An anatomical geography?

This first map from John Andrews’ A geographical atlas of England, divided according to its natural, political, civil, ecclesiastical, ancient and modern divisions …  is at first glance hardly recognisable as a map of England and Wales. It shows only the mountain ranges, and the coastlines are missing.  The next map in the atlas is described as a “Map of the rivers, or anatomy of England”; it is coloured to show watersheds, and again divides the country in an unfamiliar way. It is almost as if the first map shows the country’s skeleton, and the second the circulatory system.

The (very long) title ends with the statement that the atlas is ‘for the improvement of youth‘. The  introduction, ‘on the utility of geography’ emphasises the subject’s long antecedents and practical use. The atlas was published in 1809 in the last year of Andrews’ life, when geography was beginning to grow in popularity as an academic subject in Britain.  Andrews had been publishing for over 30 years, producing many maps of English towns and counties, several of the latter in collaboration with others, as well some important maps of North America. Towards the end of his career he published more thematic works, including a historical atlas, and this, A geographical atlas of England. The atlas is a mixture of scientific, historical and general maps.

Most of the maps had been published before–  they have dates mainly from the late 1790s – and some are too large for the binding and had to be folded in; possibly the atlas was cobbled together from existing stock.  But for all that some of the maps are both beautiful and unusual and suggest different ways of looking at the country.  There are also several maps showing the supposed division of South Britain at different periods in history, such as under the Saxon kingdoms and the Roman occupation; these reflect the contemporary vogue for antiquities and early British history, although the sources used for this information were of dubious accuracy. The atlas ends with a map showing pride in Britain’s naval supremacy (above), giving the maritime counties and compass directions from London.

Although the atlas covers England and Wales, the map titles refer only to England or occasionally South Britain. Wales is unaccountably slighted.

A geographical atlas of England, divided according to its natural, political, civil, ecclesiastical, ancient and modern divisions, to which is added a political chart of Europe, to shew the positions of all the sea-ports, promontories and distances, in order to trace the naval and commercial intercourse between Great Britain, Ireland and the continent. In a series of maps, on a plan entirely new. Calculated to illustrate the history of this country, and for the improvement of youth, by John Andrews.  London : Printed for John Stockdale, 1809.  Allen 359.



The art of the Ordnance survey

Sales catalogues aren’t usually the most visually interesting of things, often only giving a list of that years products. What raised up the catalogues of the Ordnance Survey between the wars is the art that illustrated these catalogues, art that was mirrored in the covers of the maps produced by the company.

The covers and art work inside are mainly the work of two artists, who were also responsible for a large number of the most iconic of OS map art. Arthur Palmer joined the OS in 1891 aged 16 and worked for the company until retiring in 1935. Initially employed as a photo-writer (a photo-writer took the negatives created from a draughtsman’s work and tidied up any damage caused by scratches and dust specks which could obscure names and features), then in the Publications division. Palmer was also a gifted artist, and his work features in a number of classic designs, including this cover for a 1″ sheet of Oxford from 1921

and this cover from one of the catalogues of the large scale mapping.

The second artist was Ellis Martin. Martin, unlike Palmer, was employed purely as an artist by the OS to design not just map covers but fonts, promotional material and even company Christmas cards. His designs were less romantic than Palmers and his pen and ink work in particular was of the highest quality, as can be seen by this image of a hiker studying an OS map, a regular feature of Martin’s work. The hiker appears in various guises and as fashions changed so did the image, with the more formal cap and boots of the 1918 designs being replaced by this more practical working attire in 1933. The hiker featured in one of Martin’s most famous covers, that of the ‘Popular Edition’ maps of the 1930s. The use of the hiker, outdoors and ready to walk, is important for a number of reasons. It gives not only an impression of the type of countryside featured on the map inside, even if that is an idealized view, but also is a selling point, this is the ideal map for this type of activity.

Martin’s cover for the 1923 small-scale map catalogue is at the start of this article. A typical Martin scene which evokes both a sense of time and place with a simple design. The lady standing at the back of the car is Martin’s wife, Mabel.

This is another example of a cover by Martin showing his design skills. There is a book on the open shelves in the Map Reading Room on OS art, Map cover art, G24 C16.13.


Where are all the women? The case of the Halls

The professions associated with map making have historically been male dominated. In addition, women who were involved are not always recorded. The case of Sidney and Selina Hall, map engravers of London, is an instructive one.

Sidney Hall was born around 1788 and is recorded working as a map engraver from as early as 1809, based in Piccadilly and later in Bloomsbury. He was prolific and highly regarded and produced hundreds of finely engraved maps. He was probably the first map engraver to work on steel rather than copper plates; steel plates were harder to work, but enabled very fine engraving and were more durable.

In 1821 he married Selina Price of Radnorshire; there is uncertainty about the date of her birth but she appears to have been a few years his senior. We might have heard no more of Selina, were it not for the fact that Sidney Hall sadly died only 10 years later, at the age of 42. And yet his engraved maps continued to appear. New works engraved by Sidney Hall were published for decades after his death. Selina Hall, who conveniently shared a first initial with her husband, simply continued to engrave maps and signed them “S. Hall” (this as well as the date can be used to distinguish them from her husband’s work, since he usually signed “Sid.y Hall”), thus continuing to benefit from an established name.

Norfolk, from A new British atlas, 1836. C15 d.39

The first map shown here is from A new British atlas, first published in 1831 by Chapman and Hall. These were available bound in an atlas and as separately published items. The maps early on the alphabetical sequence are signed by Sidney Hall, and the later ones simply by S.Hall, suggesting that Sidney may have died in the middle of the project and his wife continued the work.

Engraving is a highly skilled job, and Selina Hall cannot have learnt it all at once on her husband’s death. It is far more likely that she was an active participant in the business throughout their marriage, but that her contribution was not ackowledged. She was certainly known to her husband’s former business partner, Michael Thomson, who died in 1816, since she is mentioned in his will, so she may have been involved in the map production process for even longer. Selina lived for over 20 years after her husband’s death, continuing to engrave maps, and when she died the business passed to her nephew Edward Weller; she may have been involved in his training.

Switzerland. From Black’s general atlas, 1846. Allen LRO 80

Even works produced long after Sidney’s death continued to be attributed to him by researchers until recently, partly because his name was used to promote them at the time. The second map here is from Black’s general atlas of 1846 (first edition 1840); the title page boasts that the maps are “engraved on steel, in the first style of the art, by Sidney Hall, Hughes &c.” The signature S. Hall appears on this one.

Although Selina was an active and talented engraver, were it not for her husband’s untimely death we would have no evidence of her involvement at all. Which immediately raises the question: how many other female map makers, working in similar circumstances, are missing from the record?



Further info:

Worms, L., & Baynton-Williams, A.. British Map Engravers : A Dictionary of Engravers, Lithographers and Their Principal Employers to 1850. London: Rare Book Society, 2011.

Worms, L., ‘Hall, Sidney (1788/9?–1831)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2008. (accessed 4 March 2020)

Found in a box


Looking through a box of uncatalogued maps, plots and diagrams I came across several manuscript architectural plans of the Midland Grand Hotel, London. Now named the St Pancras Hotel it is an iconic landmark on the Euston Road next to that other celebrated edifice of red brick, the British Library. The plans, drawn to show the girders, were by engineer Richard Moreland of Old Street in 1867 at a scale of 10 feet to 1 inch (1:120). You can see all of the modern internal features with the Grand Staircase and the popular Ladies Coffee Room. There are even manuscript pencil marks denoting dimensions which indicate these were some sort of working drawings.

The hotel is a masterpiece of high Gothic designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who beat ten other architects for the commission, even though his design was far bigger and far more expensive that Midland Railway Company specified. The competition was launched in 1865 for a 150 bed hotel but it was finally completed in 1876 with 300 rooms. With its very high standard of fixtures and fittings the Midland Grand soon acquired a reputation as a luxurious upmarket hotel – even better than the celebrated Langham in Portland Place. This luxury didn’t come cheap costing nearly £500,000 to construct it charged the sum of 14 shilling a night – an average week’s wages for an agricultural labourer.

MS. Maps England a. 3

Plastic relief

A box of donations is being cleaned and catalogued in the map office. The box is full of plastic relief maps, including this lovely map (model? mould?) of Bulgaria by the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company in a post-Soviet era 1993, shown complete

and in extract.

Republika Bŭlgariya, 1993. SP 101

What is interesting about this and the other relief maps in the box is they give both a horizontal and vertical scale ( in this case 1:1,000,000 for the normal, and then 1:150,000 for the up and down).

Not quite so attractivebut certainly more intriguing is this map by the United States Defense Mapping Agency Topographic Center of a Geoid World.

Geoid model of the World, 1972. SP 99

A geoid map shows the state of the World as if the oceans and seas covering the Planet were only under the influence of gravity and the Earths rotation, not tides or the planetary influence of the Sun and Moon. This, as can be seen on the map, would result in an uneven water surface over the globe, as the gravitational pull is stronger or weaker in certain parts of the World (the gravitational anomaly) the water surface would rise or fall accordingly. The information is mapped as if the whole of the Earth was covered in water.

The high and low water table is measured in 5 and 10 metre contours while, like the Bulgaria map above, the scale is given as both a normal (1:40,000,000) and vertical (1:19,000) figure.

Knowing the geoid surface of the Earth is important in understanding ocean circulation and currents, with this information shipping routes can be plotted to use less fuel and shorten journeys.

To see an earlier blog on plastic reliefs held at the Bodleian go to January 2019 at the right of this page.



United Nations Memorial Cemetery, Pusan, Korea

Sometimes the simplest maps can often be the most effective. This map shows the boundary line plan of the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Pusan (now Busan), South Korea, containing the graves of 2,300 servicemen who died during the Korean War. The site is set over 35 acres and is the only United Nations cemetery in the World.

The map is at the rather unusual scale of 1:100ft, indicating the small size of the area being mapped. There is a small inset map of the area in the bottom corner which shows the cemetery in a rural setting, 60 years later Busan is now a busy port city and the area is a small green area in a built-up and busy city.

The boundary map gives distances between the changes in direction of the boundary in feet. This contrast between on the one hand the lack of topographical information shown and the precise measurements given is down to the combined survey work involved in making the map by the joint survey team of the United Nations Command and the Republic of Korea Army.

Pusan, Korea. Boundary line plan, United Nations Memorial Cemetery, 1959. SP 85

Happy Christmas

This image comes for sheet Oxfordshire L.3 of the first edition Ordnance Survey County Series maps of England and Wales at 1:2,500. It is of the wonderfully named Christmas Common, in the Chilterns.

There are a number of suggestions for the name, a possible truce at Christmas during the Civil War or for the number of Holly Tree coppices in the area though a local family called Christmas sounds the most likely.

There are 8 place names which begin with Christmas listed in the gazetteer for the Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 series, including the wonderful Christmaspie in Surrey (this image from the 3rd ed OS 1:2,500 sheet Surrey XXIII.13, 1910. Only the first edition was available in colour as well as black and white).

Happy Christmas everyone.

Landsat patterns

This map of the Arctic Circle is overlaid by a network of lines and circles representing orbital flight paths and ‘nominal scene centres’ (the middle point of the image taken) for the Landsat

satellites 1, 2 and 3 launched between 1972 and 1978. On the reverse is the same map showing the same information for Landsat 4, launched in 1982. Landsat satellites take what is called remote sensing images from space  (remote sensing being a way of capturing an image of or studying  an area or object without any physical contact). The manned Apollo programme experimented with remote sensing before an unmanned satellite, called Earth Resources Technology Satellite, was launched in 1972. This was soon renamed Landsat and we are now up to Landsat 8, launched in 2013. These satellites have captured millions of images, and these are made available at the U.S. Geological Survey ‘Earthexplorer’ site ( Text on the map explains how the system works. Landsat uses a grid called the Worldwide Reference System, a lattice of 251 paths (the thick lines) and 119 rows (the circles) which intersect at geographic locations and it is at these points that the image centres. Red marks indicate levels of cloud cover.

With different ranges of dates and images available Landsat has proved a valuable resource for the study of climate change, agricultural development and change in natural development.

To balance things out here’s the Landsat map for the bottom of the World

Index to Landsat Worldwide Reference System (WRS), 1:10,000,000. Published by the United States Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 1981-82. B1 (99a)

A revolutionary new year

Two intriguing maps of the Channel, both with something special about them.

The first uses hachures (lines on a map to indicated hill slopes) around the coasts which has effect of making the land stand out.

The effect is lovely even if not representative of the actual height of land. The map, titled ‘3d [as in third] chart of the coast of France, including the British Channel’  comes from ‘Le Petit Neptune Français; or, French Coast Pilot, for the coast of Flanders, Channel, Bay of Biscay, and Mediterranean’, published in 1793 by W. Faden, Geographer to his Majesty and to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. The book was published 4 years after the start of the French Revolution and just a year after the new French Republic was founded. Despite this the book has an innocent intent, a Coast Pilot is an aide for navigation and sailing and this map includes the familiar rhumb lines and compass rose that are found on sailing charts, and there seems to be no mention of any danger in sailing around and into France along the tidal rivers in the book.

The Paris Observatory is shown, an important building at a time when France was one of the leading cartographic nations. The building pre-dates the Greenwich Observatory and was the site of the Paris Meridian, which has in the past competed with Greenwich to be the main meridian. The map also features along the bottom of the page a cross-section of the land in relation to the sea floor between the Isles of Sicily and Orford Ness.


A French alternative to the Faden map is a map of the Channel by the French ‘Ministre de la

Marine’. What is interesting about this map is the dates given, ‘ I’ An VII de la République, nouvelle edition de I’ An XI’. Following the start of the Revolution a new way of recording  years was implemented but as this introduced towards the end of 1793 there is no year one, year two goes from 22nd September 1793 to 22nd Sept. 1794 with the years numbered after this. Our map, ‘Carte réduite de La Manche’, was first published in year VII (1799) and then reprinted in XI (1802), during the planning and build up of resources for a possible invasion of Britain by Napoleon which was called off in 1805. It is one of the few maps in the library dated this way.

The map has seen better days, as can be seen be this burn mark just above Rouen.

Le Petit Neptune Français; or, French Coasting Pilot…’ 1793. W. Faden Vet A5 d.570.

Carte redutie de La Manche… 1802. (E) C2:5 (34)

Heliometer Domes and OS maps

The Ordnance Survey 1:500 map series are amongst the most detailed of all town plans. Dating from the 1880s and covering all towns with a population over 4,000, at this scale roofs come off important buildings to show the layout of the rooms underneath. While going through the maps covering Oxford this intriguing building appeared, the Heliometer Dome, part of the Radcliffe Observatory buildings.

The Observatory moved to Pretoria in 1934 hoping for clearer skies than could be found in Oxford, the buildings are now part of Green Templeton College. As well as showing on a beautiful map the Heliocentre has other cartographic claims for appearing in a map blog as it was a device crucial for measuring distances in space. The telescope in the Heliometer has a split lens, one of which is fixed in position, the second adjustable, thus producing a double image of either nearby stars or either sides of the Sun. By moving one of the lenses these images can be superimposed and then the different lengths of the lenses can be measured which will give the difference in distances between stars, a concept called parallax.

The Heliometer Dome circa 1860.

This next map is an extract from Robert Hoggar’s celebrated map of the city from 1850. At a scale slightly less detailed then the Ordnance Survey (1:528 as opposed to 1:500) at the top of this blog, like the OS map Hoggar maps individual trees and outbuildings, unlike the OS Hoggar includes contour lines.

Plan of the City of Oxford. 1850 (E) C17:70 Oxford (1)

This last image is the front cover from a record of the magnitude of stars according to their observable light recorded at the Observatory in 1853.

We’ve blogged about Parallax before  and about Ordnance Survey 1:5000 town plans as well