Not a map

The map collection at the Bodleian is arranged by area, and identified by letters and numbers. A is for maps of the Universe, B the World and so on down to N which is for the Antarctic. Further subdivisions within these letters give you individual countries, so for instance England is C17 (the C is for Europe). The system doesn’t end at N though, for there is one further section full of maps which either are of places that don’t exist or are cartographic items without a map on. 

This is the O section. Included in O are maps of Middle Earth and Narnia, of Ambridge and the Island of Sodor (the Archers and Thomas the tank Engine respectively, in case you were wondering). There are also instructional diagrams for drawing maps. Neither have maps on but both have a simple beauty to them, and hark back to an age of plane-table surveying and pencil and paper work.This first example (Land forms & their representation on contoured maps, c1970, O1 (33)) gives examples of different types of profiles and land forms with accompanying examples of how these forms would be reproduced on maps with contours. This map is part of the general collection, the second example is in a frame and hangs on the wall in the Map Office. While the first example shown hasn’t any publishing details apart from the name ‘T.H. Hughes, F.R.G.S.’ in the corner the second example is published by the Army Signal School, in Dunstable, and would have been used as a teaching aid for training Military cartographers.

The School was at Dunstable for a brief period from 1916 until just after the end of the First World War. The Bodleian also has cartographic training manuals for the Austrian and German Armies.




We’ve blogged about D-Day mapping before, with detailed beach and German defences maps featuring here and but the 75th anniversary of the landings gives us another chance to show some of the items relating to Operation Overlord in the Bodleian. D-Day involved putting onshore over 175,000 troops, 4,500 guns and tanks and another 15,000 vehicles, all transported across the channel by over 11,000 ships. With planning starting in late 1943 maps would play a crucial roll in the organization, movement and attacking abilities of the Allied forces to make the operation a  success. Nearer the time enemy troop deployment and defences were plotted onto existing mapping (see examples in the links at start of this piece) but in the early stages of planning the operation non-military aspects had to be studied and considered. Two examples are shown here from the Office of Strategic Services, the United States Intelligence Agency which after the war became the C.I.A.

The Channel Coast Jan 1944 C2:5 (10) and N.W. Normandy wind conditions June 1943 C21:37 (9)

The first map gives a different perspective of the routes across the Channel and illustrates nicely the different options available, and the distances involved, to Allied Command on where to cross the Channel. The second map is one of a number produced by both the American and British Intelligence Departments dealing with the purely practical information needed to plan the invasion, in this case wind conditions but there are similar maps for tides and inland flooding in Normandy.

The OSS was also involved, along with the British Intelligence Agencies, in a major deception campaign to convince the Germans that the landings would take place anywhere else than on the Normandy beaches. Codenamed Bodyguard, creating new and totally fictitious divisions and artillery, false radio transmissions and leaking information to double-agents meant the Germans were fooled into believing in a build-up of Allied forces in Britain which didn’t exist.

Grossbritannien und Irland mit standorten des engl. Heeres 1944 C15 (468)

This map of Britain made by the German General Staff dates from the 15th of May, 1944 and shows what the Germans thought was the deployment of troops three weeks before D-Day. As well as English Army positions (in red) it also shows American (in black) and French (green).

Defence of Britain, defences as at “D” Day 6 June 1944 and anti “diver” defences 1945 C17 (66B)

This British map shows defences and positions on D-Day itself with divisions and defences (“Diver” was the codename for the  V-1 rocket, first launched by the Luftwaffe in 1944)

One of the earliest actions on the 6th of June was the landing near the bridges over the canal and River Orme near the village of Benouville, the famous glider attack on Pegasus Bridge.

Plan of Ouistreham-Caen Canal 1943, C21:37 (7)

Capturing the bridges were crucial if the advance on Caen was to succeed. The above map is from the British cartographic department, the Geographical Section, General Staff,  while below is a German map of the same area with an extract of the bridge area.

Frankreich 1 : 25 000 Nr XVI-12/1-2 Caen May 1944, C21 (15).


Normandy west of the Seine, the Seine Estuary to Avranches, beaches & landings, 1943 C21:37 (12)

Finally a wonderfully simple but hugely informative map from the early stages of planning showing potential landing beaches. Gradients, geological conditions and length of beach are shown by colour and length of markings and direction of lines. This map shows the levels of planning for the invasion that were already in place in 1943. This extract shows the area of the beach landings on the 6th of June 1944.

Sword beach is nu B43, Juno B44, Gold B45, Omaha B46 and Utah B49.

This is the Guardian from the 7th of June. Coverage of the advances made by the Allied Forces through Europe and into Germany continued until the end of the war,

often with maps illustrating the present situation at the time (the main war news on the 6th is on the advance through Italy and the recent Allied capture of Rome. French news is limited to reports on the considerable damage done to the French railway system by Allied bombing). These next three maps are from the few weeks following on from D-Day.


These maps and the full page image are from The Manchester Guardian, Jan-June 1944.  N 22891 a.8

The Grand Junction Railway

This is one of the earliest Railway maps held in the Bodleian. Dating from 1839 the map shows the route of the Grand Junction Railway which at the time of the map ran from Birmingham north to join up with the Liverpool to Manchester Railway, a journey of 82 miles.

Drake’s map of the Grand Junction Railway, 1839. (E) C17:5 (18)

As well as showing the route the map also has a distance chart showing the miles from Birmingham and, important from the point of view of having as flat and level a route as possible, a height profile. The map also has a lovely vignette just underneath the title of a train in motion. Maps started to feature railways at the start of the 1800s but these were horse-drawn. The first steam powered engine, George Stephenson’s Locomotion,  was on  the Stockton to Darlington Railway in 1825.

While the Library has a large number of railway maps the Drake is one of the few we have that comes with a timetable. Included on Drake’s Railway Sheet of the Grand Junction… is information

on fares and times along the route. A first class journey from Birmingham to Liverpool would cost 21 shillings (approximately £60, a first-class ticket today is twice this amount) and take four and a half hours. There is also another picture of an engine and first and second class carriages and cattle (horses cost 2 shillings).


Views from the sea

This collection of nineteenth century French sea charts has already been referred to in this blog last year, in a post dealing with some small scale charts used for route planning. Nearly a year later, I am still cataloguing the collection! The more detailed charts of particular coasts are fascinating too. One of the remarkable features of early sea charts is the coastal views they sometimes include, small thumbnail images showing the appearance of the land from the sea; these have been used for centuries. They clearly had a practical purpose, helping mariners to locate themselves, but they can be things of beauty too. The ones in these French charts are small, detailed, finely engraved views. Similar examples are found on British charts of the same period. 

In some cases these are quite dramatic. This view of the entrance to Grundarfjörður in western Iceland shows a forbidding mountain range. The fineness of the engraving and subtle shading gives the small picture an austere beauty perhaps like that of the landscape itself.

Similarly, this 1856 chart of Dyre Fiord (Dýrafjörður) in the remote north west of Iceland shows a forbidding coastline of dark cliffs. The chart itself, although mainly focused on the sea,  shows the coastal relief and gives an indication of the steep mountains rising around the fjord.

Both of these were engraved by S. Jacobs, who seems to have done a lot of work for the French Dépôt des cartes et plans de la marine. There are a surprising number of detailed French charts of this remote part of Iceland; the next chart in the volume shows the anchorages and the village of Hogdal (Haukadalur) in some detail. The larger settlement of Thingeyri or Þingeyri, marked here as Ting Eyre, was already an important fishing centre.

 The views in this last example are detailed depictions of individual seamarks. This image is from an 1868 chart showing part of the German coast (estuaries of the rivers Elbe, Weser and Jade). Here the natural landscape is flatter, and the distinguishing features that can be seen from the sea are artificial constructions. The pictures include a bell tower as well as lighthouses and buoys, and landmarks like churches and windmills are marked on the chart. The yellow blob at Bremerhaven is a lighthouse – they were all highlighted in colour, by hand, on these otherwise largely uncoloured charts.

All charts from collection B1 a.61. Plan du havre de Grone Fiord, 1858. Carte de Dyre Fiord : (côte N.O. de l’Islande), 1856. Carte des embouchures de la Jade du Weser et de l’Elbe, 1868.  All  published in Paris by the Dépôt des cartes et plans de la marine.

Playing with maps

The idea that playing cards could be illustrated with maps is a bit surprising, since maps tend to be on fairly large pieces of paper, and most playing cards are pretty small. However, early playing cards were often designed to be decorative and to serve an educational purpose as well as being for card games. So geographical subjects could feature, and these sometimes included maps.
The 39 historic counties of England, and 13 of Wales, together make up the convenient number 52 – the same as the number of cards in a standard pack. This perhaps inspired the first known example of geographical playing cards, a set made in England featuring all the counties, by the mysterious “W.B.” in 1590. Few of these survive and the Bodleian doesn’t hold any. The card maker is believed to be a W. Bowes, probably related to Ralph Bowes who received a monopoly to import playing cards in 1578, but attempts to identify this individual and establish a more precise relationship have been unsuccessful.

In 1676 the mapmaker Robert Morden issued a set of playing cards with maps of all the counties, each one showing a reasonable amount of detail for an area a little over 5cm square. Each little county map shows the main towns, roads, major rivers, and a scale bar, and is accompanied by information on the length, breadth and circumference of the county, and latitude of the main town and its distance from London. Small changes to the plates show that the set was reissued at least twice by 1680; the names of adjacent counties were not on the original version. The maps were also sold bound as a small atlas without suit marks. They were copied and the set issued again by John Lenthall, a playing card seller, around 1717. There was even a later version of the same set published in the 1780s, nearly a hundred years after they first appeared. The cards illustrated above are both from Lenthall’s issue of the cards.

Later in the same year that Morden issued his first set of county playing cards, William Redmayne published a competing set. The maps are very small and poorly drawn, and the suit marks (positioned in the middle of the cards) almost obscure the maps. They do however have more extensive text, with facts about the geography and history of the counties included. Differences in style between suits suggest that more than one engraver was involved, so perhaps the set was produced in a hurry. Despite the limitations of the maps, these must have sold reasonably well as a second set with minor changes came out the following year; again John Lenthall acquired the plates and issued a set some time in the 1710s. Lenthall sold many packs of cards of different designs; contemporary advertisements show that he had over 40 packs for customers to choose from. The cards shown above, from Redmayne’s second issue of the set, show the difference in style and in the amount of written information between cards.
Geographical cards with maps of countries around the world also existed, with the 4 continents then known to Europeans (Africa, Asia, Americas, Europe) serving as the 4 suits. But maps of the English counties seem to have been particularly popular. The maps shown are from the Bodleian’s John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera; the shelfmark is Douce Playing Cards: English Geographical.
There is a detailed analysis of map playing cards of this type published by the Map Collectors’ Circle (“Playing cards depicting maps of the British Isles, and of English and Welsh counties,” by Sylvia Mann and David Kingsley. Map Collectors’ Series No. 87, 1972)

The things you find in boxes

This blog post deals with the strange and wonderful things that sometimes appear in unexpected places. It’s something that happens often, making the job all the more rewarding for it. While having a tidy up in the map storage area we found an old rectangular box. Inside were 3 rolled maps; one from just after World War I by the Geographical Section of the War Office, the other two from 1857 published by the wonderfully named ‘National Society for promoting the education of the poor in the principals of the established Church’. Underneath these three objects was this single sheet of paper.

The translation of the main text is ‘Insignia of Iraqi warplanes, equilateral green triangle with black border, red sign in the form of an 8, white square’. The page comes from a booklet made by the German Army, presumably about Iraq though it could equally be about Syria or the Middle East. Iraqi involvement in the Second World War was brief. The Golden Square, a group of army officers, staged a coup in 1941, deposing the ruling family. British concerns that oil supplies would be diverted to the Axis powers lead to a brief, and for the British successful, war in May 1941.

It is hard to identify where this sheet has come from. Throughout the war General Staff of the Germany Army prepared pamphlet packages on a large number of countries, including all European countries, most of the African countries north of the equator and those in the Middle East, but this sheet hasn’t come from one of these.

The pamphlets included maps, information booklets and books of photographs. The books were usually compiled by academics familiar with the country in question and there are pamphlets produced for neutral countries as well as allies such as Italy and Romania. The earliest pamphlets date from 1939 and were produced in strong red cases, by 1943 shortages of materials meant that weaker card cases were used.

Considering the single sheet deals with airplanes it’s appropriate that one of the maps in the Irak  collection deals with airfields.

Until we can find out where this sheet belongs we’ll put it in the ‘Irak’ pamphlet box, ‘Militärgeographische angaben über den Irak’, 1943. D19 e.1

The league of Nations

This large (84 x 53 cm) cloth-backed map of the World issued by the League of Nations

highlights the changes that took place after the First World War following mandates issued by the League. Below a general World map insets for Africa, Arabia and the Pacific Islands show colonial possessions once owned by the defeated nations redistributed amongst the victors.

A League of Nations Mandate is a legal transferring of a Country from one nation to another, this was set up in June 1919 following the Treaty of Versailles.  The map is full of evocative names of countries from former times; Persia, South West Africa, Tanganyika and the Gold Coast, and also includes tables showing the birth of the League as well as flags of member and non-member countries as well as pie charts comparing area and populations of member and non-member countries, presumably as a way of showing the benefits of belonging.

The mandated countries are split into three classes. Class A, the countries of the Middle East formerly in the Ottoman Empire, were countries considered ready for some level of independent control. Class B, which consisted of former German possessions in West and Central Africa which would still need to be in some level of control by a mandatory power, while

Class C, the rest of the German Possessions in Africa and those in the Pacific would need to be under full control of the mandatory power. Each transferred country has a box giving details of possession, surrender and mandate, as in Samoa here.

The League of Nations Map of the World, c1926 (C) B1 (1628)


A tale of two maps

The contrast between these two maps is striking, considering they are both the same.

The Bodleian has two copies of South America corrected from the observations comunicated to the Royal Society’s of London & Paris… by John Senex, and dating from 1710. The copy on the right is a single sheet which has been folded and then incorporated into an atlas of maps by Senex soon after printing. As can be seen from the image the colours are strong and there is no damage or staining on the sheet.

The copy on the left has just come into the library as part of a large donation of rolls. To protect rolled maps from damage they were often attached to a linen backing and then varnished, hence the frayed and stained appearance of the map. It is now hard to see too much detail on the map compared to its cleaner cousin.

This map has also had additional strips added to the sides and top, with the new title (at top of this blog) and then text on either side about the continent.

The map has a beautiful cartouche, which as well as giving title and printing details also gives

an idea of a European viewpoint of South America, with an Amazonian warrior, decapitated head and cannibal feasts in the background. The warrior is a common symbol of America and is always shown with a bow and arrow and a crocodile.  Just above is a  representation of a Penguin, with descriptive text stating ‘In this icy sea there are many animals which are half fish, half fowl. They have a neck like a swan which they often thrust above water for air, the rest is allways under water’. To the right of the penguin is the inscription ‘ Here Cap. Halley found the sea full of ice’.  In 1699 Edmund Halley, astronomer and mathematician,  sailed on the Paramore across the Atlantic to carry on experiments on mapping the magnetic currents and flows of the World as well as mapping the Southern Hemisphere constellations and stars. On his return to England in 1700 he published the first magnetic declination chart of the World and then in 1703 he was appointed Savilian Professor of geometry at Oxford University. The map, made by John Senex, is dedicated to Halley. Senex was a prolific publisher of maps and atlases and was at one time cartographer to Queen Anne. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1728 and when he died in 1740 his wife Mary continued his work.

The Atlantic has been overly blessed with places that either never existed or have changed names completely. Pepys Island is one of the more celebrated of the ‘phantom islands’ of the Atlantic. Pirates in 1684 sailed close to the Sebald de Weerts Islands and marked this in the ships journal. Later this was heavily rewritten and published by someone keen to gain the favour of the Secretary of the Navy, Samuel Pepys, and named a new island after Pepys despite the original journal stating the island was part of the de Weerts group.  Pepys Island went on to feature in numerous maps up until the mid-1800s.  The Sebald de Weerts islands are now known as the Jason Islands. Just as strange is the naming of the southern part of the Atlantic as the Ethiopic Ocean, a name which dates back to classical times when most of Africa south and west of Egypt was called Aethiopia.

South America corrected from the observations comunicated to the Royal Society’s of London & Paris… by John Senex, 1710. Allen 15a.

Home defence during World War I

It’s always interesting when you get added to the collection a fairly routine map which has been personalized in some way, as in the case here.

London Area is a one sheet in a series at 1:253,440 (1/4 inch to a mile) published by the Ordnance Survey in 1916. This sheet belong to Capt. C.L. Wauchope of 39 Squadron and he has marked all the landing grounds according to class and searchlights in the area around the capital.

39 Squadron was formed early in 1916 as a ‘Home Defence’ Squadron protecting London from enemy attack, in particular from the night-time raids by Zeppelins.  Two rings of landing grounds surrounded the city, one at 5 miles and one at 9 miles and some of these went on to play a prominent role in the Battle of Britain during the Second World War, most famously Biggin Hill.

Landing grounds were classified according to number of different approaches and ground conditions and these landing grounds were used mainly by pilots who had either lost their way or had engine problems, which suggests that Wauchope’s map may not be the only one doctored in this way. The manuscript legends are at both corners of the bottom of the map. Due to limited space in the cockpit of the aeroplanes the map could be folded in half and still have an obvious key, which was important as in an emergency the pilot would want to find as safe a grounding as possible. A first class landing ground would have landings possible from most directions and a smooth, unobstructed surface whereas third class had a limited approach and were usually only used as a last resort.

Despite the small amount of fatalities and damage caused by Zeppelin raids during the war the psychological harm caused by the airships was considerable, as can be seen from this title page of an issue of the War Budget, a weekly illustrated periodical about the War.

London Area, 1916. C17:40 (268)


The battle of the Medway 1667

This is a remarkable map of a remarkable event. Interleaved amongst Naval papers and letters to and from Samuel Pepys in a volume of manuscripts is a drawing by another noted diarist, John Evelyn, of one of the few examples of enemy action on British soil since 1066, the attack on the River Medway in 1667 by the Dutch.

The volume of papers is part of the Rawlinson collection. Antiquary Richard Rawlinson (1690-1755) donated to the Bodleian over 5,000 manuscripts and nearly 1,800 books on such subjects as theology, literature and history.  Evelyn was a contemporary of Samuel Pepys and his diary, which he wrote for most of his life though not to the detail of Pepys’s shorter work, was first published in 1818. This map by Evelyn is included in the collection of Pepys manuscripts because of Pepys’s role in the Navy, first as an administrator and then, from 1673, as Secretary. The raid was part of the Second Anglo-Dutch War, fought between the two nations from 1665 to 1667 to gain the upper hand in trade and World dominance. Between the 11th and the 13th of June Dutch ships sailed into the Medway, firing on Chatham and Sheerness and sinking a number of British ships.

This is an extract of the area around Rochester and Chatham                                                        Yard.  The dotted line between ships 2 and 3 and 7 and 8 is a heavy chain laid across the river to prevent the Dutch breaking through, a measure which failed, allowing the Dutch fleet to sail on and attack the British fleet at will. Ships 12 to 14; the Royal Oak, the Loyal London and the Royal James, were all burnt while the flagship, the HMS Royal Charles (10) was captured and towed back to the Netherlands.

The map is a sketch in pen and ink and there is a letter from Evelyn to Pepys with the map. Dated the 20th of June the letter starts ‘I am heartily ashamed I could not performe yr command before now. It was Friday ere I could possibly get home, and find I am here. I have been so afflicted with ye gripping of the guts that I was not able to bestow the pains intended on the scheme I send you…’A later map of the Essex coast, made in 1686 by Capt. Grenvil Collins, is dedicated to Pepys and features as part of the cartouche a small picture of a battle at sea (posted on this blog in January 2016).


Extract from Harwich, Woodbridg and Handfordwater with the sands from the Nazeland to Hoseley Bay…1686.   (E)C17:28 (46)

A few pages after this map is a letter Pepys wrote to the Earl of Sandwich when the Earl was Ambassador to Spain in 1667. Pepys often used code when writing his diary, and it is interesting to see that this skill was also important in his official role.

Lord Sandwich was a friend and supporter of Pepys. Sandwich died on board ship during a future War with the Dutch in 1672.

‘ A scheme of the posture of the Dutch Fleet and action at Sher-ness and Chatham, 10th 11th & 12th of June 1667, taken upon the place’. 1667. MS Rawlinson a 195a fol 78