Author Archives: stuart

…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.

First destroy this map…

Using maps for  games is nothing new, we’ve blogged a number of times about card (here) and board (here) games but this is a first, a game you can only play if you destroy the map first.

Secret rivers…c2020 C17:40 (277)

Secret Rivers family game is a leaflet produced by the Museum of London Docklands. When you follow the instructions and tear along the perforated lines you have ten cards for each of the rivers; the Thames, Neckinger, Tyburn, Walbrook, Westbourne, Lea, Peck, Fleet, Effra and Wandle, which then can be used in a Top Trumps style card game. So the Thames will beat the Neckinger on length, 215 miles compared to 3 but the Neckinger has a greater pong rating 80 points for stinkiness compared to just 38 for the Thames.

It’s a lovely idea, and the map is very much secondary to the text/cards on the reverse.

An earlier map of London covering the same area shows how early London’s rivers had been hidden away.

Map of the country twelve miles round London 1847 (E) C17:40 (72)

Of the ten on our Museum map only the Thames and Lea (the river that divides the counties of Hertfordshire and Essex), are visible, the others are either too small to show or had already been drained and forced underground by the time C. Smith & Sons made their map in 1847.

Map staff would like it known that they resisted the urge to play the game!

A plan of the River Calder…

This map shows that, leading up to and during the Industrial Revolution, the improving of rivers for navigation went in tandem with the more celebrated building of canals. The noted engineer and surveyor John Smeaton (1724-1792) has made a map of part of the River Calder from just south of Halifax to Wakefield, listing along the route with variations of capital and lowercase letters the owners of the land,  the places marked for some form of navigational work (mainly locks and bridges) and mill owners.

A plan of the River Calder from Wakefield to Brooksmouth and from hence to Salter Hebble Bridge, laid down from a survey taken  in October and November 1757, with a projection for continuing the navigation from Wakefield to Salter Hebble Bridge near Halifax in the County of York by John Smeaton. 1757. (E) C17 (451) [17]

The whole amounts to a beautifully drawn and engraved map of the river at the start of the Industrial Revolution, and, with it’s listing of owners of lands and mills, a nice glimpse into Yorkshire life around 1757, a glimpse increased by the depictions of the towns and villages along the way, including the important wool town of Halifax. The map is both a plan of the river and a proposal for changes to the river to aid navigation, hence the claiming to be both a map of the river from Wakefield of Salter Hebble Bridge as well as a ‘projection for continuing the navigation…’ between the two. It’s nice to be able to note that the instrument maker Jesse Ramsden was born in Salter Hebble (now Salterhebble Bridge and part of Halifax) in 1735. Ramsden made the theodolite used by General Roy in the triangulation of Britain.

The left and right of the map in more detail.

The way the Calder links up with the other river and canal systems in the area can be seen on this map.

With A map of the existing navigations of Yorkshire… from 1819 all the smaller rivers merge with larger waterways, eventually joining the Humber and from there the North Sea. The industrial importance of the area can be seen by the reference to local industry; coal, iron, waste, lime and chace (a form of metal working) and the map is, like the main map in this blog, a proposal for a new waterway, in this instance the Went Canal, though a proposal that seems not to have come to anything as the Went doesn’t appear on subsequent Ordnance Survey maps.

Smeaton was an important figure in the history of surveying and engineering. Born in Leeds in 1724 after working in law and as an instrument maker by the time of this map he was working on the use and working of watermills. This led to the creation of an equation named after him, the ‘Smeaton coefficient’ which dealt with the power of wind and water to turn wheels in mills, and was used by Orville and Wilbur Wright when they designed and flew the first motor-driven aeroplane, the Wright Flyer, in 1903.

Smeaton’s fame is based on a large number of civil engineering works, including the third Eddystone lighthouse, numerous bridges including those over the Tweed, Perth and Hexham as well as a number of harbours, including this one at Ramsgate, from a map made by Smeaton a few years before he died.

Plan of Ramsgate Harbour and principal works thereof 1790. (E) C17 (451) [63]

The two maps by Smeaton come from a volume of plans and maps of English navigational waterways spanning two hundred years, from the early 1600s to the early 1800s. The collection has the rather appropriate overall title of ‘The Cutt’.

Obscured by clouds

It is hoped that the work now offered to the Public, will be found to rank among those which convey to the reader, at once, their plan, and in these, their own recommendation’.

If ever the introduction to an atlas sounded like the start of a Jane Austen novel it’s Edward Quin’s fascinating ‘An historical atlas in a series of maps of the World as known at different times…A general view of universal history from the creation to A.D. 1828′, published in 1830. Quin’s atlas shows the geographically known extent of the World (to Europeans) in a series of 21 maps, starting with the deluge in 2348 B.C. and ending with the General Peace of 1828.

The Deluge, from Edward Quin’s An historical atlas…1830. 2023 b.9

The beauty of Quin’s atlas comes from this sense of mystery achieved by revealing the known parts of the World according to the period of the map, with the rest of the World covered by thick, dark billowing clouds. With our knowledge of the World growing with each map the clouds withdraw a little further and more of the World is revealed. The engravings were by Sidney Hall, and as can be seen by this extract from the Deluge map Hall was a skilled engraver. Hall’s life and work in cartography is a fascinating story in itself, as when he died his wife carried on his work. To read more about Hall and his wife Selina see an earlier blog here  

The way the areas shown on the maps advance with each period can be seen in this map.

We are now in the eighth period, From the birth of Christ, to the death of Constantine, A.D. 337′ . By this point the World as was known had grown considerably. While the atlas is very much an European view of the World Quin does highlight non-European empires, with the Chinese and Indian Empires all appearing in this map. The Islamic Empire first appears on the twelfth, ‘From the dissolution of the Western Roman Empire, A.D. 476, to the death of Charlemagne, A.D. 814′, which is shown below

But Quin is very much a product of his time. The World starts not in the deep geological past, a theory recently introduced by, amongst others James Hutton in a two volume work published in 1795 (title page from first edition shown) but with the Creation (‘As to the origin of the Earth we should be entirely ignorant, had we not the aid of the Holy Scriptures’), with the earth populated from the ‘parents of mankind’, Adam and Eve. This basing of knowledge on religious belief continues with the next map, which goes forward to the exodus of the Israelites in 1491 B.C. It’s not till the fourth map, showing the World between the foundation of Rome and the death of Cyrus that that we move away from the Bible and start to see the classical authors as the source of information.

From the dissolution of the Western Roman Empire, A.D. 476, to the death of Charlemagne, A.D. 814′.

The last map to show the World with any cloud still covering unknown parts is this, from the eighteenth period, ‘From the death of Charles V. of Germany, A.D. 1558, to the restoration of the Stuarts in England A.D. 1660’. 

Despite exploration into and across the Pacific by, amongst others, Magellan, there is still cloud cover over the margins of the Earth, it would take the next map, ‘A.D. 1783, Independence of the United States’ before the World was revealed in full.

Quin wasn’t the first to create an atlas in this way, with earlier examples from Germany but Quin’s was the more famous, and certainly better illustrated. Later editions used Hall’s engravings at the start but soon these were replaced by a less-effective hemisphere based World view, you can see this online here Search Results: All Fields similar to ‘An and Historical and Atlas and Quin’ – David Rumsey Historical Map Collection



Talk in the news of beavers roaming across Welsh gardens brings this map to mind…

A new and exact map of the Dominions of the King of Great Britain on ye continent of North America containing Newfoundland, New Scotland, New England, New York, New Jersey, Pensilvania, Maryland, Virginia and Carolina. According to the Newest and most Exact Observations by Herman Moll, Geographer. 1715 (E) F1:4 (5)

…because it has a lovely, if not fanciful, inset picture of the Beaver in action.

‘A view of ye industry of ye Beavers of Canada in making Dams to stop ye course of a rivulet , in order to form a great Lake, about which they build their habitations. To effect this : they fell large trees with their teeth, in such a manner as to make them come cross ye rivulet, to lay ye foundation of ye Dam; they make Mortar, work up, and finish ye whole with great order and wonderfull  dexterity. The Beavers have two doors to their Lodges, one to the water and the other to the Land Side. According to French Accounts (Moll’s spelling and grammar used).

The King was George I, and Herman Moll was the cartographer (more on Moll here, and here). This map was originally part of a larger work, The World Described, an atlas of thirty large double-sided beautiful maps, which were sold both separately as well as numerous editions of the atlas. The map featured here was soon known as the ‘Beaver map’.  While the main map deals with the Thirteen colonies of the British the insets, apart from the Beaver picture, show the complex mix of colonial claims in North America. This inset shows, just under 100 years before the Louisiana Purchase nearly doubled the size of the United States in 1803, how close together Spanish, French and British claims were, and this is without any mention of Native American lands.


Bacon, lamb – the strange and wonderful maps of Operation Clipper

Launched in November 1944 Operation Clipper was a combined British and American attempt to reduce a salient around the German town of Geilenkirchen before the start of a larger operation, Operation Queen, to capture the Ruhr Valley. The operation started with an artillery bombardment, and it’s this phase of the attack that these strange and wonderful maps were for. Some shown here are so lacking in topographic detail that it’s questionable whether they should be called maps at all.

It’s probably better to call them accompaniments to existing maps, in this case the Geographical Section, General Staff (G.S.G.S.) 1:25,000 series 4414. The featured sheets are transparent, and need to be used with the appropriate sheet in the G.S.G.S. series. When overlaid the different sections on the transparency correspond to the areas on the map where different artillery units, in this case the 43rd Division, were to concentrate their fire. Presumably the names are the targets for the different guns in the artillery unit.

Here’s the transparency laid over the map for the area, a specially printed sheet consisting of a number of different maps from the G.S.G.S. 4414 series covering the town of Geilenkirchen (1944? C22 (15e)).

This is for phase 4 of the battle, there are other, similar, maps for the first 3 phases, though as these phases are on one sheet with no information about what accompanying topographic maps they relate to it’s hard to see how they work with existing mapping.

Stranger still is this…,well, a map?

A clue to it’s use might be in the faint title ‘Operation “Clipper”, no fire line’ though this is so faint that there is a small chance this is just a bleed-through from another sheet. As expected a ‘no fire line’ is a line beyond which artillery doesn’t aim for unless specifically instructed.

So, are these maps? in a collection the size of the Bodleian’s it’s inevitable that some of the material held is at the edge of what we would call a traditional map. Items such as this pretend to be a map but turn out to be a warning on current events while this map pretends to be a railway guide but is anything but. And then there’s one of the most famous ‘maps’ of all, Harry Beck’s map of the London Underground.

Map of London’s underground railways, 1933 C17:70 London (579). This is the first pocket edition of Beck’s map of the London Underground.

Is this a diagram more than a map, as it shows the underground stations in order along lines unrelated to their actual topographical actual position and distance relation to other stations? Not only does the ‘map’ show locations and lines not visible on the ground it also famously ignores topographic accuracy to simplify what would make for a messy image if truly represented. But what Beck’s diagram and all the subsequent public transport maps with similar designs lose by ignoring topographic reality they more than make up for with their ease of use. With these diagrams it’s easy to make your way from A to B when using a confusing system easily. Which is surely what we want most from our maps.

Operation Clipper maps from ‘Germany 1:25,000’ various maps of Operations Clipper, Plunder and Shears, 1944-45. C22 (15e)


Hurrah! Hurrah! for Japan

In 1877 the political satirist Frederick Rose produced the ‘Serio-comic war map for the year 1877′.  Rose used the map to compare Russia to an Octopus, the analogy being that Russian tentacles, grabbing hold or in some cases choking various countries, symbolized how Russia was attempting to gain influence over Europe. An earlier blog on cartoon maps featuring this map amongst other examples and can be found here

Serio-comic war map for the year 1877 by Frederick Rose JJ puzzle pictures folder 1 [28], 1877

Cartoon maps are good at making a serious point (most deal with expansion and empire building) in an immediately appealing and understandable way. The mix of strong imagery and a history that often seems to repeat over and over again means that they remain relevant long after initial publication. In 1904 Russia and Japan went to war over the fears both had over the other’s areas of influence in Manchuria and and Korea respectively (a blog about a map of the war is here.) and a Japanese student, Kisaburō Ohara, took Rose’s map and extended the area shown further east to include ‘Manturia’ and ‘Corea’ with one of the sinister arms of the Octopus reaching out to the area. On the map China becomes the Empress Dowager Cixi, complete with the bound feet fashionable at the time.

A humorous and diplomatic atlas of Europe and Asia, 1904. B6 (209)

While the majority of the European countries remain with the same national portraits In a change to the Rose original to show what potentially could happen to any country to fall under Russia’s sphere you only need to look at how Finland, Poland and the Slavic countries (which would become Yugoslavia after World War One) are all portrayed by skulls to suggest the effect Russian influence had on these nations.

Text on the map is in both Japanese and English with the English text in the box repeated in Japanese along the bottom. The text starts ‘Black Octopus is a name newly given to Russia by a certain prominent Englishman [i.e. Rose]. For the black octopus is so avaricious, that he stretches out his eight arms in all directions, and seizes up everything that comes within his reach’ and ends on a patriotic note, ‘ Suffice it to say, that the further existence of the black octopus depends entirely on the outcome of the present war. The Japanese fleet has already practically annihilated Russia’s naval power in the Orient. The Japanese army is about to win a signal victory of Russia in Corea and Manchuria. And when…St. Petersburg? Wait and see! The ugly Black Octopus! Hurrah! Hurrah! for Japan!’.

The 1904 map is a strange mix of quality and some parts definitely work better than others. The new parts, which is pretty much everything east of Persia, have a fresh look and have enough space for the countries to be represented well while with the reduced size of the map from the original Europe is a bit too crowded. Scandinavia in particular looks bad compared to the 1877 version. Italy is intriguing, treating the Pope and the Vatican like a toy on string following the defeat of Rome and the Papal States in the war to unify Italy in 1870.


This map shows the problems throughout Europe dating back to and before the Rose map of 1877, problems which would continue after the end of the Japanese war with Russia. Following the 1870 Franco-Prussian War France and Germany point arms at each other while the large empires of Turkey and  Astro-Hungary are both split in two, one by a Russian tentacle, the other by the two different countries, Austria and Hungary, that make up the Empire, both bringing different languages, cultures and groups of people to a large part of Central Europe. The Balkans are a frightening bunch of skulls, a foretaste of what was soon to come with two Balkan Wars and the origins of the First World War. Then there’s the  potential for conflict and jealousy over spheres of influence in the Near and Far East.

This is the strength of cartoon maps, the most obvious types of maps apart from those produced by totalitarian regimes where bias plays a part in the way the map looks. Purely judged on cartographic merit it’s a poor map, but in all other aspects; aesthetically, historically, novelty, the map is a wonderful example of its type.

My dearest friend…

In 1747 the antiquarian William Stukeley received an unexpected letter from an English-born resident of Copenhagen. This was from Charles Bertram, a 24 year old student at the University of Copenhagen, and was a letter of introduction from the younger man to Stukeley, who was 60 and a published author on subjects as diverse as stone circles and other megalithic remains, druids, medicine, and illness.

This was the beginning of a number of years of correspondence which started off being a discussion on Danish ancient monuments but quickly moved onto a tantalising revelation that he was in possession of a previously unknown manuscript, a history of Roman Britain including a map written by ‘Richard of Westminster’. Stukeley, after initial scepticism (with good reason, Bertram never allowed Stukeley access to the original manuscripts, saying he was sworn to secrecy by the owner), was slowly convinced of the legitimacy of Bertram’s discovery as Bertram carefully included his copied out versions of sections from the manuscript during their correspondence.

Amongst the earliest examples of the work sent to Stukeley was a map, ‘Mappa Brittaniæ…’ dated 1747.

Gough Maps British Isles 12

After showing the material to others Stukeley was told that it was around 400 years old, and that the probable author was in fact Richard of Cirencester, a 14th century cleric. This would put it roughly in between the early British maps of Matthew Paris and the famous Gough Map of Great Britain, held here at the Bodleian (more information on these maps can be found here Mr. Gough’s map ( ). Bertram’s copy of the manuscript map included more detail on Roman Britain than had previously been known and was a more accurate portrayal of the outline of the country than these and other early maps.

The correspondence continued, reaching a cartographic height in 1755 when Stukeley received from Bertram the first copy of the map printed from a plate. On the reverse is a letter which Bertram signs off,  ‘I am for the present & forever, dear sir, your most obedient Servant…’ He could also have added liar and forger to his dedication as Bertram had made the whole thing up.

The recto and verso of Gough Maps British Isles 13, sent from Copenhagen on October 16th, 1755.

A number of different versions of this map then appear.  Bertram a had a plate made so he could include the map in book published in 1757 but before this Stukeley had made his own copy where he’d changed the orientation to put north at the top and tidied up the general appearance to create a more pleasing looking map.

Stukeley’s manuscript copy of Bertram’s print, Gough Maps British Isles 14. 1755

The full text of the manuscript appeared in a 1757 book with histories of Britain by the 6th century monk and cleric Gildas and  the 9th century monk Nennius. By associating the forged work of “Richard of Westminster” with two established works Bertram intended to give the work  legitimacy as part of an established tradition of writing on ancient and Roman British history.

Title page of Britannicarum gentium historiæ antiquæ scriptores tres: : Ricardus Corinensis, Gildas Badonicus, Nennius Banchorensis, 1757. Gough Gen. Top. 80

In the same year Stukeley published an account of a talk he’d given the year before on Richard of Cirencester to the Antiquarian Society, ‘with his antient map of Roman Brittain [sic]; and the itinerary thereof‘. This is the map sent to Stukeley by Bertram in 1755.

Bertram sought no financial gain from his association with Stukeley, turning down a number of requests by Stukeley to purchase the manuscripts. His motives seem unclear; a possible attempt by a younger man to have fun at the expense of an older historian, a delusional attempt to gain some fame or a cynical plan to gain the respect of an established figure so when he eventually published the work he’d be able, as he does in the introduction, to mention favourably Stukeley’s name and association with the project. That Bertram first raises the ‘manuscript’ with Stukeley in 1747, ten years before publication of the book, and draws the first map the same year suggests the latter.

Bertram died in  January 1765 (Stukeley was to follow 3 months later). It was after his death that the lack of any evidence of this mysterious manuscript began to raise questions about its existence. An English translation and original text version was published in 1809 but by the middle of the century the work was broadly dismissed as a forgery, not before it had managed to damage the reputation of Stukeley and been used by Edward Gibbon when writing the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Major-General William Roy, whose mapping of Scotland after the Jacobite Rebellion led to the creation of the Ordnance Survey. Roy’s book on Roman Antiquities in Britain, posthumously published in 1793, used Bertram’s map as a source for some of the location names, as did early editions of Ordnance Survey maps.

Of all the parts to this story possibly the most interesting are the letters from Bertram to Stukeley, which are also stored here at the Bodleian. In an old green book titled ‘Bertram’s letters to Dr. Stukeley. M.S. 1746 & c. (MS. Eng. Letters b.2) are 31 letters starting with the original introduction written in 1746 but not sent till the following year and then followed at first with information and drawings about Danish megalithic monuments.

A drawing of megalithic remains from Bertram’s letter, dated October 16th 1753.

The most important letter in the collection dates from 1747. After first complementing Stukeley by down-playing Danish remains compared to those that Stukeley had worked on and published about (‘Some circles and hinges of stone are also to be found here, but none, i believe in the whole World to equal that on Salisbury Plain’) Bertram mentions for the first time the

manuscript in his possession that would lead to so much correspondence, speculation, maps, published work and, eventually, condemnation and tarnished reputations. Stukeley’s letters are lost so we only have Bertram’s side, no chance to see how Stukeley dealt with this revelation, and these drip with so much sugary flattery it’s hard to get an idea of how Stukeley reacted to the news of the manuscript, but judging by the infrequent mention of the manuscript in the following few letters it seems caution was the approach taken.

This rich and fascinating archive came to the library in 1809 from the collection of the antiquarian and collector Richard Gough. As well as the maps and items shown here the collection also includes Stukeley’s original drawings and writings on Stonehenge, Avebury and other ancient monuments as well as a large quantity of maps, plans and prints of British topography.

The Free State of Ikaria

Maps often come with extras; a street index with a town plan, a distance table with a road map or just general tourist information for example but in what is a first for us we’ve just catalogued a map which has a musical score, complete with lyrics and scales.

Chartēs tēs nēsoy Ikarias is a map of the island of Ikaria, in the North Aegean. According to legend the island gets its name from Icarus, who fell into the sea near the island after the wax holding his wings together melted when he flew too close to the sun. The island is actually called Icarus on some old maps, like this example from Richard Kiepert’s ‘Karte von Kleinasien’ (D30 (76))

The map has been created by Georgios Nik. Poulianos, a teacher in the coastal village of Eydilos and includes a text box describing how in July 1912 Ikaria rebelled against Ottoman rule and for 5 months declared itself an independent nation, with its own flag, stamps and anthem, and it’s this anthem, written by K.A. Pashou, that appears on the map.

With so much of our maps of Greece and Greek Islands being either modern tourist maps or Allied and Axis mapping from the Second World War it’s good to have something to counter that. From the song to the link with a brief attempt at independence to the cartographer being a local school teacher this map is both a fascinating glimpse into life on Ikaria and an example of the pride that the Islanders had in their recent history.

With thanks to Greek colleagues in our Admissions Department for help with this blog.

Winter short, but very cold

The end of January marks the eightieth anniversary of the end of the Battle of Stalingrad, generally regarded amongst military historians as the turning point of the Second World War. German troops in the city surrendered on January 31st, with the encircled troops to the north following on a few days later. For Germany Stalingrad was meant to be a quick battle, a way of cutting off the Volga River supply route before the main objective of the Caucasus oilfields. Instead vicious street fighting bogged down an already extended army, forcing them into another Russian winter.

In preparation for the invasion of Russia in June 1941 the German army produced a large amount of mapping. Most of the topographic at 1:50,000, 1:100,000 and 1:200,000 was based on pre-existing Russian maps but the Germans also produced a large amount of small scale mapping, including thematic maps, to help plan the invasion. Examples here show both the range of maps made and the logistical issues involved in invading a country which had, in the countryside at least, poor transport in place and a winter that could be brutal. Due to the large size of the maps shown here these extracts centre on Stalingrad.

Wehrgeologische Übersichtskarte des Europäischen Russlands, 1941. C40:6 (163)

This extract from a much larger map shows the geological conditions around Stalingrad (which is just north-east of centre, on the bend of the river). The brown indicates a loess soil structure, which makes for finely grained soil. Good for agriculture but not much good for transport or water retention, something which the legend on the map states, ‘wasserversorgung schwierig’ (‘water supply difficult). The map also shows something else that was going to be a major problem for the German troops fighting in the area. The dotted blue lines show areas of frost by months. Stalingrad falls into the zone where there was on average four months of frost which, with extended supply lines and lack of winter-clothing, led to German troops fighting in freezing conditions without appropriate winter gear, many suffering from frostbite and other aliments as a result.

Strassenzustandskarte der besetzten Ostgebiete, 1942. C40:6 (50)

From another large map comes this extract showing the road set-up around Stalingrad. This shows on the surface what the geological map hints at, the dotted red lines of so many of the roads around the Stalingrad area are graded ‘Ungeeignet, d.h. für Mot. Verkehr nicht geeignet’ (‘Unsuitable, i.e. not suitable for motor traffic’) while the lack of knowledge of the area (the map dates from August 1942, when the battle for the city started, and would partly be based on earlier Soviet maps) is shown by the continuous red-lined roads being labelled with a general description of ‘good’. There’s also this text box…

… which asks for the ‘Cooperation of all required! (Mitarbeit…)’  going on to request that any changes in road condition be reported immediately, a hint to the boggy nature of loess ground when the rains come.

And then there are the general topographic maps made by the cartographic branch of the army. Maps such as this example at various scales cover the whole of Europe, most of North Africa and the Middle East. Usually based on pre-existing national sets (the British maps are adapted versions of earlier Ordnance Survey commercial maps) these are often highly detailed and, with added text and town plans on the reverse, specialising in the area shown. Sheet D49 of ‘Mil.- Geo.- Karte Östeuropa 1:300 000′ (1942, C40 (72a)) covers Stalingrad.

The city is shown with a black box surrounding it indicating that there’s a town plan on the verso. Text on the side covers topics such as soil, structure, hydrology, climate (‘winter short, but very cold’) , transport and population. As an example of the confidence the army had in a quick victory at Stalingrad the map also lists 8 locations east of the Volga, beyond the city, to take as well.

Finally, the city itself. This is the city plan from the back of the 1:300,000 sheet, again this features text on the city (population – 445,470 as of 1939 – etc) and a list of objectives.

The city stretches out along the west bank of the Volga, making the key features an easy target for the German artillery that surrounded it and the bombing raids by the Luftwaffe. Vastly outnumbered soon Soviet troops were occupying the factory area to the north of the map (nos. 31-39) the station area (Bhf. just below no. 40) and the important low hill of Mamayev, fought over and won and lost continually throughout the battle (shown by the spot height 100. west of nu.39 and now the site of the ‘Heroes of the Battle of Stalingrad’ memorial).

As well as the large amount of single and series sheet maps produced the cartographic branch of the army (the ‘Abteilung für Kriegskarten und Vermessungswesen’) produced large numbers of information pamphlets for various countries. The earliest were made out of hard board but as more and more were produced brown paper packages were created. These included maps, books on locations and features (duplicating a lot of the information shown on some of the maps here) and photographs. Here’s the pamphlet package for the area covering Stalingrad

Miltärgeographische Angaben über des Europäische Russland, Die Wolgagebiete, 1941 C40 e1/K

And here are two images from the book of photographs, the first showing the central square and the second the tractor factory  (no. 31 on the town map extract above), sight of some of the heaviest fighting throughout the battle for the city

In contrast to these military maps is a series of maps published in an atlas by the New York Times during the war (2023 d.39). These maps show a history of the war from its origins in treaties after the First World War up to publication of this, the second revised edition in 1943. While German forces were in retreat in the East Western Europe was still firmly in control of the Axis powers and the outcome in the war was still in doubt. Typical of the sort of maps that were common in newspapers during the war here are two maps from the atlas, with an extract from the first at right, covering the Russian campaign before and after Stalingrad (a short blog about maps in newspapers can be found  here ).

Last word (and map) to the victors. On a large map covering four sheets the ‘Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union’ (1956, C40 (427)) shows the advances, retreats and battlegrounds between the German Invasion in 1941 to the end of the war in Berlin in May 1945. Around Stalingrad the thick orange and red tipped arrows can be seen that show how the Soviet advance, codenamed Operation Uranus, encircled and then cut off supplies to the Axis forces (Italian and Romanian divisions also fought at Stalingrad), eventually forcing those trapped to surrender.

The map was published in 1952 by the Glavnoe Upravlenie Geodezii i Kartografii, the official cartographic department for the Soviet Union, and known more commonly by the initials GUGK.

A blog on the changing names of the city on the Volga can be found here