Russia had started to explore the coastline of

Alaska in the 1720’s, with the Dane Vitus Bering the first to travel through the strait that now bears his name. This inevitably led to fur traders moving in and setting up posts, gradually spreading out into the hinterland meeting up with traders coming from the Canadian side in the next century. Never profitable, Russia sold Alaska to the United States in 1867 for $7.2 million.

But there is a lot more to the map than the Alaska question. The map was published at a time of major changes in the way that North America was beginning to develop into the countries and states we recognize today. In 1836 Canada relates to a small part of the country around the St Lawrence River north of the Great Lakes while the rest of this now vast country is left to Native Americans and traders. Mexico extends far up the west coast to the Oregon border, while Texas is shown as an independent state, not yet part of the United States but no longer part of Mexico after defeating the Mexican Army in 1835.

The importance of trade in the opening up of the west is best shown with the settlement of Astoria. Lewis and Clark’s Government-sponsored exploration to open up the West between 1805-06 had lead to further expansion, John Jacob Astor and his Pacific Fur Company being amongst the first to found a settlement, Astoria, on the banks of the Columbia River.

Exploration beyond the Arctic Circle was focused at the time of the map publication in finding the Northwest Passage. British explorers had first started the search for a link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as early as 1576, but it wasn’t until the great naval voyages of Franklin and Ross in the early 1800’s that real progress was made, despite the harsh conditions and sea-ice. Franklin went on a number of expeditions from 1819 leading to the last final expedition in 1845 which ended in tragedy with the loss of all who took part.

Amerique de Nord par A.H. Dufour, 1836. (E) B9 (102)

Maps for the 3rd of November

Maps for events taking place of the 3rd of November, with forty-one years separating the two.

The first is a simple plan of a dramatic day’s action, ‘Bombardment & capture of Acre, November the 3rd 1840′.  The map shows both the layout of the citadel of Acre, now a coastal town on the Mediterranean in Israel but at the time part of the Ottoman Empire, and the ships of the British, Turkish and Austrian navies who bombarded the Egyptian forces that had taken control of the Citadel as part of a campaign to gain control of Ottoman territory.

Despite its small size the map is full of detail, giving not just a list of ships with captains and guns but precise timings for the start and end of bombardment and the amount of casualties both sides suffered, the British and Allies with 18 killed and 42 wounded while the Egyptians lost a staggering 2300 killed and 3000 captured.

The large number of casualties resulted from a direct hit to the Citadel magazine, dramatically depicted on the map, which tells us that the explosion killed not only ‘1700 men but also 5 donkeys, 3 camels, 12 cows and some horses’.

Extract from Acre plan showing magazine exploding. Note different amount of unfortunate donkeys.

In contrast to brutalities of war this second map is from a sales catalogue for the auction of farm land near Cropredy in north Oxfordshire, on the 3rd of November 1881.

Like the Acre map it focuses on a small area to the exclusion of any surrounding countryside, but while the Acre map is one of death and destruction the listing of plots and fields, along with  decorative corners is a picturesque representation of the English countryside in map form. A large number of auction catalogues for land feature maps such as this example.

This extract is from the first edition of the Ordnance Survey 1:2,500 map of the area. Plots 139, 140 and 141 correspond to lots 1, 2 and 3 on the auction map. The map dates from 1882.

Bombardment & capture of Acre, November 3rd 1840, from a rough sketch taken on the spot by Joseph C Brettell, mining Engineer’. 1840 (E )D26:20 Acre (1)

Plan of an estate at Cropredy, Oxfordshire, for sale by auction by Messrs. Simmons & Sons, atnthe White Horse Hotel, Banbury, on Thursday, 3rd November, 1881. 1881. C17:49 (53)

A plan of Haslemere, 1735

This beautiful map, ‘A plan of the situation of the ancient borough of Haslemere in the county of Surrey…’ is a colourful and detailed example of a cadastral plan, a map designed to show individual buildings and ownership.

The map shows what is now the High Street in the town. Listed either side of the plan are the lease and free holds with the houses numbered and occupants listed. The biggest house, nu 2, belonged to John Tanner, Gentleman.

John Tanner’s house, number 2. Staining and black dots evident in this close-up.

Drawn onto vellum in 1735 the map is showing signs of damage. The map has holes in the corners, suggesting that at some point it was pinned to a wall, and there is a strip of paper on the reverse running along the middle, an indication that it has also been stuck into a book. This doesn’t detract from the attractiveness of the map though. Similar in design and purpose to Estate maps the cartographer William Morley has richly decorated both the houses and the borders with the compass rose and flowers, as well as the columns and edge decorations.

The map comes from the Gough collection, one of the most important of all the donated collections to the Bodleian. Richard Gough was a noted antiquarian who collected topographical prints, drawings and related items. Included in his collection, which came to the Bodleian after his death in 1809 are the Gough Map (http://www.goughmap.org/map/) and the Sheldon Tapestries. Almost all the maps from the Gough collection are black and white, making this beautiful plan of Haslemere stand out.

A plan of the situation of the ancient borough of Haslemere in the county of Surrey, 1735.           Gough Maps Surrey 7

 

TOSCA @ 25

In twenty-five years of lectures and field trips The Oxford Seminars in CArtography (or TOSCA to its friends) has called attention to the enlightening power of maps. The series has shown how maps were co-opted into Enlightenment projects as tools for rational enquiry and the implementation of ‘improvements’. We have seen maps as part of Enlightenment science – used by individuals, institutions, and governments to understand, demarcate, control, codify information about, and change the lands under their jurisdiction. The power of maps to open up lands, seas, peoples, and the rest of the natural world to the questing gaze of the outsider has been a constant TOSCA theme. TOSCA seminars have also interrogated maps dating from before and after the Enlightenment but which shed light on phenomena and connections between them. TOSCA audiences have seen how – on the wall of the schoolroom, in the wartime operations room, in the hands of the traveller, in the mark-up room of the newspaper editor, in the cabinet of the scholar, or on the laptop of the engineer – maps shape our understanding of the world, ourselves, and our place in the world. Though TOSCA seminars have amply demonstrated that maps can be tools of the elite and powerful, they have also uncovered mapping undertaken by the ostensibly powerless, as revealing exercise in citizen science, and as a means for those with radical, subversive, or countercultural agendas to enlighten audiences about the nature of elites.

To celebrate 25 years of TOSCA’s cartographic explorations an all-day symposium and map display was held in TOSCA’s home, the Bodleian Library, for which papers were invited on the theme of Enlightening Maps. Topics were to reflect but were not be limited to the themes outlined above, that is, maps of the period known as the Enlightenment but also maps used to shed perhaps unwelcome light on contentious questions of every sort and from every period.

Friday 22 September saw the staging of “Enlightening maps: celebrating 25 years of The Oxford Seminars in Cartography” at the Weston Library. TOSCA has now been running since 1993, showcasing maps and mapmaking with one seminar per term, plus an annual field trip. The events are open to all.

We wanted the day to showcase a number of issues and formats. Whilst the over-arching title of “Enlightening maps” came quickly, we needed to populate the day with a programme that would entice people to help us celebrate the occasion.

Two keynote speakers were deemed to be essential, and we invited Danny Dorling, Oxford’s Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography, and Mary Pedley, University of Michigan to top and tail the day. Space was made available for four 20-minute papers, as well as a slot for “Cartographic conversations” which was designed to allow presenters to discuss their research in front of items from the Bodleian’s map collection. Two of our four “20-minuters” took up this opportunity, along with four further presenters. Thus the day was set. We also booked the Divinity School for a drinks reception, as well as a room above the St Aldates Tavern for an evening meal. We even persuaded author and broadcaster Mike Parker of ‘Map addict’ and ‘Mapping the roads’ fame to deliver a toast in the Divinity School.

In total 58 people registered for the day (including eleven speakers and five Map Room team members on hand to help with registration and general logistics). Our visitors were both local, 33 coming from Oxfordshire; and international, with one from Germany and three from the United States.

Registration and coffee seamlessly merged into a general welcome, and then Danny Dorling’s opening presentation entitled ‘New ways of seeing the World: a social geographer’s perspective’, awash with cartograms and challenges to map social data on a global level set the day’s mapping activity into motion.

We then hit upon our first pair of talks under the banner of Enlightening maps: modernity and postmodernity, which featured Megan Barford (Royal Museums Greenwich) on ‘Cartography and forced migration: a contemporary collecting project at Royal Museums Greenwich’ which looked at current manuscript maps created for migration routes for Syrian refugees attempting to reach Britain. Then came Kenneth Field (Esri Inc. / International Cartographic Association) on a very topical ‘Fake maps: the new age of cartographic enlightenment’, which included Ken’s take on Fred Rose’s serio-comic maps of the late nineteenth century, as he showcased his own “serio-comic” Trump’s ties World map.

After lunch we were back with a double-header on The European Enlightenment and its maps, Katherine Parker (University of Pittsburgh) opening with ‘Charting chimeras: the creation and rejection of Pacific geographic knowledge in the eighteenth century’ which included the story of Pepys Island off the Argentine coast – frequently mapped, yet never ever in existence. She was followed by broadcaster Vanessa Collingridge, who spoke on ‘Mapping myths: the fantastic geography of the Great Southern Continent, 1760–1777’.

Pepys island, from The world, : including the late discoveries by Capt. Cook and other circumnavigators, c1790. (E) B1 (1555)

Our next plan was to try to replicate the atmosphere of our field trips, and so the delegates were transported upstairs where they could move freely between the Bahari Room and the Centre for Digital Scholarship for a series of Cartographic conversations. The Bahari hosted Katherine Parker showcasing material to support her paper, alongside independent scholar Paul Hughes, who was demonstrating ‘The evolution of the Prime Meridian: the cartographic evidence’, and another independent scholar, Jane Reeve, with ‘War and paradise: the maps of James Bruce, the ‘Abyssinian traveller’’. The CDS hosted Ken Field who added the likes of the Ghanaian “elephant map” where an elephant-shaped contour lines can be spotted, as well as a current Ordnance Survey Landranger map with “BILL” drawn into some sea cliffs.

The Solent and Isle of Wight, Southampton and Portsmouth, sheet 196 OS landranger. 2016 C16 (21a)

We also had freelance cartographer Giles Darkes on ‘Historic Towns Trust maps’, and Oxford independent scholar Mark Davies looking at ‘Unlocking the secrets of Benjamin Cole’s maps of Port Meadow, Oxford c.1695 and c.1721’.

A map of Port Meadow…by Benjamin Cole, c1710. (E) C17:70 Oxford (40)

Following a tea break, we returned to the lecture theatre for the second keynote – Mary Pedley on ‘Mapping in the European Enlightenment’, a wonderful tour de force to end the day’s formal proceedings.

The day’s highlight had to be the Weston Library itself. The event was a perfect fit, using the lecture theatre, and also the Bahari Room and the Centre for Digital Scholarship. Such an event could not have happened without the Weston Library, and the response from visitors was unanimously positive.

So what happens next? The 2017/18 TOSCA programme has been announced with seminars on the Selden Map, nineteenth-century British cartography, and the future remit of Ordnance Survey; we also have a field trip based on GIS and the First World War. Additionally, we feel that a day such as this warrants repetition, and so we have booked the same combination of rooms for Friday 25 September 2020, and a 28th anniversary celebration. 

How to draw a map, Austro-Hungarian style

The things you find behind the most unimpressive of covers.

The Schlüssel und vorlageblatter für den situations zeichnungs unterricht (which translates roughly as ‘Key and template for drawing lessons’) is a teaching aid created by the Institute of Military Geography in the Austro-Hungarian Ministry of War in 1882 for the drawing of maps. Inside there are a number of different terrain examples and sheets showing scales, text, topographical features and legends.

The book also has technical aids for depicting hachures, and has a number of pages dedicated to the problem of representing height on a flat sheet. The idea is that military cartographers working for the Institute would use these maps and legends as a template to create maps without variation in design, creating uniform mapping easily understood by troops in the field.

The range of terrain available, from high mountain to river flood-plain, is an indication of the size and breadth of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1882. This map, from an atlas published in 1909, shows the Empire just before the outbreak of the First World War

Schlüssel und vorlageblatter für den situations zeichnungs unterricht, 1882. K.K Militar-Geografischen Institute. C1:5 b.3

 

 

 

 

Beach Map No. 1

Beach landing plans from the latter stages of the Second World War are some of the most evocative of all the maps held in the Bodleian. They are the outcome of information gathering, of the need to record and warn of dangers both geological and military while at the same time with their use of colours to portray a range of different information are often attractive to look at, despite any thought given to the events that would lead on from the need to make the maps in the first place.

The Bodleian holds beach plans for the Normandy campaign that took Allied forces back into mainland Europe on D-Day, for the Italian campaign and now, with a recent donation, of the Burma campaign.

This map shows the town of Akyab (now called Sittwe), an important port on the west coast of Burma that had both a heavily defended airfield but also one of the best deepwater ports on the coast. Allied forces had taken the town by the 3rd of January, just over 20 days after the last of the information was added to the map.

All geological information is in green, while military information is in blue. Black text of the beaches give tide-times information and shows the landing zones for the different troop groups. The red numbers, one to fifteen, are for the beach gradient diagrams off the map on the right.

Cross-section profiling is common in maps, though usually showing hill heights or geological information over a greater distance than shown here, where information is given on the slopes and tides of parts of the beach for Allied landing craft.

The map is compiled and printed by the Survey Department of the Allied Land Forces South East Asia, formerly the 11th Army Group, based in Kandy.

Beach Map No. 1, 1944. D14:25 Akyab (4)

From the Thames to the Indian Ocean

Undo the string. Open the flaps.


 

 

 

 

Open the wooden boards…

 

…to reveal one of the most beautifully decorated maps in the Bodleian.

Made in 1682 by John Thornton this is a late example of a Portolan Chart, a navigational map hand-drawn on vellum. By the mid-1600s printed charts were beginning to replace manuscripts such as this, in fact Thornton, in his role as Hydrographer to both the East India Company and Hudson Bay Company, regularly prepared charts for printing at the same time as creating individual works. Thornton was a member of the Thames School of cartographers, based near the London docks. The mounting of the chart on wooden boards folded concertina style is typical of the Thames School.

While many names on this chart are unfamiliar to us now the accuracy of depiction makes the area covered immediately apparent. From the east coast of Africa to the Islands of Indonesia the chart takes in the whole of the Indian Ocean, including many of the islands crucial for the navigation and re-supply across the wide ocean. The newly discovered west coast of an as yet un-named Australia appears, labelled ‘Dutch Discovery’.


There are many wonderful things to discover on the map. Names of ports and cities are written, where possible, inland to keep the sea areas of the map as clear as possible for navigation and

to keep the chart as tidy as possible all names start from the coast. This explains why some of the names are vertical or even upside-down, a practice that dates back to the as the 1400s, the cartographer would have started from the north-western corner of the chart naming as he went along and turning the chart as he ventured around the coastline. Important cities and ports are in red. Beautiful compass roses are shown for decoration and navigation with rhumb lines radiating out across the chart, used to work out a ships course and gold-leaf is used in a number of locations.

The chart dates from a time of Dutch influence on the seas. The Dutch East India Company had control of the Spice Islands, bringing in a revenue that not only transformed the Dutch ports such as Amsterdam into rich and well-ordered cities but helped create, and then made the best use of, some of the finest maps and mapmakers of the time.


It’s not the first time that portolans and navigational charts have featured on the map blog, mainly because you rarely see one which isn’t attractive in some way. From the richly decorated  but over-crowded Douce (http://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/maps/2016/06/) to the beautiful early Venetian charts (http://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/maps/2015/09/) to an early printed example dedicated to Samuel Pepys (http://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/maps/2016/06/) it is immediately  apparent how different each one is to the other.

This is one of the maps featured in Treasures from the Map Room: a journey through the Bodleian collections. Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2016. ISBN 978 1 85124 250 4. Available from the Bodleian bookshop.

Untitled Portolan Chart by John Thornton, in 1682. Map Res 117.

Almost undangerous

When it comes to maps showing paths through minefields you’d presumably, stuck behind the wheel of your boat, hope for something more than a legend that includes’ Almost undangerous influence mine field’.

This map,  the ‘Status of Swept Channel and Influence Minefields in the Japanese Inland Sea (March 18, 1949)’ shows how hazardous life was in the years after the Second World War. Four years since the end of the conflict (which culminated with the Atomic Bomb drop over Hiroshima, which is in the top right of the map) the inland sea between Kyushu and Honshu is still awash with mines with only a narrow safe channel separating the two islands.

An influence mine defers from an ordinary mine in that it can be set off by the actions of a ship nearby, by changes in pressure, electronic signals or magnetic variation. The map shows the danger areas in red, with the clear channels those that have been swept clear of mines. Black-inked areas are safe.

The map is a supplement from the Pilot Chart to the North Pacific Ocean series, a wonderful archive of maps published by the U.S. Hydrographic Office on a monthly basis over a number of years from 1912. The maps show currents and weather patterns and often feature articles on the reverse on such diverse subjects as typhoons, whales and signals.

‘Status of Swept Channel and Influence Minefields in the Japanese Inland Sea (March 18, 1949)’ published by the U.S. Hydrographic Office in 1949. D20 (299)

Waste not, want not

The Conservation staff were checking the Duke Humfrey shelves for items for repair when they came across an unusual example of printed waste fragments used as pastedowns. This practice, born of economy as no bookbinder would wish to waste a clean sheet of parchment or paper when a surplus or damaged sheet would do, started early in printed book history as there examples of William Caxton’s work used this way but was especially common in the first half of the seventeenth century. What is more unusual is that it is cartographic waste. This example is of a John Speed work usually found in the King James Bible, Map of Canaan which he originally published in 1598. The endpapers are also blackletter printers’ waste. The volume contains two Latin texts: Philosophia theologiæ ancillans; hoc est, pia & sobria explicatio quæstionum philosophicarum in di sputationibus theologicis occurrentium by Robert Baron (1593?-1639) published in St Andrews in 1621 and De legatione evangelica ad Indos capessenda admonitio.  by Justus Heurnius published in Leiden in 1618.  Often interesting printer’s waste is not evident unless a volume is damaged.

The binding is full sprinkled calf with fillets on upper and lower boards with evidence that it once boasted ties.  What makes it recognisable as an Oxford binding is the two way hatching on board edges.  The shelfmark is 8° B 105 Art., written on the foredge, denotes that is comes from one part of the original Bodleian four-part classification which sorted texts by faculty or subject including mathematics, history, philosophy and literature.

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Peters, Peters, Peters

A local cartographic company have downsized, and given the Bodleian their collection of atlases. Included in the haul were a large number of works by Arno Peters, creator of the Peters Map Projection system in 1973. These atlases are in a number of different languages, including German, Danish, Spanish and French and will be a welcome addition to the atlases in different languages already held in the map collection.

Peters projection was designed to show the world in away that gave, according to the creator, ‘the Earth in true proportion’. The standard projection, that of Gerard Mercator in the 16th Century, was too Euro-centric, argued Peters, and his new projection ‘represented countries accurately according to their land-mass’. This new map, which changed the perception of under-developed countries in the general world view, proved highly popular with its more equal view of the world. Relief and Church organizations distributed millions of copies of the maps.

Cartographers immediately took against the bold claims made for the map, arguing that no map could avoid distortion in some form or another. They also pointed out that the Peters Projection was far from unique, similar schemes had been proposed as early as the mid-1800s.