Mountains and contested borders

This mysterious and beautiful map of Sikkim and Tibet has been in the Bodleian Library for at least 83 years, described briefly in the catalogue as dating from the 19th century and in Hindi. The first of these statements was imprecise and the second completely wrong; the map is almost certainly from the 1880s and is in Tibetan. Who made the map, when, and why? With the help of experts in Tibetan, in Oxford and Princeton, we now have answers to some of these questions.

The map is hand drawn in ink and what appears to be watercolour paint, and is a strange combination of two different styles. The lower half is enclosed within a square border and graticule, as a conventional western style map such as the Survey of India was making in the area at the time. It shows rivers and place names, with roads or tracks joining the settlements; at the very bottom is a tiny stretch of railway running south from the city of Darjeeling, which shows that the map must have been made in or after 1881 when the railway was opened. There is no portrayal of hills or mountains within Sikkim, which is of course a mountainous region.

Along and outside the border of Sikkim, ranges of hills and high mountains are shown pictorially, in a style more commonly found in Tibetan maps. To the north, into Tibet, a river valley leads off between mountain ranges and the furthest mountains become a picture outlined against deep blue sky. The images that look like a bit like windmills are prayer flags on top of Mani stones; these are found on mountain passes in Tibet and people pray at these sites for a safe journey.

International boundaries are shown conspicuously in bold colour. The borders of Sikkim are marked in red, with green for Nepal to the west, orange for Bhutan to the east, and yellow for Tibet. Across the northern part of Sikkim in orange is the old boundary between Tibet and Sikkim; the new one was decided in Calcutta (now Kolkata) between the British and the Chinese in 1890, and imposed on the Tibetans in 1904.

Part of the map strongly resembles one made by the Survey of India in 1890, Skeleton map of Sikkim. The squared area strongly resembles it in scale, content and layout, and most of the placenames correspond (although the Survey of India map is in English); the only exceptions are the old Tibetan border, which is shown on the manuscript map only, and the border between Sikkim and India (then separate countries) which is shown on the published map only. The areas shown pictorially on the manuscript map are not represented on the Survey of India map. This map may have been drawn by the Sikkimese or Tibetans for the British in India; certainly the 1890 Survey of India map of Sikkim far exceeds earlier maps of  the area by the same organisation.

An intriguing pencil note on one corner of the manuscript map adds to the mystery: ‘Map of Sikkim and Tibet, presented to me by … ‘ it is dated Dec 1906 but the names of the donor and the note writer are illegible. The map is on fragile paper and has been backed with cloth; the backing has a Bodleian stamp from 1961. It is hoped that high resolution scanning of this map may cast more light on its origin and provenance.

[Manuscript map of Sikkim and Tibet]. [1881-1890]. MS D10:33 (4)

Skeleton map of Sikkim. Survey of India, 1892. D10:33 (1)

We are very grateful to Charles Manson, Tibetan Subject consultant librarian at the Bodleian Library, and Tsering Wangyal Shawa, GIS and Map Librarian at Princeton, for their help in interpreting this map.

Time zones

In the September of 1881 Sandford Fleming, a Scots born inventor, gave a paper to the International Geographical Congress in Venice. Entitled ‘The adoption of a prime meridian to be common to all the nations. [And] the establishment of standard meridians for the regulation of time’, the paper was to address the pressing need for a universal time, set from one location, in a World increasingly linked by communication and transport. In the speech Fleming alludes to the difficulties in selecting just one meridian, ‘Repeated efforts have been made to gain general concurrence to the adoption of one of the existing national meridians, but these proposals have tended to retard a settlement of the question by awakening national sensibilities, and thus creating a barrier difficult to remove’. Fleming’s hopes for an outcome to this problem were soon answered, in 1884 at an International Meridian Conference in Washington delegates agreed to Greenwich being the prime meridian, 0ᵒ, the place where everywhere else takes its measure.

One of the consequences of this idea of a global time was the creation of time zones, the important way of keeping time in relation to the position of the Sun. A system of 24 time zones was first suggested by the Italian mathematician Quirico Filopanti but it was a proposal by Fleming in 1876 of a 24 zone system, which each zone 15 degrees longitude that has been gradually adopted, and feature in these two zone maps.

Planisphère des fuseaux horaires, 1917. B1 (1749)

This map is from the Ministère de la Marine, the department in the French Government dealing with the navy and colonies that in its original form dates back to the 1600s. The map shows 24 time zones with duplication at either end and includes both the ‘Méridien international de Greenwich‘  and, halfway between the two Greenwichs shown,  the ‘Antiméridien de Greenwich‘. A French map showing the World like this was only recently possible as the country had only agreed to the Greenwich Meridian as the prime meridian in 1911.  The simplicity of the design can’t hide though the complex exemptions across the World due to sizes of some countries and old rules in place. Take the Netherlands, which ran on Amsterdam Time,  20 minutes ahead of Greenwich up until the Second World War.

La Mondiale riforma del tempo coi 24 fusi… c1894. B1 (1760)

Simplicity isn’t a term you could use to describe our second map. ‘La Mondiale riforma del tempo coi 24 fusi e loro 24 simboli orari : Di Creazione ed Organizzazione definitiva del Prof. D. Errico Frassi Comense’,  is a wonderfully confusing series of diagrams explaining the different proposals for zonal systems between 1873 and 1894. As well as a 24 zonal southern view of the World (top right) there are also two hemisphere maps at the bottom showing a more conventional zonal view of the World. At top left is a guide to the 24 time zones but the text is near impossible to read due to size and fading. The map is a jumble of information, and the confusion isn’t helped by the lettered order of the zones, which isn’t alphabetical but according to the areas or locations the zone goes through, so for example zone XIII is S, for the Sandwich Islands (an old name for Hawaii), while zone XIV is Y for the Yukon and XV is C for Colombia.

One of the earliest attempts to introduce a time common to all was called railway time. Introduced by the Great Western Railway company in 1840 railway time was designed to standardize time across Britain, which up until that point was set by local clocks, working at different speeds according to time set, condition and weather. As railways increased along with railway journeys the need for a standard set time according to one precise clock became paramount, without this in place coordinating rail journeys would be impossible and the risk of accidents due to inaccurate timetables would only increase. Soon the other train companies adopted this fixed time, and other countries followed the practise from the 1850s onwards. The introduction of railway time, along with the increased connectivity of the World through the telegram and telegraph*, paved the way for what we now call Coordinated Universal Time. The inset shows the first of a series of timetables  by the firm Hotson’s, from 1863. Inside are a series of timetables showing the times of stops at each station along a route.

*This blog was written on the 24th May 2024, the 180th anniversary of the first telegraph message, sent by Samuel Morse from Washington to Baltimore.

The Carnation Revolution

Today, April the 25th, is the fiftieth anniversary of the Carnation Revolution*, when a military coup by left-leaning officers in the Portuguese army overthrew the Estado Novo, the anti-liberal, anti-socialist nationalist party that had been in power since 1933.

Il Portogallo…, c.1974. C32 (211)

This map hints at the Fascist style of art prevalent in Italy and Germany around the Second World War but the text around the helmet, ‘Il Portogallo non sara’ il Chile d’Europa’ (Portugal will not be the Chile of Europe), is anti-fascist, this was the slogan of the revolution and refers to the hope that this mostly peaceful coup (4 were killed on the 25th by government forces) wouldn’t run the same course as the take-over by forces loyal to Augusto Pinochet in Chile the year before, which resulted in deaths, disappearances and executions in the thousands.

This way of using a part of the body to portray something separate is called anthropomorphism. Considering the shapes of many countries and the amount of maps with some sort of allegory in their cartouches (see here and here) it’s surprising that there aren’t more maps like this. One notable example is  Europa Prima pars Terrae in forma Virginis  which comes from Heinrich Bunting’s Itinerarium et chronicon ecclesiasticum totius sacræ Scripturæ, a book of woodcut maps first published in 1581 of the Holy Land. Despite appearances this Queen represents Mary the Virgin, not the Virgin Queen Elizabeth.

From Itinerarium et chronicon ecclesiasticum totius sacræ Scripturæ, 1597. B 7.3. Th

The use of women to depict the four known continents was a common cartographic motif, with each continent represented by an idealized version of a female. Europe, as was the thinking of the time, is often depicted as the dominant continent, often portrayed as being above the rest, though that’s not the case in this dramatic example from Joan Blaeu’s Grand atlas, from 1663-67.

From Grand atlas, by Joan Blaeu. 1663-67. Map Res 45

Here Europe is the figure in the blue and red dress, centre left, and carrying a sceptre. America stands behind her, Asia is in pink with Africa behind. All four have their associated animals; Europe leading a horse, Asia a camel, Africa an elephant and America an armadillo, which usually narrows down this figure to Mexicana. The figure in green is Cybele, the Greek Goddess of the Earth, symbol of eternity. Her crown is made of the walls of a city and she is often shown holding a key sitting in a chariot drawn by lions, who are themselves symbols of imperial power (we bloggged about lions here). Cybelle is also the protector of cities, hence the crown made up of city walls, she appears in an earlier blog in this guise here

Here’s a lovely variation on the theme, this time the four continents represented by putti, winged spirits that were often found on maps. Here Europe faces us holding a crown, behind is Africa holding a scorpion, Asia has his back to us with an incense burner and America peeps out from behind the pillar. This image comes from Carel Allard’s Atlas Contractus from 1703, and it is Allard we see confidently staring out of this frontispiece while pointing at the map he has made

From Atlas Contractus, 1703. Map Res 18

*So called because of the carnations handed out to soldiers by the people on the streets

The U.S.S. Jeannette

Two different versions of the same map, separated between editions not only by 14 years, but also by differences in quality. The later map also includes fascinating additional manuscript text showing the ‘Probable drift of articles from the “Jeannette”‘.

Nord-Polar-karte, 1905. M1 (173)

The pages come from Adolf Stieler’s Handatlas, first published in 1817 and going through numerous editions with contributions from some of Germany’s leading cartographers, including Hermann Berghaus, who designed the 1905 Arctic map, and Augustus Petermann, who will play a further part in this story. An interesting and complex character as well as an outstanding cartographer, here’s a link to an earlier blog about the man.

Nord-Polar-karte (with manuscript additions), 1891. M1 (172)

The map, especially the later coloured version is good in itself, giving a high birds-eye view of the top of the World with insets showing a more traditional approach to topographical representation at the edges and two gridded circular maps at the bottom corners showing ocean currents  and coverage of the Northern Lights (see inset). But it’s the manuscript additions that make the earlier map more interesting, despite its condition. The Jeannette was originally a Royal Navy ship called the Pandora, one in a long line with that name, the first being the ship sent to capture the Bounty mutineers in 1790. In 1879 she was  sent on an expedition to the North Pole. The main aim of the expedition was to follow the Kuroshio Current, a warm current system in the Pacific similar to the Gulf Stream which it was believed, incorrectly, to flow through the Bering Strait and then into the ‘Open-Polar Sea’, an imagined sea set in the Arctic Sea free of ice. This sea was mapped by Mercator in 1569 but believed to exist even before Mercator’s famous map of the World. It was Petermann, a firm believer in the existence of the warm sea current theory, that proposed the expedition that would lead to the Jeannette setting sail in 1879.

Polus Articus, from Atlas Minor, by Gerardi Mercatoris, 1621. Map Res 100.

This map of the Polar region comes from a 1621 edition of Mercator’s Atlas Minor. Mercator went further than most in his views on the Pole, believing that not only that there was an ice-free sea but that the Earth was hollow and the ocean flowed through holes at the Pole into the Earth.

Leaving San Francisco in July the Jeannette passed through the Bering Strait in late August and continued her journey towards the Pole, but by the 7th of September she became trapped in ice, and spent the next 21 months drifting according to the currents and movement of the ice until finally the pressure put on the ship caused it to break apart and sink in June, 1881.

This extract from the earlier map shows two islands discovered as the ship was trapped, Jeannette and Henrietta, with a further island, Bennett, discovered as the crew tried to reach land after the ship sank. The map dramatically shows the location of the ship’s final moments, ‘Untergang [doom] d. Jeannette, 13 Juni 1881’ and the manuscript additions show the path taken by the ‘articles’ of the ship, the remains left on the ice after the ship went down, which slowly floated on currents down the east coast of Greenland before beaching on the southwest of the island.

Stanford’s map of the countries around the North Pole, 1875. M1 (107)

This beautiful map of the North Polar region was published 4 years before the voyage of the Jeanette by Stanford’s, the famous map publishers and sellers out of 55 Charing Cross. This map highlights the hardship faced by Polar explorers, with vast areas of the Arctic labelled ‘Unexplored Polar Region’. It’s to the credit of these intrepid explorers that there is so much red text and lines on the map, indicating what the map calls ‘chief Arctic worthies and the dates of discovery’.  The inset from the map shows the same area as shown earlier in this blog, with the group of islands round New Siberia before the discoveries made by the Jeanette.

It’s a story reminiscent of Shackleton and the Endurance in the South Pole, with one crucial difference. Like the Endurance the Jeannette’s crew survived the hardships of the ship’s entrapment. But 20 of the crew of the Jeannette perished in the attempt to reach safety, including the captain, George Washington de Long, although 13 of them did survive.



Around this time we celebrate the Spring Equinox, an important point in the yearly calendar but also, marking as it does the change from Winter to Spring with the hope of better weather and more light, good for the soul. Both the Spring and Autumn equinoxes mark the point when the Sun’s path is directly above the Equator, giving equal amounts of daylight and night (the word ‘equinox’ comes from the Latin term Aequus nox, equal night). This double hemisphere World map comes from a Dutch eighteenth-century atlas* and shows the paths of the Equator and the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, when the Sun is at it’s highest point for Northern and Southern summer and winter solstices.

Planisphærium Terrestre sive Terrarum Orbis…from Atlas Minor by Claes Janszoon Visscher, c1705. Map Res 85

The line of the Equator is described as ‘Æquator sive circulus æquidialis vulgo æquinotialis’  (‘Equator or equidistant circle’)

Here’s a page from a German atlas by the publisher Justus Perthes, circa 1910, explaining the way the movements of the Earth around the Sun (Erde und Sonne) create the solstices, equinoxes and seasons.

Page 2 from ‘Sydow-Wagners method. Schul-Atlas’ c1910. B1 (1745)

In Erde und Sonne different diagrams explain the journey of the Earth around the Sun, showing the tilting of the Earth on its axis that gives us the changing seasons. For the purposes of the blog figure 5 is the most important, Lauf der Erde um die Sonne (Erdrevolution), which shows the Earth’s rotation around the Sun. At the top is the Earth in relation to the Sun on the 21st of March, showing a perfect split between light and shade running from Pole to Pole,

This last third period of March has a number of ‘named’ and other important days. As well as the Equinox, the 18th of March, according to the Venerable Bede, was the first day of the Creation. This idea was due to Lady Day, the 25th, which was until 1751 considered the first day of the year. With the 18th being the first day of Creation it could then be worked out that, by a nice coincidence,  fours day later on the 21st the Sun, Moon and Stars were created, this is also St Benedict’s day. The 25th, Lady Day, marks the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, nine months later it will be Christmas.

Mary is an important figure in the history of navigation. She is the Pole Star, a constant in the night sky and is also the saint of Navigators and, most useful on a journey, the ‘Virgin of Good Winds’. This image of the Virgin and Child comes from an early Portuguese portolan chart of the Atlantic. The cartouche with Mary in the centre is located in North America, a guide to those making the perilous journey across the ocean to the New World. Circling Mary are the words to the prayer ‘Ave Maria’, a prayer no doubt uttered on many a dangerous moment on-board ships, ‘…pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen’.

[From an] Untitled portolan chart of the Atlantic, c1550 (MS) K1 (111)

*We have more than one edition of the Atlas Minor…, one edition uses gold-leaf at key points to highlight certain features, including appropriately enough, a Sun


Plane Globe, or, Flat Earth

Geographic depiction of the globe comes in several forms but this one is still a little unusual.  The Modern  Geography… a treatise on the newly-invented Plane Globe  contains essentially two cardboard hemispheres mounted as volvelles with accompanying text description and detailed instructions for use.  The maps are beautifully engraved and hand coloured, centred on the North and South Poles fixed with brass measuring rules.  Curiously for the time the measure is marked in centimetres rather than inches.

This plane globe was issued at a time when geography was emerging as an academic discipline, indeed the Royal Geographical Society had been founded less than a decade previously.  The volume was printed in Manchester in around 1839 by Bancks and Co. which was responsible for the impressive large scale Plan of Manchester and Salford (1832).

The globe form was considered the ultimate in geographical aids so that students could fully understand spatial relationships and had a part to play in instructing astronomers and navigators, however they are bulky and unwieldy. To overcome the problem of portability, convenience and legibility ‘Inventor’ Joseph Bentley has devised what he describes as a ‘Plane Globe’ as a device for learning, as he says on the title page “… for the student, the man of business, and all classes who wish to know something of the world we live in; …”.  The Modern Geography was reviewed in The Spectator (vol.12, June 29, 1839) who were rather impressed

“…is clear and comprehensive; containing an immense amount of statistical and other useful information, packed into a close compass, and so well arranged that individual facts appertaining to any country are easily ascertained: for instance, the latitude and longitude, population, products, and manufactures of every chief town in the world. The topography of the British Isles is still more fully and minutely described: the boundaries and extent of each country – the population, constituencies, and parishes – the average rent of and per acre, the ratio of crime and instruction, and the average amount of productions – are stated. The general account of the different states and kingdoms, though concise, is lively and pregnant with matter. In a word, the publication is a complete multum in parvo of ‘Geography and the use of the Globe.”

The hemispheres are attached to the boards with beautifully illustrated figures in the corners including an orrery and a telescopic view of the moon. The Plane Globe is bound in square quarto, quarter red morocco with green cloth covered boards and black paper title label to upper board.  When the volume arrived in the library as part of the copyright intake it was one of the last books placed in the ‘Med.’[Medicina] classification which is one part of the Bodleian four-part classification. In the later years the distinction by faculty began to be disregarded, and books were added where there was space on the shelves, accounting for this rather anomalous shelfmark.


Not a lot is known about Joseph Bentley himself but there is mention of the availability a celestial plane globe but none seems to have survived. The Modern Geography was later issued without the globe element so the lack of further editions of this work and the high price it probably means it was not a commercial success.


Bentley, Joseph. Modern geography, for the student, the man of business and all classes who wish to know something of the world we live in; … Manchester, [1839]  4° P 40 Med.

Bentley, Joseph. Modern Geography : for the student, the man of business, and all classes who wish to know something of the habitable globe; … Manchester, [1839]  [Without plane globe] S 748 (Buxton Room)

Maps as scrap paper: an unfinished work from the 1730s

This atlas seems to have had a hard life. The printed maps, dating from the early eighteenth century, are nicely engraved and hand coloured but most are stained and tatty and have been heavily folded to fit into the binding. On closer inspection it is not a published atlas as such, but a collection of separately published maps, in French, Latin or English, bound together. Some of the maps are incomplete, others have been repaired, their tattered edges strengthened with thick paper. Some of the most interesting information, though, is on the backs. The large sheets have been used as scrap paper for pen and ink drawings, maps of parts of the Middle East with detailed latitude and longitude shown in the borders. The back of this map of Tartarie by the respected French mapmaker Guillaume de L’Isle has been used for a map of Syria and Lebanon. 

The latter part of the book contains smaller plain sheets which have been used for sketch maps and for lists of place names and page references. The text is a mixture of English, Arabic and Latin. This map shows an area to the south of the previous one, covering modern day Israel and Palestine. The Sea of Galilee and Dead Sea are marked and the towns of Haifa and Acre (Acca) can be seen on the coast; a few place names on this map are in Hebrew.

There are also some more detailed maps, such as this one of the rivers of southern Iraq showing Basra and Al-Qurnah.

Who was responsible for this work, and why? There is a clue on one of the later pages in two incomplete drafts of a letter asking for money to continue the project. The first begins by explaining that the writer has been unable to visit because of both poverty and ill health, and  explaining: “I have begun to put to the press my Geography of Abulfedah, and near 20 sheetes are work’d off continuing the whole of Arabia and part of Egypte …” before going on to describe his financial needs and his inability to support his family. This is crossed out, and a second draft takes a more optimistic note: “Being pretty well recovered of my late indisposition … when such a fair promise takes effect I’ll go on chearfully in my undertaking, and return my hearty thanks in a dedication …” The reference to the Geography of Abulfedah makes it seem almost certain that this book was the property of Jean Gagnier, who published a translation from Arabic of the “Taqwim al-buldan,” or geographical description, of Abū al-Fidāʾ (or Abulfeda) a fourteenth century Kurdish geographer.  Publication was delayed by lack of money;  Gagnier’s “Descriptio peninsulæ Arabum” appeared in 1740, shortly before the writer’s death, and was incomplete, covering only Arabia and part of Egypt . The letter asking for financial support would appear to have been unsuccessful if it was ever sent.

The published work does not appear to have contained any maps. It’s interesting to see the parallels between Gagnier’s interpretation of Abū al-Fidāʾs work, and earlier European works based on Ptolemy’s Geography. Ptolemy’s work included only geographical description, without surviving maps, but later interpretations and translations included maps based on the written account.  Gagnier seems to have had it in mind to do something similar. Towards the end of the book is a table where Gagnier has compared the latitude and longitude of places (including Baghdad, Jerusalem and Alexandria) as calculated by Ptolemy, Abū al-Fidāʾ and the contemporary mapmaker de L’Isle, perhaps attempting to reconcile them. At least some of the maps were used as source material as well as scrap paper.

Gagnier was brought up in France but lived in Oxford from the early 1700s, teaching Hebrew and Arabic; he also published translations, including a life of Mohammed in Latin based on Abū al-Fidāʾs Arabic text, and a chronicle based on the work of the Hebrew historian Josephus. The Bodleian also holds some of Gagnier’s manuscript notes and preparatory material for his published works. This volume of maps was acquired by the library in 1885, along with a misleading contemporary note attributing the manuscript maps to someone else entirely. Further research in 1913 identified the connection with Gagnier, but it does not appear to have been widely publicised.

[A collection of manuscript maps and notes, apparently created in the preparation of Gagnier’s Descriptio peninsulæ Arabum.] Oxford, [between 1727 and 1740]. Map Res. 73

A fiery map for February

This has to be one of the most dramatic items in our collection, a beautifully illustrated manuscript map of a naval engagement during the Napoleonic Wars. The French Republic had persuaded the Ottoman Empire to deny passage to the Dardanelles to the Russian navy, allowing only French warships through the straits. The Russian declaration of war to Turkey brought Britain into the conflict as a Russian ally. British naval vessels were sent into the Dardanelles on the 19th of February 1807 to force a passage into the Sea of Marmara, the action so vividly portrayed in the map.

The British Squadron under the command of Vice Admiral Sr. John Thomas Duckworth, K.B., forcing the passage of the Dardanelles, on the 19th of February 1807.  1807, (MS) D30:24 (12)

There is topographical information along the shore-line and in the lay-out of Turkish defences but the ships have a pictorial feel to them, and the angle of depiction is different for the two elements on show. There is a list of the ships of the line, both British and Turkish as well as information on the strength of defences and description of the damage caused to the Windsor Castle. A note at the bottom states that the ‘Circumference of the Marble Shot which entered the side of the Windsor Castle, and wounded her main mast, is 6 feet 11 inches, Weight Eight Hundred and Four Pounds’, which seems an incredibly large piece of shot. The damage that this type of artillery can cause to the crew isn’t mentioned but you can get an idea when you look into the life of Sir john Thomas Duckworth, K.B, Second in Command of the Mediterranean Fleet’. Born in 1748 Duckworth joined the navy at 11 and had a long and distinguished naval career. During one naval battle he was concussed when hit by the head of a sailor struck off by a cannonball.

The Dardanelles are more famous for another military operation, the Gallipoli campaign of the First World War. The Bodleian holds a large amount of mapping for Gallipoli; British, Turkish and commercial newspaper maps. Shown here are British War Office maps, the first highlighting the forts along the coast while the second is a more detailed map of the area. The opposing towns of Chanak Kale and Kilid Bahir in this map are the castles of Abydos and Sestos in the 1807 map.

Map of the Peninsula of Gallipoli and the Asiatic Shore of the Dardanelles, 1908, D30:3 (20) [283]

Gallipoli – scale 1:20,000 Chanak, 1915, D30:3 (20) [415]

The more detailed map would have been used for observation. There’s an intricate grid over the topographical information shown, each numbered large square is split up into 25 lettered squares (the e not used) and then in each of these smaller squares there are 9 dots, which in the top left of the smaller squares in each large square are numbered, like this.

Using a combination of the three different characters would give a very accurate field position for artillery and other purposes.

Finally one of numerous maps created by newspapers to illustrate news reports on the campaign. This is a particularly fine example of a pictorial map, and shows the area at the entrance to the Dardanelles.

“The Graphic” map of the Dardanelles Operations, c1916, D30:24 (3)

The Duckworth map is similar to another held in the collection, by the diarist John Evelyn. Evelyn was reporting back to his friend Samuel Pepys, who at the time was an administrator in the Navy, about a battle in the River Medway. More on this fascinating story can be found in an earlier blog and more on Gallipoli can be found here

The map’s intention is a mystery. The Bodleian doesn’t hold a printed version so it is unlikely to have been made for publication. The map could, with its accurate depiction of the action and the level of information given, have been made for a report or a record of events. Whatever the reason, we’re left with a dramatic and intriguing document of a relatively unknown part of one of the more famous conflicts in history.

Prussia pausing…

Few maps manage to combine cartography, history and sheer bonkersness with such good effect as Prussia pausing, or the accurate armistice demarcation line. In the map the neck and face of a lion are overprinted on a map of France like some animalistic Victorian ectoplasm to show the areas occupied by German forces at the end of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71.

Prussia pausing…1871. C21 (110)

A brief bit of history. Strengthened following victory against Austria in 1866, combined German states invaded and defeated France in a war that started in the summer of 1870 and was won by early 1871. At the start of the war the German forces fought as the North German Confederation, of which Prussia was the largest and most dominate state. The end of the war led to the forming of a united Germany and the wide-spread copying of the military tactics used. Soon after the defeat the English publisher Edward Stanford published Prussia pausing… on Valentine’s Day 1871. The critical nature of the map (Attention is drawn to the extraordinary coincidence of the Armistice boundaries representing the outlines of a carnivorous animal typical of the relentless veracity of Prussia…)  wasn’t mirrored in political circles, who still viewed France as the main competitor in  global trade and empire, while, remarkably considering future events, not looking on Germany as being strong enough to offer a threat to British interests.

A lion traditionally represented strength and courage but also cruelty and death. From the concept of strength comes another use of the lion, as a symbol of imperialism or statehood. This is one of the reasons for one of the most famous of all zoomorphic (as in the use of animals to suggest or represent a non-animal action) maps, the Leo Belgicus. 

Leo Belgicus, facsimile of 1650 edition, C27 (146)

There are a number of versions of this famous map, dating from the late 1500s to the mid 1600s, and the lion could be shown as either fighting or not depending on the current state of the Dutch war with Spain to gain independence. The lion was drawn in a way that represented the areas we know now as the Netherlands and Belgium and, more importantly, was represented on the arms of some of the seventeen provinces that made up the Low Countries.


…made by English, or strangers.

The terrestriall Globe is defined to be a sphericall body, proportionably composed of Earth and Water: into which two parts of it is divided. Whereof the Earth comes first to view, whose parts are either reall, imaginary, and the reall parts, either continents, islands…

A new and accurate map of the World*…1641. (E) B1 (420)

William Grent made the first version of this beautifully elaborate and descriptive double hemisphere World map in 1625. Little is known about Grent and there are no other listings for any work apart from his World map, which went on to be copied and improved on a number of times. John Speed used it as the basis for his World map published in his ‘A Prospect of the most Famous Parts of the World’ atlas a year later while Thomas Jenner, publisher, bookseller and engraver, produced copies in 1632 and, the date of this copy, 1641.

It is a map so full of information, iconography and allegory that it is hard to know where to start. It may not be the best topographically – it’s one of the first to show California as an island despite numerous examples both before and after showing the location as a peninsula – but is still full of useful information about places. ‘At the Cape of Good Hope all that passe to and from the East Indies ancour to take in fresh vittaile and meete newes one of another affaires’  (a blog about ’rounding the Horn’ can be found here) and in another part of the map we’re told that ‘This south land undiscovered commonly known as Terra Australis…can not certainly be affirmed…only some few coasts thereof have appeared to sea men driven there upon by extremity of weather…’

But it’s the information that surrounds the globes as well as the text that make this map special. Want to see how eclipses work? Here’s both the Moon and the Sun , while diagrams in the top

left and right corners show the days and months and the position of the Sun during the year  and the Planets respectively while in the middle are northern and southern zodiac

hemispheres. At the bottom there’s an armillary sphere, for the plotting of celestial objects, and either side of the sphere are the figures representing Geography holding a compass and a map and wearing a dress appropriately with a landscape scene, and Astronomy, identified by the star necklace and the cross-staff in hand (a cross-staff would be used in navigation to measure stars or the Sun against the horizon to try and gauge latitude).

Most intriguing is the scene to the right of the zodiacs. This vignette states that ‘Peace is the nurse of science, and these the means to attaine it’. These means are Desire, Diligence and Observation, and set around the group are measuring and surveying instruments while Peace

holds the olive and palm branch associated with that figure. Peace signifies the conditions needed to do science, the quietness to observe, the lack of threat to survey, measure and explore and the desire to achieve all of these.

While all these parts of the map can be viewed as individual decoration when seen together they show how much a map based on science Grent’s work is, and this is something that the accompanying text based on the Earth and its climates, zones and divisions as well as the writing at the side on the heavens and measuring time amplifies. This becomes more striking when you compare the text to that accompanying the map in Speed’s more well-known ‘Prospects…’. In this Speed talks about the Earth according to how God’s creation has set it out. Compare the opening sentences of the section on geography on Grent’s map at the start of this blog to Speed’s, ‘Heaven was too long a reach for man to recover at one step. And therefore God first placed him upon the Earth, that he might for a time contemplate upon his inferior workes, magnife in them his creator: and receive here a hope of a fuller blisse, which by degrees he should at last enjoy in his place of rest’.

There’s a suitably grand title befitting such a map. ‘A new and accurate map of the World drawne according to the truest descriptions, latest discoveries, and best observations, that have beene made by English, or strangers, with briefe and most plaine notes upon the whole body of Cosmographie for the easie understanding thereof. Pleasant and usefull for all such as desire to know further than of their owne home. ‘A new and accurate map…’ are words that often appear on maps of this time (Speed copies the first part of the title exactly) which sort of makes such a claim redundant, it’s the ‘…by English, or Strangers…’ part that stands out. Grent not only includes the pictures of four circumnavigators; Thomas Cavendish, Francis Drake (both English), Ferdinand Magellan (Portuguese) and Oliver van der Nort (Dutch) he also uses information provided by both Spanish for the central, southern and western parts and the English and French for the north-eastern parts of America and Dutch cartography for the East Indies. Hence the ‘English or Strangers’ part.

Finally, and somewhat ironically, the dedication. ‘To the Right Hon.ble Henry Mountage, Baron of Kimbolton, Viscount Maundeville…’ Montague was, amongst other things, a close confident of Charles I, Lord Privy Seal, judge, politician and the 1st Earl of Manchester. The irony comes from being dedicatee of a world map which deals with, and is partly based on the recent major discoveries and explorations, while being the judge who condemned Sir Walter Raleigh, one of England’s leading Elizabethan explorers, to death seven years before Grent’s map was published, in October 1618.

*Apologies, this isn’t the easiest map to get an image from. There’s only one copy in the Bodleian and it’s been enclosed in a melinex sleeve for protection which causes light to reflect off and doesn’t give that clear an image.