Casablanca is one of those names which is more than a location; how many of us think of the movie before the place? The film features the best use of a map (a globe really) in an opening sequence

With France under Marshal Petain agreeing a neutrality which favoured the Germans after French defeat in the Second World War Casablanca became one of the key points in safe passage of people escaping Fascist rule from Europe. From Casablanca boats and planes would go onto to Lisbon and from there across the Atlantic to America (as explained in the opening sequence). This map of Casablanca is contemporary with the film

Mil.-Geo.-plan von Casablanca, 1941. E23:20 Casablanca (12)

Published by the cartographic department of the German Army (Generalstab des Heeres), this is typical of German town plans from the war. Based on a French map published in 1935 the map has been enhanced by the highlighting of key administrative and military positions in the town. It was common for German military cartographers to make maps of countries and locations which were either neutral, as in this case, or actual allies of the Germans during the war.

Here is another version of the  French map from 1935 the German plan is based on, this time published by the War Office in, like the German plan, 1941 (Plan de Casablanca, 1941. E23:20 Casablanca (14)).

These maps by both Allied and Axis forces shows the importance of Morocco generally and Casablanca in particular in the North African Theatre of War. Comparing the two maps it is evident how much more information the German maps included, as is the case with most of the mapping that the Germans produced throughout the war. By using existing guide books, maps and postcards and gathering information from spies, Embassy staff and the general public the German military were able to map important locations to a level that up until the plans for the D-Day landings Allied forces often weren’t able or attempting to match (a blog on D-Day mapping can be found here)


The roads of England and Wales

Our previous blog dealt with some of the first road maps aimed at motorists in the early twentieth century. Although people have been travelling by road for thousands of years, road maps themselves are a comparatively recent invention. Until the 1670s and the advent of John Ogilby’s strip maps, most maps did not show roads, Once the idea had been established it was soon extremely popular; it was widely copied in Britain and elsewhere. Amongst the many maps of the roads of England produced in the late seventeenth century, this is a particularly decorative example.

The map is titled “A new map of England and Wales with the direct and cros roads” (cross roads were those linking between the main roads). Distances between settlements are given in miles. Hand colouring of the county boundaries enhances the map but does not detract from the details. Beneath the decorative and closely written cartouche, two angry sea monsters are having a face off. The cartouche explains that the map is “Sold by Philip Lea Globemaker at the Atlas and Hercules in Cheapside near Fryday Street” (addresses were more fun in those days).

Top right there is a table with information about the counties, including the county town for each one; where this was a cathedral city there is a tiny picture of a bishop’s mitre to accompany the name.

The sea is illustrated with small pictures of ships, as was popular on maps of the time. More unusually, a previous owner of the map has tried their hand at reproducing one of these, and a tiny pen and ink sketch of a ship appears in the Channel along with the printed illustrations.

The map was originally published by Phillip Lea around 1689, in an atlas of England and Wales consisting mainly of Saxton’s county maps. This in itself is remarkable since Saxton’s maps were first published in the 1570s; over one hundred years later, the plates were still being updated, edited and reused (in fact their final use was not until about 50 years after this). To accompany these county maps, Lea included two maps of the whole of England and Wales: one general one, and this one which focused on the roads, thus bringing the atlas thoroughly up to date. It was also sold in a slightly later state as a separate sheet, and was available in four separate strips for greater portability; on the complete map, the joins of the four strips are clearly visible.

A new map of England and Wales with the direct and cros roads : also the number of miles between the townes on the roads by inspection in figures. [London] : Sold by Philip Lea Globemaker, [1689?]. (E) C17 (456)

Danger hills

The advent of motoring as a popular pastime allowed publishers to add a new angle to their map sales, the map specially designed for the Motorist. This cover from an early example (Bacon’s new half-inch maps for cyclists and motorists, circa 1908) shows a view of a new open-topped car with it’s wealthy owners out for a nice jaunt on well-lit streets, accompanied by that other new phenomenon (and additional new source of revenue), the cyclist. But included in this idealised view is a warning, for the map shows ‘Danger hills’.

The first cars started to appear on British roads in the mid 1890s, a mixture of imports from France and Germany and home-made efforts, with maps specifically aimed at motorists appearing soon after. These were often reprints of earlier maps with additional titles and, in many cases, some new information relevant to this new form of transport. In the case of the Bacon map this was the highlighting of dangerous and steep hills, with arrows indicating different degrees of steepness. This extract from the map shows the Marlborough Downs, with the fluted arrows indicating a steep hill and the non-fluted indicating hills to be approached with caution.

The danger seems to have been just as likely to be having a car with enough horse power to ascend such hills as to the danger of any physical harm involved. Luckily the car on the cover looks like, according to ‘Cars and how to drive them, Part 1‘ (1903, 384415 d.11), the French model De Dion-Bouton. According to the well-whiskered Mr. Roger H. Fuller, author of the chapter on the De Dion, the car is not only one of the most popular of the ‘modern light car’, with over a 1,000 now in Britain but, with 8 horse power ‘is speedy, its hill-climbing powers are hard to beat, and it is preferred by many who can afford a more costly car’.

In contrast to the Bacon map is the Ordnance Survey equivalent at the same scale (both maps are 2 inches to a mile, 1:126,720). This map offers no extra thrills, the cover is plain with title and diagram showing neighbouring sheets only, nothing to tempt the motorist into thinking this is something aimed at them.  This extract shows the same area, and while there are no indicators of anything dangerous the cartography on show is both more aesthetically pleasing and better laid out than the Bacon version, even if that is ‘Reduced by permission of the New Ordnance Survey’. This is evident in the way that both maps show relief. Both use contours and spot heights but the use of shading on the Ordnance Survey gives an immediate and pleasing sense of terrain.

Due to the expense involved driving was both for the rich and a leisure activity (in 1903 the De Dion cost £325, well over two years wages for a skilled tradesman). At the time of the map a speed limit at 20 m.p.h meant any long journeys would have been more practical by train. These maps show how, for a pootle in the country, it really was an open road, just be careful of those hills.

Rocks rediscovered

Geological maps are often some of the most colourful and striking in the collection, especially the early ones on which the different rock types are coloured by hand. Luckily the Map Room receives all the geological maps published in the UK on Legal Deposit (as discussed a couple of weeks ago in this post on electronic Legal Deposit).

Research has been structured differently over the years, and at one time a large quantity of nineteenth century scientific mapping was transferred from the central Bodleian Library to the Radcliffe Science Library. Most of these maps have now been reunited with the rest of the map collection in the Bodleian Map Room, and a set of 39 large bound volumes of early geological maps has just been fully catalogued to modern standards. They include horizontal and vertical sections, detailed large scale geological mapping of certain counties, studies of areas of particular geological interest as well as standard series mapping of the British Isles at one inch to a mile. They have considerably enhanced the collection of early geological mapping.

Some of the most striking are detailed geological maps at the large scale of six inches to a mile; these are available for a few counties across England and Scotland. Most of the maps were based on Ordnance Survey mapping, made by military surveyors as early as the 1850s; the geological survey might be 20 or more years later.The early sheets were coloured by hand, often in astonishingly bright colours. This map of the area around Eastgate in County Durham was geologically surveyed in 1876-1877, published 1880. It’s at a scale of six inches to a mile. Paler blues represent sandstone and shale and the darker blue limestone, with basalt standing out in a vivid red; coal seams are picked out in gold. The maps were published by the Ordnance Survey.

The names of the geological surveyors for each sheet are generally recorded; this particular sheet was “geologically surveyed in 1876-77 by D. Burns, W. Gunn and C.T. Clough … under the superintendence of H.H. Howell.” The same names often come up repeatedly on many sheets. Fortunately, researching them is easy on the Pioneers of the British Geological Survey pages provided by the BGS Earthwise site. This has biographical information for dozens of early surveyors, sometimes including education, publications and even photographs of them in action.

The underlying geology of an area obviously has a profound effect on its landscape. This detailed geological map of Edinburgh from 1864 shows how the area around the castle, which is on a conspicuous hill above the city, is on basalt; the observatory is on another hill (mainly of felstone, now usually known as felsite, another igneous rock) to the east, while most of the surrounding area, coloured in grey, is sandstone.

These nineteenth century maps continued to be reproduced and updated well into the twentieth century, although the colour has long been printed rather than done by hand. This extract is from a one inch map of the area around Wigtown, first geologically surveyed in 1877 although this map was published in 1925.  The Map Room already held a considerable collection of these maps which has been augmented by the addition of the early volumes of geological maps. Modern geological maps continue to be published by the British Geological Survey at the slightly larger scale of 1:50,000.

Geological Survey of Great Britain : Durham. Southampton: Ordnance Map Office, 1880. C15 a.11/15. 

Geological Survey of Scotland : Edinburghshire. Southampton: Ordnance Map Office, 1864. C15 a.11/15.

Wigtown – Geological Survey of Scotland. Southampton: Ordnance Survey, 1925. C18 (33), sheet 4.

Юні друзі!

Young friends! This illustrated atlas of the Kiev region of Ukraine is a wonderful mix of both thematic and topographic maps and guides for young cartographers and naturalists. As the translated introduction says ‘This atlas is for those of you who are interested in geography and history, love nature. Explore your homeland in local history hikes and excursions’. The front cover has one of our young outdoor explorers striding out, his rucksack the outline of the Kiev Oblast.

Each double spread has a map or maps on the left with an illustration on the right of children doing something linked. So for instance where there is a thematic map on fauna, including diagrams for different bird boxes and animal prints, opposite is a picture of our naturalist heroes bird-spotting (Практичні поради юним біологам, or ‘Practical advice for young biologists).

There are pages on weather and climate, flora and minerals, along with topographic maps and town plans. The atlas is published by the Main Department of Geodesy, Cartography and Cadastre under the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine in 1997.

The atlas also includes illustrations and text on surveying techniques and, shown here, orienteering. Text above the star chart in the top corner shows how you can find north by looking for the Big and Little Dipper in the sky, while notes on the ground explain how studying the landscape can help find direction (мох укривае піеічний біх дерее і каміння, or ‘moss covers the north sides of trees’, for example). And then, finally, the healthy benefits of being a ‘young tourist’. 

Atlas yunoho turysta-krayeznavtsya, Kyyivsʹkoyi oblasti, 1997. C410 c. 3

Mapping the recent past – electronic Legal Deposit

If you want to see what your town looked like 50 years ago, or even 150, the Map Room can find you a detailed Ordnance Survey map to answer the question. And if you want a really large scale plan showing the same site in the present day, you can buy one via an agent for OS Mastermap. But what about the period in between?

The OS map extract above shows Stratford-upon-Avon in 1889 at a scale of 1:2500. Maps at the same or larger scales continued to be published, updated at intervals, until the late twentieth century. In the 1990s, the OS stopped producing printed maps at the largest scales of 1:10,000, 1:2500 and 1:1250. Present day large scale mapping continued to be produced in digital format, and could still be purchased, but each time the data was updated the previous version was lost. There was a danger that recent history would disappear into a black hole. If a researcher in 2022 wanted, for example, an OS Mastermap of Kendal from 2012, what would they do?

The Legal Deposit Libraries – of which the Bodleian is one* – sprang forward to fill the breach. Working with partner organisation thinkWhere, they negotiated a scheme for the OS to deposit an annual digital “snapshot” of large scale mapping across the whole of Great Britain from 1998 onwards. Northern Ireland, which has its own mapping agency, soon followed suit. The dataset is updated annually. It was an early example of electronic Legal Deposit, preceding the official eLD which began in 2013.

What is electronic Legal Deposit? Under Legal Deposit legislation the Bodleian Libraries, and the other LDLs,  are entitled to a copy of every item published in the UK. Legal Deposit of printed materials has existed in some form since 1662, and thousands of the books, maps, serials, and printed music items in the library are here as a result. Electronic Legal Deposit was based on this; it came into force in 2013 and since then many published items have been deposited in electronic rather than print format. You can read more about it here on the Electronic Legal Deposit Libguide. In most cases, electronic Legal Deposit items are listed on SOLO and can be read on any Bodleian Library reading room computer.  Maps deposited on electronic Legal Deposit usually require specialist viewing software, and can be seen on a dedicated terminal in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Reading Room of the Weston Library. You can log in using your Bodleian Libraries username and password. Extracts can be printed using your PCAS account.

This has recently been updated with a much wider range of maps; as well as the large scale OS maps described above you can see a whole array of different maps of the UK here. There are detailed town plans by XYZ Maps and The Clever Little Mapping Company, large scale coastal charts by Antares, and a wealth of cultural information. There is information from Historic England showing locations of all the listed buildings geographically plotted with links to the website, descriptions and images; Historic Environment Scotland and Welsh preservation organisation CADW show similar information for Scotland and Wales. Also included are World Heritage sites, protected monuments, battlefields and shipwrecks.  The map below shows the locations of listed buildings in Portsmouth.

The maps so far are almost exclusively for areas within the British Isles, but the system is set up to give access to maps from anywhere in the world via a map interface. As an increasing amount of publication is now digital rather than printed, this can only grow.


*The other LDLs are the British Library, National Library of Scotland, National Library of Wales, Cambridge University Library and Trinity College Dublin, in case you were wondering.

Triangulation, rare maps and an annoyed King…

Once fought over by the English with claims to territory dating back to the conquest France has seen revolution and invasion as well as the courts of Kings and, for a short time, Popes, and throughout this time maps have played a key role in the development and history of this strategically important country. This is an early and rare printed map, dating from 1592 and the copy held in the Bodleian is one of two thought to exist of the first printing of ‘Gallia’, by the Dutch cartographer Cornelis Claesz. The map has come from a copper plate engraving, which allowed for finer detail and greater artistic reproduction than earlier wood-cut maps and was engraved by Baptista van Doetecum following an initial drawing by the Flemish geographer Petrus Plancius.

Gallia, 1592. (E) C21 (182)

Despite the text under the main title stating that the map is ‘…is a complete description in French, amended in many places, and distinctly within the limits of the regions’ the area shown covers a region of Western Europe whose border and name dates back to the Roman Empire. The map features a number of compass roses with rhumb lines which would have been used in sailing, though considering how little sea is featured on the map the use of the lines to navigate would have been secondary to sailing close to the coast to complete the journey.

The coastline of France was to change dramatically with a map produced in the 1680s following the discovery and then implementation of the use of triangulation to measure distances. Triangulation works by taking a fixed and measured line and then from the ends of the line fixing on a point in the distance. By measuring the degree of the angle made by the fixed line and the point you can measure the distance to the point, and then can use one of the existing points and the newly measured point to create a further triangle, and so on. This revolutionized the way distances could be accurately recorded and changed the way that countries looked on maps, not always to the satisfaction of those in power. This map is an English copy of one first produced in France in 1684 by members of the newly established Académie des Sciences, the first time a country was mapped using triangulation. Over an outline of how the country had been previously mapped

lay a new, and noticeably, smaller France. The King was shocked, suddenly his kingdom had shrunk, and he complained that this new map had cost him more territory than an invading army. The cartouche rubs salt into the wounds, claiming that this was  ‘A new map of France, showing…the errors of Sanson’s map compared to the survey made by the order of the late French King*‘ (this map by John Senex was published in 1719, Louis XIV had died four years earlier). Two maps for the price of one, here’s an extract of the map covering Brittany showing the pre and post triangulation coastline. Compare the width of France in the first map to the newly calculated width in the post-triangulation map above.

As is typical of maps of the time the cartouche is rich in allegory, Mercury, winged messenger and god of trade, communication and travel, is often depicted, as is Ceres, goddess of agriculture and abundance. Ceres represents both Summer and, due to her control over the

life cycle within nature, also the course the soul takes through life. Putti surround the two figures, winged spirits who are often shown working at something, in this case appropriately  enough surveying and map-making..

A new map of France shewing the roads and post stages thro-out that Kingdom…, 1719. (E) C21 (119)

With thanks to Katherine Parker of BLR Antique Maps for help with information on the Gallia map.

* Nicolas Sanson was the Royal Geographer to the French Kings, active in mapping France during the mid to late 1600s.


It’s all about perspective

The question of how to show relief on maps has taxed cartographers since the days of Ptolemy. A string of mountains over a landscape, deep shadows, contours, hachures? All have been used to varying degrees of success in the past. Tourist maps and town plans have often used different perspectives in the same image to portray hills and buildings. This dual approach, where there is a need to show both the street layout from a bird’s-eye perspective and prominent buildings from an angle, is an excellent way to make the map look more dramatic while at the same time fulfilling the basic function, that of telling you where things are. This works because the eye isn’t confused by the two different approaches to a view and you can appreciate the ‘artistic licence’ involved to create a pleasing whole. Examples here with this map of Durham from 1754  (Plan of the Parish of Durham, by T Forster, 1754. (E) C17:70 Durham (1) )

and this beautiful panoramic map of Liverpool from 1847, complete with sailing ships at dock. (Panoramic view of Liverpool, c1847. (E) C17:70 Liverpool (16) ). Panoramas are designed to be looked at at an oblique angle, but they still need to include the information that a ‘normal’ map such as street layout and names include. Both maps also give a nice sense of the hills and landscape surrounding the towns.

Freed from Western rules and conceptions about how to represent perspective this beautiful Japanese map of the port city of Yokohama from 1859 shows the city as it would be viewed on the ground. Different features in the city are viewed from their best vantage point, leading to straight-on, upside-down and sideways views. The distinctive look to this map is partly due to the fact that the cartographer was an established artist.  Based in Yokohama Ichigyokusai was famous for a series of woodcuts representing the months of the year, and he brings this style of art to his map.

Detailed pictorial map of the port of Kanagawa…6th year of the Ansei period (1859).  (E) D20:70 Yokohama (3)*

Yokohama seems to have been a popular place to map, due to its importance as a port city near to Tokyo. It was also one of the first Japanese ports to open up to Western traders. This change from a seclusionist policy to one of open trading after a fleet of American warships sailed into Tokyo Bay in 1853 led to Yokohama changing from a small fishing village to a major port in 1859. To show this change in the role of both the port and Japanese relations with the outside world the cartographer of the next map includes foreign sailing ships in the harbour (flags show ships from France, Russia, the United States and the English Merchant Navy as well as  Japan).

[A map of Yokohama. Bird’s eye view of the town…by Gyokuransai Hashimoto]. 1859. J Maps 3

This second map of Yokohama is a more traditional ‘bird’s eye view’ and unlike the earlier map sticks to one perspective, that of a view from the east. This style of mapping gives a more realistic sense of the hilly landscape surrounding the port city. Mount Fuji is at top right, (the map is long, and has been digitally stitched together).

Switzerland has a well-deserved reputation for good maps, and befitting a land of mountains and valleys the way that Swiss maps portray relief is particularly vivid and life-like.  This map of Ticino, the southernmost Canton of Switzerland, is an excellent example of how two different perspectives can be used to show off such dramatic land.

Ticino Suisse meridionale [bird’s-eye view]. 1945. C39:7 (2)

This truly is a ‘bird’s-eye view’, at the bottom of the map we are directly over the  city of Locarno but as we look northwards the mountains of the Alps appear in profile, as they would in real life. When relief is portrayed in such a realistic fashion it brings to life such dramatic landscape.

*Kanagawa is one of the 47 prefectures in Japan, a level of administrative division just below National Government. Yokohama is the main city of Kanagawa Prefecture.

With thanks to Alessandro Bianchi, Bodleian Japanese Librarian, for help with the Yokohama maps.

As if we were never there

The different levels of mapping produced by the Ordnance Survey is astonishing. The Landranger and Explorer maps we buy in the shops are the tip of an iceberg that currently includes maps on Roman, Prehistoric and Civil War Britain, maps designed for children as well as a complete online digital service,  while in the past the OS has published military, geological and administrative mapping as well as commercial maps for travellers and tourists. Amongst all these variations of themes and scales there is one set of maps that are contrary to what we imagine the purpose of map is. We expect a map to show the means to plan a journey, or a holiday or walk. In the 1930s a series of maps appeared that defied these expectations, maps that showed a land devoid of any human interference. Free of buildings, towns, cities and any transport infrastructure these maps show a landscape not seen for thousands of years.

22 sheets of the 5th (relief) edition map of England and Wales were published between 1931 and 1936, and were available not only in a range of themes; coloured, physical features only, black outline and special district sheets, but also in a range of formats; paper flat, paper folded and mounted on linen. This sheet, number 146, was priced at 2 shillings and covers the Penwith Peninsula at the tip of Cornwall, a land of ancient field boundaries, roads that hug the coast and signs of early industry. It is also a land rich in prehistoric remains, though there is no indication of any of this on the map, instead you have physical features alone, contours, rivers, coastline and shading to give an idea of hills and valleys. It is a beautiful example of cartographic art. Here’s the normal edition for comparison, both maps date from 1934.

And then side-by-side extracts covering St. Ives Bay (click on maps to zoom in).









As expected the 5th edition is the fifth edition of a series of 1 inch to a mile maps first published in 1801. Weaving around these previous editions are a number of revisions, large and small sheet versions and, as mentioned already in this blog, variations on each to include outline, coloured or not and physical features mapping.  When all of these are taken into consideration there as many as nine previous editions, depending on how you count all published versions (and you could make an argument for more if you include military and geological maps as well). The covers were also beginning to be part of the whole package, with trained artists employed to capture the post-war spirit of the outdoors as a leisure activity, be it cycling or walking. With the 5th edition each cover had a similar design, with sheet number and name and a small portrait of a hiker. Soon covers would become more individual, reflecting the area mapped, and were miniature works of art in themselves (more on OS cover art can be found here) 

Fifth (Relief) Edition England & Wales, sheet 146  1934. C17 (30c) and C17 (30b).

Before and after

Is there a more famous event in the history of London than the fire which started on the 2nd of September 1666? We call this the Great Fire to separate it from numerous conflagrations that had beset the city both before and after. One unexpected outcome of the disaster was the amount of mapping produced in the immediate aftermath, mainly to support the number of different proposals for redevelopment. One of quickest to print was this map, made a mere fortnight after the end of the fire by Valentine Knight.

Several proportions and scheems were offer’d to rebuild the City of London after the great fire. This one was proposed by Val. Knight, 1666. (E) C17:70 London (485)

This hastily made map isn’t the important part of Knight’s proposals, that comes in the accompanying text which sets out his ideas for redevelopment. The map does give an immediate view of the damage caused by the fire though, almost all buildings in the City destroyed, including over 13,000 houses, close to 90 Parish Churches and then some of the major buildings within the City, including St Paul’s. Of his proposals number 9 suggested a way that the rebuilding could be paid for, setting out a scheme of rent and deposits that could be charged on the grander houses. In part of the proposal Knight writes ‘…with all the fines [fees] shall be paid to the King, his heirs and successors, towards the maintenance of his forces by land and sea…’. The idea that the King could profit from the fire so incensed Charles II that Knight was temporally imprisoned.

This neater map was made in the year of the fire by the diarist and contemporary of Samuel Pepys, John Evelyn. Evelyn’s plan allows for a neater layout of the City but was rejected as being too expensive and cumbersome with the large number of different land holders involved, as was Knight’s.

What with the destruction to life and property the fire made any earlier maps outdated, such as this wonderful panorama of the city (stitched together digitally from the three sheets that make up the set for this blog) which was printed earlier in the year of the fire by Wenceslaus Hollar


The Prospect of London and Westminster taken from Lambeth. Version I, the original state, 1666, C17:70 London (1365)

The view of the City, from Lambeth Palace from the south bank, shows a host of church spires, with in the middle of them all St Paul’s. All were destroyed so Hollar had to make a new map showing the post-fire cityscape. Here’s the original sheet covering the City

and here’s the revised sheet with the new St Paul’s and Parish Churches.

This image of the new design for the dome of St Paul’s is part of a small set of maps made by Sir Christopher Wren for the rebuilding of the Cathedral.

Old St Paul’s; a section showing the choir with Wren’s suggestion for a dome over the crossing and a new nave. [Together with] Ground plan, 1666. (E) C17:70 London (498).

Hollar produced many maps of the city, including one showing the area destroyed in the flames. An inset shows the fire at its height