Monthly Archives: February 2019

A tale of two maps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home defence during World War I

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

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

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

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

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

London Area, 1916. C17:40 (268)


The battle of the Medway 1667

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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