Author Archives: stuart

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

 

 

Sleigh miles

Few people can have more need of a map than Father Christmas. Who else travels the World, at night, visiting every house in every city, town and village? Who else does this but once a year, a long enough gap to forget which turn to take, which lane to go down? Who else makes these journeys on a sleigh drawn by 8 reindeer with no sat-nav, no googlemaps on a smart phone?

To celebrate a cartographic Christmas here’s a selection of map-themed cards collected by map staff at the Bodleian in recent years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a card with an old map underlying the Christmas theme, showing the type of map that Santa might have used in days gone by.

Has there ever been a more sampled map than the classic London Underground map? Here’s two cards on the theme

 

We have Henry Cole to thank for Christmas cards. The first director of what would become the Victoria and Albert Museum commissioned the artist John Callcott Horsley to design the first card in 1843, with a thousand copies printed off and sold under his pseudonym Felix Summerly. Cole was also involved in the setting up of the Penny Post and is credited with designing that most iconic of stamps, the Penny Black. Christmas cards form part of the John Johnson Collection here at the Bodleian, one of the most important collections of ephemera in the World. Find out more about John Johnson, including finding aids, catalogues and blogs here.

A blog on Christmas cards written by the Librarian of the John Johnson Collection Julie Anne Lambert can be found here and more blogs on Christmas ephemera in the collection can be found here .  Amongst the treasures held at the Bodleian are original pieces by J.R.R. Tolkien,  some of the Father Christmas letters that Tolkien sent to his children can be found here and here

There is a lovely map of Santas throughout the World published in the 1950s by the General Drafting Company which can be found here Vintage Map Shows Santa’s Journey Around the World | National Geographic and of course, there’s the famous NORAD tracking Santa site Official NORAD Tracks Santa (noradsanta.org)

Who doesn’t believe? Happy Christmas everyone

Chalk

We’re slowly processing a large amount of rolled and relief mapping that was donated to the      library a number of years ago.  Everything has been carefully stored in bubble wrap but a lot of the material is old, and quite a lot has been used for teaching purposes and has been varnished, that curse for the modern curator. We’re steadily working through the rolls and have started to look at the flat material, most of which seems to be maps in frames.

The first is going to be a challenge to our Conservation Department. The base to this relief map of the South Downs, Channel and part of the Pas-de-Calais has been made of either gesso or Plaster of Paris, we’re not sure yet. Both involve chalk which appropriate as the whole area is geologically made up of chalk and yet at the same time unfortunate as, after close to 150 years, the backing is now crumbling and combined with the effects of the varnishing has caused the map to both sink and split. Which is a shame as the map is a wonderful thing.

Geological model of the South East of England and part of France including the Weald and the Bas Boulonnais, 1873.

The relief of the area has been covered by a map made from information from maps published by the Ordnance Survey, Admiralty Office and the Geological Survey and then framed. The sculpted relief forms the hills of the Downs (from the old English word ‘Dun’, meaning hill) and the danger is as this backing further disintegrates and the frame and map splits more we’ll lose this effect*, hence the need for conservation.

One of the more interesting details on the map is the route shown of a proposed Channel tunnel. First suggested in 1802 the idea of a tunnel between the two countries steadily grew towards the end of the 1800s. Both French and British engineers came up with proposals and in 1866 the English engineer Henry Marc Brunel made a survey of the floor of the Straits of Dover which showed that sea-floor was made up of chalk. Various attempts to build the tunnel were put in place but soon shelved due to funding and concerns, on the English side, of threats to British security.

One of the sheets of a French geological series published in 1878 is a reprint of an earlier geological series originally published in 1832 which shows the geology of the Straits in preparation for a possible tunnel. The geological information comes from reconnaissance work carried out for the wonderfully named Anglo-French Submarine Railway Company.

Carte géologique, Calais sheet 1. [1878?] (E) C2:5 (32)

*As well as the chalk. It’s strange to think that the chalky substence that has fallen off the map and now lies on the floor in our office came from a map made in 1873, even stranger when you remember that the chalk itself is made up of untold numbers of plankton from close to a 1,000,000 years ago.

‘…Wonderful things…’

A short blog to mark 100 years to the day that Howard Carter, a team of archaeologists and        local workers cleared the last of the rubble from steps in the Valley of the Kings and found an undamaged door at the bottom. After removing this outer door the door to the tomb of Tutankhamun was revealed. Two days later, November the 26th, 1922, Carter, along with Lord Carnarvon, made a small hole in this door which Carter then peered through. Asked if he could see anything by his patron Carter uttered the most famous words in archaeological history, ‘Yes, wonderful things…’

Nearly 100 years earlier the west bank of the Nile was mapped by the one of the first Egyptologists John Gardner Wilkinson. Wilkinson produced a detailed map on 6 sheets, with the relief beautifully and realistically engraved. Here’s the sheet covering the Valley of the Kings area.

Topographical Survey of Thebes…by J. G. Wilkinson, 1830. (E) E13:30 Thebes (1)

This is an extract from the map showing the Valley above the Temple of Deir el-Bahari.

With its use of shading and hachures (the short engraved lines showing direction of slope) you get a real sense of the hills and valleys. Following his death in 1875 Wilkinson’s extensive papers came to the Bodleian, an invaluable resource for the study of Egyptian antiquities before the onset of tourism and removal of objects changed their appearance for ever (The page of hieroglyphs at the sides of this blog come from one of Wilkinson’s note-books, MS. Wilkinson dep d.47). Here’s a beautifully hand-drawn sketch of the Valley of the Kings from Wilkinson’s papers.

Valley of Biban el Molook, or of the Tombs of the Kings of Thebes’. Original manuscript by John Gardner Wilkinson, c1830? MS Wilkinson dep. a.22 (fol. 70).

In this map Wilkinson identifies each tomb with letter; by the time he had drawn and published the ‘Topographical Survey…’ these letters had been replaced by the numbers that are still in use today, as can be seen in this extract from the map. Tutankhamun’s tomb would be found by Carter close to tomb 9, the shared tomb of Rameses V and VI.

 

Karte der Westlichen und Umgebung von Luķsor und Karnak [Theben] 1909. E13:22 (1)

This 1909 German map of Luxor and the surrounding area shows how different the relief is on the west bank of the Nile compared to the east. It’s a land of contrasts, of flat fertile land close to the river and desert and mountain further out, of a land of life and of death. The hilly area centring on the Valley of the Kings (Königsgräber on the map, and extract at right) is rich in tombs of royals, nobles and workers. It’s also a map full of the wonders of ancient Egypt. On the east bank the temple at Karnak, the greatest of all surviving Egyptian temple complexes and on the west bank famous archaeological sites, including the temples of the Ramesseum, Medinet Habu and Deir el-Bahari as well as the Valley of the Kings and Queens.

Here’s another of the sheets from Wilkinson’s map of Thebes with the Luxor and Karnak temples.

The library holds a set of maps showing the area around the tombs, ‘The Theban Necropolis’, published by the Survey of Egypt in in 1924. Frustratingly it doesn’t include the sheet covering the Royal Tombs though one sheet, C-7, does include Howard Carter’s house.

The Theban Necropolis, 1924. E13:30 Thebes (3) sheet C-7

Want to know more about the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb? There’s a marvellous exhibition on at the Bodleian until February next year, details here Tutankhamun: Excavating the Archive | Visit the Bodleian Libraries (ox.ac.uk)

 

Maps to justify your existence

Few countries suffered as much as Poland during the Second World War. Historically a country that had undergone numerous border changes, losses of territory (3 forced partitions in 23 years in the late 1700s!)  and caught between two countries with strong ideologues of such differences that an alliance between them would seem absurd if it wasn’t for the conniving geopolitical machinations of German and Russian foreign policies. When German forces invaded on the 1st September 1939, kick-starting the Second World War, Polish forces made a valiant effort to defend their country only for Soviet forces to invade from the east two weeks later. For the Poles there was to be five years of brutal occupation. Here’s a map showing German occupation of Central and Eastern Europe in 1942.  Poland has been swallowed up by the Greater German Reich and the front-line is in Soviet territory with further advances to come before the horrors of Stalingrad and the turning of the war.

Grossdeutsches Reich und angrenzende gebiete, 1942. C1:5 (595)

The reason for this in a map blog? We’ve just started working on some material that’s been at the library for a while, the majority of which are maps of Poland which look at some point to have been removed from an atlas. There’s very little information on the majority of the maps, but some have been published by the Polish Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Shipping, based in London and part of the Polish Government in Exile while others come from the Światowy Związek Polaków z Zagranicy (World Union of Poles from Abroad), an organization set up in the mid 1930s to ensure Poles abroad still felt part of and could help and support the Polish Government. As quite a few of the maps are similar it’s fair to assume that the majority come from these sources. So far so good but the range of themes of the maps is surprising.

As well as maps of contemporary borders and population there are maps covering such diverse subjects as air routes between the wars by Polish Airways, maps on historical borders and territory, maps on the German occupation and maps giving information on industry, agriculture and architecture.

Why the range? It’s hard to be sure but the answer may lie in the fight that the Polish Government had to be recognized in the face of Soviet opposition and British and American Governments willing to give into Stalin’s demands as the cost of keeping the Soviets fighting the Germans before a Second Front could be opened in Western Europe. By creating maps showing changing borders the Government in Exile were hoping to show a legitimate reason for being the rightful possessors of not only a country based on pre-war boundaries but also the legitimate Government to run the country after the defeat of Germany. Take these maps, showing numerous Polish boundaries between 1001 and 1939, thus establishing a long history of a Poland being centred around the immediate pre-war state.

[Polish boundaries and territory changes, 1001 – 1939], 1945? C31 (561)

Polish frontiers in the course of history, C1:4 (204) 1940?

In an unusually colourful example the second map  portrays a Poland that throughout history has grown and been a dominant part of East Europe. Turning the map over reveals it’s actually part of a postcard including defiant text on the role of Poland in Europe, ‘the first country to oppose Hitler’s “New Europe” and goes on to highlight Poland’s perilous situation at the start of the war, ‘the geographical position was, and is, incomparably difficult and dangerous…the map shows how unjust were the Polish frontiers after the last war. This fault is the reason for Poland’s position today. Only a powerful Poland can secure European equilibrium. Our deepest faith will ever be Poland must rise again!’ A postcard is an ideal medium to spread the message included, both in the map and text, a pre-digital age version of a tweet.

Here’s another example, one that combines the current situation in Poland and German aggression with a sense of historical Poland. This map is published by the Min. Informacja i Dokumentacja w Londynie. 

Map of Eastern Poland, Baltic countries and the western part of U.S.S.R. showing German occupation and historic boundaries of Poland, 1943. C1:4 (201)

By creating maps showing such diverse themes shown in this blog the Government were promoting Polish culture, industry and tradition, and leading on from this a Polish identity, putting forward a strong argument for the continuing existence of Poland against Soviet aggression.

Polish airways in 1935, c1945. C1 (1128)

[Poland imposed over British Isles], C31 (562) 1943

To finish, a map that imposes over a map of the British Isles the outline of Poland according to 1938 boundaries.  We have a few maps in the collection here at the Bodleian that does this (an earlier blog featured one of New Zealand). By imposing a country over another like this the cartographer hopes to draw comparisons between the two, in size and in, it’s imagined, a sense of both being long-established nations with traditions and histories, of a country that deserves to be treated equally.

A lease for life

Gagingwell is a small hamlet in the north of Oxfordshire centred round a group of springs. In 1713 the land belonged to the Earl of Lichfield, and it is presumably the Earl who has commissioned this wonderful estate map.

A map of Gagingwell in the County of Oxon, anno dom: 1713. 1713 (MS) C17:49 (111)

An estate map is an administrative record of who owns or farms what on a particular estate. As a result  they also often give a moment in time of that place, listing as it does individual villagers alive and active in the village at the time the map was drawn. So from over 300 years ago we get to see the fields and strips belonging to the villagers John, Edward and William Drinkwater (brothers? father and sons?), Stephen Wisdom, Edward Busby and Mr Marten and Mr Freeman. Estate maps can also be records of a lost landscape as many show areas pre-enclosure, before the replacing of the old open field system of agriculture in which villagers had a share of the land around their homes with the enclosed field and hedge system that is a recognizable but fairly recent part of our landscape. This change can be seen when the 1713 estate map is compared to the one the finest maps made of the county, Richard Davis’s 1797 map of Oxfordshire. Here’s Gagingwell from Davis, the pattern of small fields has been replaced by a field pattern recognizable today.

Extract from ‘A map of the county of Oxford…made in the years 1793 and 1794 by Richard Davis of Lewknor, topographer to his Majesty’ 1797 C17:49 a.1

The effects of enclosure on the local community were profound. Many of the poorer villagers were forced into the major county towns to find work or strike further afield, emigrating to the commonwealth countries of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa (a blog on emigration can be read here ).

The way that the open field system works can be seen in this extract from the estate map. The letters refer to the villagers owning land; d is Edward Drinkwater, D is William and John Drinkwater, W is the wonderfully named Stephen Wisdom, Edward Busby is B, Mr Freeman F and Mr Marten F.

As can be seen individual ownership is spread across the hamlet. This had a two-fold purpose. First it gave equal amounts of good, indifferent and poor quality land evenly and it meant that with a crop rotation system in place all would have land in fields growing different crops as well as a field left fallow each year.

There’s a confusing mix of different terms for tenancy on the map. Wisdom, Freeman and Busby are freeholders, the rest leased their land from the Earl of Lichfield, some for a period of time while Edward Drinkwater leases his land for the duration of his life, ‘lease f[or] lives’. Some of the villagers also have a ‘Coppy hold’ agreement with the Earl, meaning they have the rights to land at the will of the Earl.

Called Litchfield on the map The title Earl of Lichfield was granted to Edward Henry Lee by Charles II in 1674 when he was 11, and had arranged to be married to the illegitimate daughter of Charles and Barbara Villiers, the Lady Charlotte Fitzroy, who was 9. They were married a few years later, aged 14 and 13. The couple went on to have 18 children, 7 dying before adulthood, and their country seat was Ditchley Park, a few miles south of Gagingwell.

Ideally when writing a blog about a map of somewhere in Britain you would want to include if possible the Ordnance Survey County Series mapping at 1:2,500. Easily the best maps made covering Britain, and arguably the best maps covering anywhere in the World, especially the beautifully coloured 1st ed sheets. These show individual buildings, fields, trees and topographical features and would have been perfect for a blog such as this. Unfortunately Gagingwell suffers from the curse of sheet mapping, being as it is on the corner of 4 different sheets!

The estate map was drawn by Edward Grantham, a cartographer specializing in estate and enclosure maps and is at the scale of ‘sixteen perch in an inch’. A perch was a rod used for measuring land, usually at 5¹/₂ yards, though there were local variations. A modern scale would be approximately 1:3,168.

 

Maps for the Aironauts…engravings by the best masters

At twenty minutes to two on the afternoon of the 8th September 1785 Mr Thomas Baldwin, to the ‘tears of delight and apprehension, the misgivings of humanity, and other sensations of surprize’ of the inhabitants of Chester took flight in a hot air balloon. Ascending to a height of four miles over Chester Baldwin was able to look down on the earth, a true birds-eye view. He wrote of his adventures in a book published the following year, Airopaidia : or aerial recreation, describing the voyage as well as giving a detailed account of the preparation involved in the flight (for instance a canon was fired at 7 am to let people know that the balloon was being inflated), the equipment taken onboard (as well as ballast brandy and feathers to throw out at various times to check wind speed and direction), and, rather worryingly, what to do if you start to descend too quickly. Baldwin also included some lovely original maps showing the views from above the clouds.

This has to be one of the earliest maps to include clouds over the land. The first manned balloon flight was only two years earlier in France, with the first in Britain almost exactly a year before Baldwin’s ascent so Baldwin was one of the earliest to see the earth partly obscured in this way. In the bottom left corner is Chester (‘the gay scene was a fairy-land, with Chester Lilliput‘) with the River Mersey snaking along from right to left. Imposed over everything is a twisting black line showing the route the balloon took over the Cheshire countryside. The maps are beautifully drawn, fully deserving the praise given them in the book, ‘Descriptions of the aerial scenes are illustrated with engravings, by the best masters; two of which are coloured‘. The engraver is named as Angus, a name not listed in map engravers and map-makers dictionaries held at the Bodleian but is possibly William Angus (1752-1821), who specialized in plates for books and prints working out of Islington.

On the next page the book does something rather clever. There is another map, this time a topographic map of the same area naming features not hidden by the cloud-cover but with the same route shown. Both the coloured view and the black and white map are folded, but the black and white map is on an extended piece of paper, meaning that you can have both open at the same time and compare the same area side-by-side, like this

The obvious advantages to cartography from balloon flights came just at the wrong time. Triangulation surveying had recently been introduced to Britain from France, and despite the efforts involved in first of all measuring out an accurate base-line then surveying across the country from this point the results produced maps of sufficient accuracy to make this the favoured method of map-making. Balloons though wouldn’t be forgotten, and were used to survey enemy positions in the early days of the First World War. Where the balloon did give an advantage was in the drawing of panoramas. The ability to draw an oblique view of a town or city was established well before balloon flights (see here) but these maps were drawn from low down, meaning that the buildings nearest the cartographer were given more prominence. The extra height gained from the balloon meant that a greater area could be shown as the angle of the observation was greater, and the area observed was greater. This can be seen to great effect in this wonderful ‘Balloon map of London’

C17:70 London (327), 1859

Despite a balloon appearing at the top of the map the view taken is from the north, with south of the river disappearing into the distance, suggesting this is the viewpoint from another balloon. The balloon featured is a nice bit of decoration in keeping with the theme of the map.

We’ve blogged about clouds on maps before, in this case their use in wartime deception here  and balloons featured in an earlier blog here

Our blogs are usually written after either coming across a map that sparks our interest or of reading of one in a book or journal. In this case the latter, Baldwin’s flight and maps are mentioned in Rachel Hewitt’s excellent biography of the Ordnance Survey, ‘Map of a Nation’.

Airopaida : containing the narrative of a balloon excursion…198 e.80. 1786

…and in less than a quarter of an hour went all to pieces…

Before the introduction of the first Admiralty Chart by the Hydrographic Office of the Navy British- produced nautical charts were published by independent map-makers. In the case of the map featured in this blog Laurie and Whittle. Robert Laurie and James Whittle took over the map making business of Robert Sayer in 1794, and this map, drawn in 1786 but published in 1794, must have been one of the first the duo made. The company still exists today, producing maps and charts under the name ImrayLaurie, Norie and Wilson. Laurie was a skilled artist and engraver and presumably was responsible for the fine cartography and views on display on…

A new chart of the Southern Coast of Africa, from The Cape of Good Hope to Dalagoa Bay; including The Bank of Cape Agulhas, its soundings, currents within and without & c. is a remarkable chart for a number of reasons.

The skills involved in the creation of the map are evident, from the engraving to the information on depths and sea-floor sediments in the Bank of Cape Agulhas to the artistic representation of the view of the Cape of Good Hope.

The map plots the course around the Cape, an important but dangerous part of the journey to and from the Indies for European shipping. To aid in this journey the area to the south of the Cape, the Bank of Cape Agulhas, is prominently featured, showing both the extent of the bank to stop ships running aground and the depths and constitution of the sea floor. Sea depths, called soundings, would have been recorded by lowering rope with a lead weight attached, which may have a waxy substance added to the bottom which would pick up sediment. Judging by the amount of information shown this was considered an important place to survey and was presumably a tricky place to sail over. That the Bank was navigable can be seen by the course that the Worcester took on the outward bound journey from Britain to India in 1786. The Worcester was an East Indiaman (which is a general term for a ship of any European nation with trade links with India) which made a number of journeys to the Indies between 1786 and 1809, journeys which would usually take two years to complete. It may seem strange to focus on the journey of one individual ship, the intention being presumably to show the route taken as an example for those using the chart to plot their own progress round the Cape, as the Worcester has plotted a course to battle against as little head-current as possible. The map also shows the best line for taking advantage of the currents going round the Cape from a westerly direction, giving information on how fast the currents travel as well as the best course to take to make the most of the currents (‘the best track of the ships to avail themselves of the current’). Currents are also shown on the Bank, hence the …currents within and without … part of the title. Two large insets show safe harbours, both detailing rocks, good  anchorage and depths.

In this extract of the Bank of Cape Aguihas the routes of both the Worcester (the straight dotted line in the centre of the image that then goes off at an angle to the bottom right) on the outbound journey while the route to take best advantage of the currents for those heading home follows the line of the three ships. The make-up of the sea floor is clearly shown. The importance in plotting currents, especially in the age of sail, can be seen in the amount of times they feature on maps, both nautical and general. This map, again published by Laurie and Whittle in 1794 shows currents in the Indian Ocean, highlighting the importance of this part of the World for European trade. Unlike the main map in this blog, which would have been made from existing plates in Sayer’s collection this is a copy of a French map from 1776.

A chart of the currents in the Indian Sea during the southwest monsoon, to the northward of the line, 1794. (E) L1 (143)

The map below is an extract from Africa divided into its several regions (1792), by the person that Laurie and Whittle first worked for, Robert Sayer. The pair bought all existing stock and plates and took over his premises when Sayer died in 1794. At the southern tip of the continent is a less detailed portrayal of the Bank.

Ironically, for something that deals with the safe passage at sea, the most dramatic part of the map deals with a shipwreck. ‘On Thursday the 17th July 1755, about a quarter before one in the morning, the Doddington, outward bound East indiaman, struck on a rock about 3 leagues from the Main of Africa, and in 33d. 44m. south latitude. They had doubled the Cape…the time they were lost they saw the breakers, and in less than a quarter of an hour went all to pieces : out of 270 people only 23 were saved. They remained on this rock (which they named Bird Island) six months, and built a ship out of the wreck, the Chief Mate and 16 people all that were left alive, went to Madagascar in her…’. Bird Island is still named thus, and there is a Doddington Rock nearby, on the inset at right Bird Island is just to the east of Algoa Bay. Like the Worcester the Doddington was part of the fleet of the East India Company. Formed in 1600 to look after British trade the EIC eventually colonised large parts of India and Southeast Asia and pretty much ran India for the British Government following the Battle of Plassey in 1757 until corruption  and mutiny forced the Crown to take  control in 1858.

This fold-out map comes from a book (A journal of the proceedings of the Doddington, East-Indiaman, from her sailing from the Downs till she was unfortunately wrecked on some rocks on the East Coast of Africa*)  written by one of the survivors, Mr. Webb, one of the ship’s mates.

The book describes how the ship set sail on April the 23rd, 1755, taking seven weeks to get to the Cape. Then disaster strikes early on Thursday, July 17th, as the ship is wrecked on Bird Island. Despite breaking an arm and being being told by the Captain that ‘we should all perish’ Webb managed to get to Bird Island and eventually take part in the journey on a boat made from the wrecked remains 6 months later to Madagascar.  On this extract from the map Bird Island is the central rock A while the rock marked F is believed by Webb to be the one the ship first hit before being driven by the high seas onto Bird.

At some point before coming to the  Bodleian the map has been repaired with sellotape, so this will have a trip to conservation to restore it back to its former glory.

If you have enjoyed reading about nautical charts then more can be found here  , a blog telling the story of a chart made for Samuel Pepys, while a blog about a map made by fellow diarist John Evelyn for Pepys can be found here , and a blog about beautifully engraved French charts can be found here

*203 g.233. c.1756

A new chart of the Southern Coast of Africa, from The Cape of Good Hope to Dalagoa Bay; including The Bank of Cape Agulhas, its soundings, currents within and without & c. 1794 620.11 t 2 (2)

 

Road maps, but not as you’d imagine

Two contrasting road maps from the early to mid 1700s. One, by ‘Emanuel Bowen, Geographer to his most Sacred Majesty K. George the 2nd’ is straightforward. By including approximate coastlines and county boundaries Bowen is able to map roads in a conventional way, as in they go where you’d imagine them to.

A new and accurate maps of the roads of England, 1748. Gough Maps England and Wales 29

This certainly isn’t the case with the second map. George Wildey, selling prints and maps from the ‘west end of St. Paul’s Churchyard’,  sets out in linear form a guide which ignores the natural curves of the roads shown and includes in order the towns passed through on main and side routes. The map also includes information on market days, distances between towns and if the town or city has a special status (university, post town, bishopric).  With it’s straight lines it could almost be a map of the Roman roads.

The grand roads of England c1720. Gough Maps England and Wales 18

Bowen shows things geographically and with roads crossing over other roads, as they do on the ground, meaning locations aren’t forced to appear out of place. On the Wildey map because of the rigid need to show things in a straight line and to keep things as clear as possible locations, especially in the crowded western side of the map, are forced into strange places. Wildey also doesn’t show distances between places, instead he gives an idea only by the miles between one location and the next. Take Bristol. This busy port appears as expected on a route coming west out of London which when it gets to the city branches out to Exeter and Banbury. Bristol also appears at the top left, at the end of a route that leaves Chester travelling south through Ludlow and Hereford. This Bristol is located on the map between Hollyhead and Hollywell (Holyhead and Holywell) in North Wales. Gloucester as well crops up in a few stranger places, and again it’s when side routes branch out from hub cities. Wildey’s map becomes less a cartographic object and more an itinerary, a list showing to get here you need to first go here, and here, and here.

According to the text in the cartouche Bowen’s map is made ‘according to Ogilby’s survey’. This is the famous  set of maps published in 1675 by John Ogilby. We blogged about his remarkable life, the maps that made him famous and the possible hidden agenda behind them here http://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/maps/2020/11/12/measuring-distances-a-wheel-or-a-chain/ 

Bowen’s map does include some cartographic peculiarities. Shipping routes across the Channel to join up with Calais and Helevoet Sluys (now Hellevoetsluis, South Holland) show as if they are roads across the sea, in the case of Calais an early taster for a later tunnel under the water. Bowen also includes notes on features to look out for when travelling, ‘Remarkable things worthy a curious traveller’s observations on some of the principal roads described in this map’. For instance, ‘Near Basingstoke is Basing House belonging to the D. of Bolton. Tis famous in history for withstanding several sieges in the beginning of the Civil War till at last was taken in storm by Cromwell and burnt. His being enraged at the words LOVE LOYALTY wrote with a dyamond in all its windows’.

Wildey’s map appears confusing and unconventional but the theory behind it is good and has survived today in maps which show information such as travel routes where the need to give clear information overrides any need for geographical accuracy. The most famous example being also one of the most used maps to have been published, the London Underground map.

 

Same but different

Location names get repeated throughout the World. Old and New York, Egyptian and Elvis Memphis, the list goes on and on. No one pair or group can have such a distance between them, and such a difference in what they are, as the Milky Way.

Der Südliche Sternenhimmel, c1899. A1 (42)

The Milky Way is one part of the Spiral Galaxy that includes our Solar System. Stars in their billions, so numerous that they appear as a river of milky light in the night sky. It is thought that there are as many planets as stars amongst the light. As with everything in the Universe size and distance defies belief, the width of the Milky way visible from Earth is 1000 light years across (light travels at 186,282 miles per second, 299,792 km, so in one year light travels 5.88 trillion miles, 9.46 trillion km. A trillion is one million million).

Here’s the Milky Way in two maps. First is a German map of the Southern Hemisphere from circa 1899 by the prolific Justus Perthes publishing house in Gotha. And then a later English map of the Northern Hemisphere from George Philip and Son in 1959. This is one part of a larger map which includes an equivalent  map of the Southern Hemisphere, a larger map of the Middle Heavens and lists and charts of stars and clusters. It’s easier to see from the Philip map how the Milky Way got its name.

Philips’ Chart of the Stars, A1 (10), 1959

The Milky Way is also a narrow bit of water between Noir and Kempe Islands at the western side of the Tierra del Fuego. It gets its name for the same reason, a milky appearance from a frothy stretch of white water. A book published in 1847, the North and South Atlantic Memoir, describes it as ‘a space of sea, in every part of which rocks are seen just awash with, or a few feet above, the water; on them the sea continually breaks’. The gentle name belies a dangerous passage between the islands with rocks clearly seen on the chart, a danger to any passing ship.

This extract comes from an Admiralty Chart of the Magellan Strait from 1887. The names on the chart give an indication of the hard landscape and dangerous sailing which abound. ‘Useless Bay’, ‘Desolate Bay’, ‘Famine Reach’, and the high number of narrow channels, many of which lead to a dead-end, show how hard it must have been for early explorers to navigate as opposed to sailing round Cape Horn. No wonder Magellan took so long to find a passage through.

Magellan Strait (formerly Magalhaen) sht 554, 1887

This chart shows the skills involved of the surveyors who measured, took soundings, kept records as well as lived onboard ship in such a harsh environment and the cartographers who then transferred this jumble of information on to a map. One of these surveyors was Commander Robert Fitzroy, of His Majesties Ship Beagle. This was Fitzroy’s first journey through Tierra del Fuego, his second, and more famous, was with Charles Darwin aboard as a companion and scientific officer. It was on this voyage that Darwin, after making numerous studies on the natural history of the lands explored on the voyage formed his theory of natural selection. In his book ‘The Voyage of the Beagle’ Darwin wrote ‘We passed out between the East and West Furries: and a little further northward there are so many breakers that the sea is called the Milky Way. One sight of such a coast is enough to make a landsman dream for a week about shipwrecks, peril and death…’. Fitzroy went on to become an expert on meteorology, forming what would become the Met office in 1854 and created ways to predict weather patterns, something which he gave a new name to, forecasts. A fervent Christian Fitzroy was horrified by the publication of Darwin’s ‘Origin of the Species’, the effect it would have religious beliefs and his role in helping Darwin form his theories by taking him on the Beagle voyage. Depression ran in his family, and Darwin’s fame together with financial difficulties and trouble with the Met Office led to Fitzroy taking his own life in April 1865.

Darwin’s importance can be seen in this  extract from the chart, with Darwin Sound and Beagle Channel appearing on a map just under 30 years after Darwin published his ground-breaking work.