A Victorian view of the World

This colourful and informative view of the World from 1882 is a classic example of a Victorian map. Famous battles, races of the World, information on the stars and hemispheres, lengths of rivers, heights of mountains are just some of the examples of information shown in what would have been intended primarily as a school map.

In the four corners are shown famous explorers, Columbus and Cook at top, Livingstone and Humboldt below while between there is a double hemisphere map showing the countries of the World, ocean currents and shipping routes.

This double hemisphere map also manages to include graphics showing the highest mountains and longest rivers as well as a map of the Solar System. The map also shows the natives of the World, with written descriptions of various races

as well as a diagram rather grandly titled ‘The Universal Time Dial Plate’ showing the different time zones of various cities throughout the World compared to London.

Text fills the spaces where there are no maps or pictures, telling us of the different races in the World, the way the Solar System works and the shape and size of the Earth. This is a map full of information and gives a real sense of what the Victorian world-view was. Just think how a child’s imagination would have been fired by seeing this in the classroom every day.

The Pictorial View of the World, 1882. B1 (261)

Going, invasion and defence maps

From plotting troop deployment to setting out enemy positions to showing the ground conditions for tank movement maps have proved vital in the planning and carrying out of military operations in time of war.

The Bodleian’s holdings before the Boer war tend to be of mapping published after the event, mainly to illustrate books, such as this plan of the battle of Austerlitz printed in 1805.

Plan de schlacht von Austerlitz a m 2 then December 1805. (E) C1:5 (445) c1805

Another example is this sheet from a three map set showing the course of the three-day battle of Gettysburg printed not long after the decisive battle of the American Civil War in 1876.

Map of the battlefield of Gettysburg, 1st, 2nd, 3rd July 1863. F6:46 (3) 1876

The wars in South Africa saw an increase in maps produced during the conflicts. This manuscript map of Ladysmith made before the siege in 1899 is just one example of a number of manuscript and printed maps held in the Bodleian for the Boer and Zulu wars. The map mentions how it was sketched with the aid of a prismatic compass. Ladysmith was the headquarters of the British Forces in Natal against the Boer Army during the Second Boer War.

 

Approaches to Ladysmith, 1897 (MS) E54:11 (39)

The huge technical demands and the importance put on accurate artillery forced a huge improvement in the production of maps by both sides in the First World War and maps in their millions were produced, often in the later stages of the conflict in mobile printing workshops in the field. As well as the more famous trench maps early tank maps were produced as well as artillery barrage mapping and maps of no-mans land.

Detail of wire etc in no mans land, secret no. 84A. 1916. C1 (3) [269]

But it was with the Second World War and the global aspect of the threat of invasion by land and sea that military mapping went to levels not seen before. Goings maps, which showed ground conditions for the movement of tanks, enemy defensive positions, not so much from an artillery point of view but more so for troop invasions, and general intelligence maps, showing ground conditions, enemy positions and strengths. Take this enemy defences map of the area around Equeurdreville, on the western outskirts of Cherbourg. All the blue symbols mark enemy defences and artillery, the location of which had been gathered from aerial photography and observations from the Resistance or off-shore reconnaissance.

Maps such as this were crucial to the planning and carrying out of the D-Day invasion in June 1944 and the importance of these maps can be seen by the level of security marked on them, including…

France 1:25,000 Sheet 31/22 S.W. 1944 C21 (19b)

Going maps show the different levels of terrain and ease of use of that terrain for tank movement. These maps are often highly coloured and very detailed, included here are allied examples from Holland (with legend)

Holland 1:25,000 going map 1944 C1:3 (300)

and an example from Italy, without the range of colour but with more description . Interesting to note the lack of information on part of the map and the way the roads have been highlighted

Italy 1:50,000 1944 C25 (21c)

This use of mapping wasn’t just restricted to the Allied forces. The Japanese General Staff (Rikugun Sanbō Honbu) produced intelligence report maps of Papua New Guinea during what the allies called the New Guinea campaign, this example shows the island of New Ireland

with an extract of the northern tip of the island

1:500,000 New Ireland Is. Military Intelligence Source Map, 1944. D44 (80)

While these maps come from a 1:100,000 series of Poland done by the German Army, with information on terrain and geology overlaid onto a topographic map, first the complete map and then an extract of the south of Warsaw

with an extract from a another sheet in the series of the area around Kielce showing going information (sandiger lehm = sandy clay, lichter kiefernhochwald gut gangbar = light pine forest well passable).

Karte des Deutschen Reiches, 1944, sheets 357 and 374. C31 (46a)

Oceans and seas

This map, ‘Weltkarte, namen und nautische grenzen der ozeane und meere’, shows the boundaries of locations which have no physical dividing line, no obvious mountain range or river border to separate two or more different parts of the World, for this is a map that shows the boundaries of oceans and seas.

To separate the major oceans the lines have been drawn between the shortest land-masses; between Tasmania and the Antarctic to separate the Indian and Pacific oceans, between the Cape of Good Hope and Antarctic for the Indian and Atlantic oceans and between Cape Horn and the Antarctic Peninsula for the Atlantic and the Pacific. Smaller seas are separated on the same principal. The map is published by the Deutschen Hydrographischen Institut in Hamburg.

Extract from Weltkarte showing the seas around the Indonesian Archipelago

In reality a whole host of different effects cause a change in the Oceans and Seas, such as currents, temperature and salinity. An extract from ‘The World on Mercators Projection’ by James Wyld (1845) shows a number of different currents, including the cold Greenland and

Arctic currents coming up against the Gulf Stream which also runs in an opposite direction to the Arctic current that travels down the east coast of the United States. These though are in constant flux, ever-changing and unreliable so the straight lines on this chart may well after-all make the most sense.

This map doesn’t mention a source for the information shown, but this more than likely comes from the International Hydrographic Organization. Since its inception in 1921 the IHO has set the standard for information on the oceans and the seas and is now recognized as the leading authority on the subject.

Weltkarte, namen und nautische grenzen der ozeane und mere, 1967 B1 (1588)

 

Øysand, the North Star and a new German city

Øysand is a Norwegian village on a narrow bit of land at the place where the Gaula River enters the Gauolsen, part of the Trondheim Fjord. It’s about 10 miles to the south of Trondheim. With deep fjords cutting in-land from the coast providing safe harbour the area around Trondheim was recognized  by the Germans before the war as being strategically important, and with this in mind Øysand was chosen as the site of an airfield, prisoner of war camp and then post-war a German town. This rough geological sketch, dating from November 1942, of the area has been made in preparation for these to go ahead. Work started in 1943 but was soon abandoned, leaving little evidence on the ground now that such large and ambitious plans ever existed. The whole area was to be called Nordstern.

The map belonged to the Wiking Operational Group (Einsatzgruppe) of Organisation Todt, the engineering wing of the German Army. The Wiking group, as can be imagined, was responsible for Scandinavian work.

Geologische ubersicht Oysand, 1942. C36:23 (20)

Old map, new use

This is an interesting example of re-using old stock. James Wyld published in 1845 a ‘Post map of Europe’, showing routes of communication throughout Central Europe.

The map was printed by using a technique called copper-plate engraving. The image would be incised onto the plate which is then inked, the top surface is cleaned leaving the ink in the cuts, paper is then pressed down onto the plate. This plate could then be stored and re-used as needed, either in producing further editions of a popular map or, in this case, by changing some of the details and producing a new map at minimal cost. Being a soft metal meant that it was easy to alter or even remove information.

Images from both the original (top) map and new version (bottom) showing the changes to the date

Front and back covers for the new map, the only real change, along with the removing of the year published, in the map.

Wyld’s Post map, with the removal of the year originally published and given a new cover (but not a new title on the map), becomes ‘Wyld’s map of the theatre of war’, the war being between Prussia and Austria in 1866. The outcome, a relatively easy victory for the Prussian Army in seven weeks led to the creation of the North German Confederation. Following war with France in 1870 the remaining German states joined this Confederation, creating a Germany that was to last until the end of the First World War. Wyld’s map illustrates well the confusing make-up of the different states before unification.

German states. This photo shows how maps intended to be stored folded were protected by being cut into rectangles and then stuck onto linen. If left as a complete map the paper on the folds would quickly deteriorate, linen was a lot more suitable and long-lasting folded. 

James Wyld was the middle of three cartographers, father, son and grandson, all called James. The father was Geographer to George IV and William IV while the James who produced this map was Geographer to Queen Victoria. As well as produced a large number of maps he also created

and exhibited a ‘Monster Globe’ for the Great Exhibition in 1851. This was a giant model of the Earth which was viewed from the inside.

 

The things you see on maps

Strict segregation on the Côte d’Azur. Caveman on Ile de Port-Cros, nudists on the Ile du Levant, according to this map of the French Riviera.

Pictorial representation on maps is reasonably common (see the blog post in November 2017, ‘Something we should not forget’), nudity isn’t.

Côte d’Azur, Hyéres et les Iles d’Or c1970. C21:41 (57)

Fire

Blandford Forum is a market town in north-east Dorset. The attractive Georgian architecture and the neat lay-out of the centre of the town are the result of a devastating fire that started on the 4th of June 1731. This map, printed soon after, dramatically shows the condition of the town in the immediate aftermath of the blaze, all the dark shaded buildings were destroyed leaving few still standing. The box at the bottom tells the story. Starting in a tallow chandlers house (A on map) at 2pm the fire soon spread to the houses between the chandler’s house and the church (B)  before spreading to the properties across the road. The text ends ‘The church by the care of some of the inhabitants was preserved till about 11 at night tho’ the spire which was now covered with lead took fire within side about 4 in the afternoon which was soon extinguish’d but the fire flying over and thro’ it at every crevice, some sparks whereof lay latent till about 2 in the morning, then broke out in the middle isle under the lead, where ’twas impossible to extinguish it without engines which were already burnt many hours before, & the inhabitants so tired with much fatagues that before morning ye church was entirely destroyed ye poor remains being scarcely fit for a foundation’.

A plan of the town of Blandford with the adjacent villages of Briantstone & Blandford St Mary describing the damages in each place by the dreadfull fire which happened there on 4th of June 1731 [1731?] Gough Maps Dorset 8

Fires, and the damaged caused, do give the opportunity for re-developing, for improving road lay-out, building material and sanitation. The creators of this map, the rather unfortunately named Bastard brothers, were also the local architects, and they rebuilt Blandford with a new and improved market place, school and church. The new layout can be seen in this image of the town taken from the first edition of the Ordnance Survey, from 1888

Sheet Dorset XXV 7, 1st ed Ordnance Survey, 1888

The most famous of urban fires though is the Great Fire of London, which fanned out of Pudding Lane late in the evening of the 2nd of September 1666 and soon consumed most of the buildings within the old walls, as these maps of the damage show.

A map or groundplot of the citty of London and the suburbs thereof, that is to say all which is within the jurisdiction of the Lord Mayor…which is exactly demonstrated the present condition thereof, since the last sad accident of fire. The blanke space signifeing the burnt part & where the houses are exprest those places yet standing. 1666 Gough Maps London 7

London has a long and painful history of great fires, from the destruction caused by Boudicca in AD 61 to accidental fires in 961, 1087, 1135 1299, 1444, 1561 1619, 1698, 1716, 1725, 1748, 1814, 1834, 1838, 1861, 1874, 1882, 1917 and 1936, and these are just the major fires, there have been many smaller but damaging accidents as well.

Several propositions and schemes were offer’d the rebuild the City of London after the great fire1666…1666 Gough Maps London 11

The above is one of many different designs for the rebuilding of the city after the great fire. Proposed by Valentine Knight the scheme called for a rigid street pattern but with a greater amount of water in the shape of a canal flowing through the city. This map was printed a remarkable 18 days after the fire started. Despite further plans submitted by such notable figures as Sir Christopher Wren in the end a design based on the old lay-out was implemented, but with greater distances between houses and set rules on building materials.

A plan of all the houses destroyed & damaged by the great fire which began in Exchange Alley, Cornhill, on Friday March 25, 1748. 1748 (E) C17:70 London (317)

A map of another of London’s great fires, that of March 1748. As with the map by Valentine Knight this was produced very quickly after the incident, a mere 8 days between the fire and publication.

Finally an inset from ‘An exact surveigh of the streets lanes and churches contained within the ruines of the city of London…’ (1669 (E) C17:70 London (643) which shows the fire from Southwark.

Boats and Maps

Maps come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and one recent purchase by the Rare Books Section was not one I’d seen before.  The artist’s book The last voyage by Tracey Bush is based on a poem by a seventeenth century wit John Taylor who undertook a journey in a paper boat with two stockfish tied to canes for oars from London to Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent.  The map is fashioned into a hand folded paper model of a boat which is accompanied by a booklet with extracts of the poem In praise of the hemp-seed written by Taylor to describe his journey. The booklet and boat are made entirely by hemp paper and are contained in a folder secured by a small piece of hemp rope.

This artistic use of maps is increasing with the popularity of maps as visual objects and you can see them everywhere – mugs, mouse mats and even the former First Lady’s dress. What is it about maps that is so appealing?  Is it the potential for a journey? The depiction of something (generally) real? Or do they just make pretty things to look at? Whatever the draw it has been going on for centuries as can be seen by Leo Belgicus which was first drawn in 1583 by Michaël Eytzinger, an Austrian cartographer.  He depicted the Low Countries as a lion rampant facing east, an image which was popular in various forms for many years.

As was closer to home James Gillray’s caricature of England as an old woman seated on a sea creature.  Otherwise it is the content, rather than the appearance of the map which is more important – who hasn’t seen advertisements for items personalised with a map of a significant location in cufflinks, necklaces and puzzles.

Whatever it is in this age of technology maps remain relevant as practical items (an Ordnance Sheet doesn’t require a mobile phone signal) and an artefact thus still fulfilling the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s definition of cartography as ‘the art and science of graphically representing a geographical area, usually on a flat surface such as a map or chart. It may involve the superimposition of political, cultural, or other non-geographical divisions onto the representation of a geographical area.’

The shortest distance between two points

We came across this map, on a very unusual projection, while processing a previously uncatalogued set of nineteenth century French sea charts produced by the Dépôt des cartes et plans de la marine. Most are standard nautical charts, but this one – part of a set of three – is extraordinary.  The world appears to have been turned inside out; the chart is centred on the central Atlantic, and the land masses are progressively larger and more distorted the further they are from this point. The other two charts represent the Pacific and Indian Oceans in the same way.

The title makes the chart’s purpose clear: ‘Carte pour la navigation par l’arc de grand circle’. A great circle is, technically, the point at which the surface of a sphere intersects with a plane passing through its centre. In practical terms, a great circle drawn on the surface of the Earth between 2 points will be the shortest distance between those points (the Earth is not, of course, a perfect sphere, but it is close enough for this to be of use).

Navigational charts are traditionally drawn on the Mercator projection. This has the great advantage of showing a line of constant bearing (rhumb line) on the Earth’s surface as a straight line on the map. This is the simplest course to navigate, as mariners have known for many hundreds of years, but it is not the shortest. The shortest route is a great circle, and this requires constant adjustment of direction to stay on course. Sailing ships were limited by the challenges of winds and currents, and early steam ships by the need to refuel, but from the 1870s this principle began to have more practical applications. A straight line drawn on this orthodromic chart is a great circle course between the two points it connects, enabling navigators to plan their great circle journeys relatively easily. These charts were published in 1879. 

Charts of this sort do not appear to have passed into common use, and there could be several reasons for this. For one thing, the difficulties of plotting a great circle course are sufficient to outweigh the advantages for all but the longest ocean crossing journeys. Mariners continued to use rhumb line navigation well into the late twentieth century, by which time GPS systems had come into use. When a great circle course was followed, for sea or air travel, it was calculated in advance, sometimes using a chart of this sort. The course would then be plotted onto a Mercator projection chart where it was easier to follow. 

The usefulness of great circles can be seen most clearly on a modern map of long distance air travel. This is why aeroplane routes from, say, London to San Francisco always appear oddly curved when viewed on a map, with the route going much much north than you would expect. This is a great circle course, and the shortest way to connect two distant cities. A demonstration can be seen on this useful site http://demonstrations.wolfram.com/GreatCirclesOnMercatorsChart/.

The charts were created by Gustave Hilleret, a naval lieutenant and teacher at the École supérieure de guerre navale, who also published books on navigation. The projection is the Gnomonic projection with Equatorial aspect; the charts’ Bodleian shelfmark is B1 a.61/1 [39-41].

The Great Game

This map of the north west frontier of India reveals some fascinating political manoeuvres. Produced in 1889 and titled simply ‘Afghanistan’, it shows the boundaries between British India and Afghanistan. It was made during the period sometimes described as the Great Game, when the imperial ambitions of Russia and Great Britain were fought out in the border regions of Afghanistan. 
The map is accompanied by a letter, dated 1890, from W.J. Cuningham of the Foreign Office in Simla, which makes clear that the map was intended to publicise the British view of the boundaries, but unofficially and in a rather underhand way.
The letter begins by explaining that a new official map of Afghanistan is to be produced, which shows the established boundaries, ‘… to the publication of which exception cannot be taken by other countries.’
The accompanying map – ‘unofficially prepared, for confidential use’ shows the actual situation on the ground, and the territories controlled by Afghanistan, Russia and British India. The map is a Survey of India unpublished proof, and boundaries, some of them complex, are marked by hand in colour.
The third part of the letter is most interesting. Having explained the need for an uncontroversial ‘official’ map, and a more controversial, secret, unofficial one, there follows the clear instruction to give an unofficial briefing to commercial cartographers. They should be given access to this unofficial map, as ‘it may be advisable to communicate to them the approximate boundaries, which … we should prefer to have marked in their maps.’ Commercial publishers were to be encouraged to produce maps showing the situation on the ground; in particular, they were ‘to indicate, as certainly not within Afghanistan, the belt of frontier tribes which intervenes between India and Afghanistan.’
The situation the map shows is a complex and confusing one. There is no key, but Afghanistan is outlined in blue, India in red and Russian territory in green. Between the red and blue lines there are territories enclosed by neither and marked ‘Frontier tribes’ – the Survey’s finely hachured relief making clear that the area is mountainous and inaccessible. The border between Afghanisatan and Pakistan now runs through the region; it was divided by the Durand Line in 1896 and is still disputed today.