Author Archives: stuart

The open road

A mixture of post-war affluence and cheap oil meant that by the mid-1950s the majority of American families owned their own car. Oil companies such as Esso, Shell and Associated Oil produced free highway maps with covers that portrayed an idyllic way of life made possible by the motor car, selling the dream of the open road to those mobile enough to seek it out. These images come from maps produced between 1950 and 1965.

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Fortifications

Renaissance fortifications map well. Clear lines, often in a symmetrical pattern, stand-out amongst any other topographic detail on display. Such beauty of design has come down to us at a cost of necessity though. Plans were born out of the need to counter the threat from a new type of warfare as cannon balls wrecked havoc on the old castle walls.

The radical design change from castle to fort came about in fifteenth century Italy, when French troops involved in the Great Italian Wars used cannon against castles. When older fortifications crumbled against the onslaught Italian engineers, including Michelangelo in Florence, designed new fortifications which soon became the standard across Europe. The sharp angles and triangular bastions of the new design deflected incoming artillery, and gave the new structures their name, Star Forts. With their angled walls and triangular bastions star forts also had the additional benefit of funnelling attacking troops into narrow spaces where enfilading fire rained down on them from within the fort. With these angled walls there was now no longer any place in which defending troops couldn’t direct fire.

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Freiburg, in South West Germany, a classic example of a star fort incorporating water from the Dreisam river in its defences. Image from ‘Graphische Beilagen zum…des werkes feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen von Savoyen. C1 a.7

With the new design of the star fort architects and engineers no longer needed to make the best of the landscape. Previously hills were used to build castles on, the steep slopes were hard to attack and with the only weapon available before the cannon  being the arrow shot from a bow the high walls and steep sides made defence easy. Now forts could be placed anywhere, making good use of the commerce and transport that rivers brought. Cities soon grew in and alongside the forts.

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Image of a canon called a Bombenmorser and bomb from Graphische Beilagen zum

One of the main elements to the new design was the use of low walls, giving less of an area for cannon balls to strike. Earthen banks were thrown up in front of the walls to deaden the impact of artillery but this would have, in theory, made it easier for troops to break into the fort. To counteract this ditches were dug in front of the banks, creating a steep slope and thus slowing down any advance. In the picture below, of Graz in Austria shows the ditches and banks used in the construction of a fort (image from Graphische Beilagen…). 

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Another example of a star fort is that of Neuhausel, originally in the Hungarian Empire but now in Slovakia and named Nove Zamky. The fort was originally built to defend the city against the troops of the Ottoman Empire. This picture, again from the Graphische Beilagen…, shows the fort under bombardment

aerial and panormaic view

This radical new approach to the construction of defences was supported by a growth in literature about the design of the fortifications. Focusing on the geometry of the design, the engineering of the construction and the military benefits of attack and defence the publications were one of the many sciences which blossomed at the time of the Renaissance. The next two images come from Les Travaux de Mars ou l’art de Guerre’, by Allain Manesson Mallet, published in France in 1696. The first shows the different designs now available to the military engineer, and interestingly compares modern to ancient fortifications. The second is a lesson in geometry, with a timely reminder underneath of what all this abstract paper work leads to.

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This image come from Introduction a’ la Fortification, by Nicolas de Fer in Paris in 1690, again showing designs of fortifications.

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To finish, this beautiful map of Portsmouth, a long established naval port, from circa 1716,

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The ichnography of Portsmouth, c.1716. Gough Maps Hampshire 10

Ichnography is another term for a ground plan. The map is a very good example of a coastal plan of the time, featuring a compass rose and naval scene, and to add to this blog, particularly fine defensive walls.

 

Aerodromes

While replacing some Ordnance Survey sheets in drawers in the storage area of the Weston Library recently map staff were intrigued by a feature on the map at the top of the pile. The map,  Anglesey XVIII.1 from the third edition 1:2,500 series dated 1920, is of part of rural Anglesey, which made the appearance of an Aerodrome in the middle of a field stand out.

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Reading about war-time Anglesey soon gave an answer to the mystery. Llangefni Royal Naval Airship Station was built in 1915 in response to the heavy losses caused by U-boats attacking shipping in the Irish Sea. As well as the airship shed shown on the map other buildings included accommodation for crew, workshops and gas holders. These buildings were presumably taken down at the end of the war. 100 years after the opening of the aerodrome the site is still in use by the RAF.

Llangefni originally had 4 Sea Scout airships, the type designated for patrolling coastal waters, going as far across as Dublin and as far north as Morecombe Bay. Despite getting more advanced airships during 1917 the sinking of shipping by U-boats continued into 1918, with attendant loss of life and cargo. It was only during the summer of 1918 that the U-boat threat eased, as more airships and aeroplanes were added to the existing deployment at Llangefni and other aerodromes came into use.

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Extract from ‘The Submarine Blockade, supplement to the National Review, April, 1917′, showing the area of U-boat range.                                                                                                                              C1 (996)

The 25 inch to a mile (1:2,500) mapping carried out by the Ordnance Survey towards the end of the 1800s is one of the treasures of the map collection at the Bodleian. A detailed coverage of the countries of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland in a number of editions going up to the time of the Second World War the maps are crucial documents to a changing landscape at a time of great growth of towns and cities. The example shown here is from the 3rd edition. In this case there were no more maps produced for the area at this scale until the 1970s, a common occurrence for rural areas.

Anglesey XVIII.1, 3rd ed 1:2,500. Ordnance Survey, 1920.

A battle plan from the Second Opium War

Sketch illustrating the action fought on the 18th of September 1860… is an example of a type of map called a Battle Plan. Created by historians to illustrate books on campaigns these types of map have also been used for educational purposes or for items for sale to the general public. The Bodleian holds in its collection a large number of such plans; the Napoleonic wars, the American Civil War and numerous colonial conflicts in Africa are just a few examples available to consult. This plan is of the  battle of Chang-Chia-Wan, fought between French and British forces and the Chinese between 1857 and 1860 during the Second Opium War over trade restrictions, hostility to British settlers and the selling of opium in the West.

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Divisions are indicated by the rectangular blocks and troop and cavalry movements shown by lines of advance. The use of the rectangular box to indicate units of troops is a long established practise which continued up to and past the Second World War, the main difference between the old and the new being that divisions got bigger as the areas of conflict grew, and maps as detailed as this, which has a scale of 2 inches to a mile, become less relevant as whole fronts are depicted.

Judging by the marble design on the verso of the map and the tag (not shown) at the top of the map this is most probably a fold-out from a book. Single sheet maps from the time don’t usually have the elaborate marble pattern on the back that this one has.

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Marbling is created when paints are floated onto a gum solution and then swirled into patterns, paper is then laid on top of the pattern which is transferred on to the paper and then dried.

It is interesting to note that the map is lithographed by Col. Sir Henry James, Director-General of the Ordnance Survey. A second map from the Opium Wars shows the situation between the 1st and 21st of August and the taking of the Taku forts (D5:17 (30)).

Sketch illustrating the action fought on the 18th of September, 1860 by the allied armies in China taken from the road survey made by Lieut: Colonel Wolseley, D.A.Q.M.G. and Lieut: Harrison, Rl. Engineers [1861]. D5:17 (29)

 

The view from Mont Blanc

At 628 centimetres this view from the summit of Mont Blanc is, after the Sheldon Tapestry, the longest map held in the Bodleian collection.

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This panoramic view has been created by joining together the 13 sheets and title page from a collection of views of, and from, Mont Blanc. Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the Alps, and forms part of the border between Italy and France. Part of the view includes the tracks to the summit made by the illustrator, Paul Helbronner, a major figure in the cartography of the French Alps.

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Panoramic views are a popular way of showing mountains on maps, and give a better idea of height than the usual use of contours, hachures or shading found on normal topographic maps. Another example can be seen in an earlier blog post (http://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/maps/2014/05/)

oblongFeatured in this photograph is the MacKerras Reading Room, on the 1st floor of the Weston Library. This is the Music Reading Room, and has books on music, composers and scores on the shelves.  The MacKerras is part of the Special Collections group of rooms and, along with the Rare Books Reading Room is where manuscripts, modern papers and rare material, as well as music books, are consulted.

Tour d’horizon complet du sommet du Mont Blanc (4807m), from Description géométrique détaillée des Alpes Français, published in Paris in 1921. 20485 a.8

Pepys and the Navy

pepysThis map, dated 1686, is the work of Capt. Greenville Collins, Hydrographer to Charles II. Between 1681 and 1688 Collins surveyed the coast of Britain, eventually bringing out an atlas based on this work, Great Britain’s Coasting Pilot; being a new and exact survey of the sea coasts of England, Scotland, and the chief harbours of Ireland… in 1693. This work, which was the first proper survey of the whole coastline, proved to be sufficiently accurate to be still used over a hundred years later. While some were critical of Collins’s maps considering the limitations imposed on survey work of the time they are remarkably accurate, as can be seen in comparison with a later Admiralty Chart of the area published in 1876 (Collins’s map is aligned with west at the top). The tools available to Collins were measuring chains, compasses and lead lines for measuring depths, all of which should ideally be used on a flat and stable surface, things hard to come by on board ship. Navigators on ship would use the lines radiating out from the compass rose (the arrow on a compass rose indicates north) and other points as well as the leading mark lines, which are aligned with prominent landmarks, to find safe passage around a coastal region with numerous hazards; sand-banks, rocks and narrow channels are an obvious example on the map. The numbers are soundings, showing the depth of water at given points.

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Extract from England – East Coast, Harwich approaches, Published at the Admiralty 3rd June 1876. Sheet 2025.cartouche pepys

Admiralty charts such as the example here were first published in the early 1800s and continue to be published to this day. They make up the greatest part of the yearly intake of maps into the Bodleian.

The map, as well as being an important example of an early Naval chart, is also of interest due to the dedication in the cartouche. The map is dedicated to Samuel Pepys, who was made Secretary to the Admiralty in 1673, four years after deciding to end his diary writing after concerns about his eyesight.

 

The cartouche is richly decorated in the style of the time, with fish, shells and a lobster to highlight the nautical theme of the map while the two figures above the dedication by Collins to Pepys are putti. Often winged these chubby children represent here the surveying work that went into the creating of the map, evidence of which is shown amongst the fish and shells.

 

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

A Christmas mystery

A set of four maps of the Jura region of France came into the Map Office recently, dating from 1844. The maps are fine, in black and white with relief shown in hachures and when joined together measure nearly two metres by one and a half. The mystery comes in the folder they came in.

Stuck onto the inside cover are two photographs, one of a city scene in what looks like Eastern or Central Europe while the second shows a woman, named Katia Wolkoff. Does anyone recognize the city? If so email maps@bodleian.ox.ac.uk, we’re keen to find out.

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When the name Katia Wolkoff is googled you get an extract from the Daily News from September 1920. John Maladoff of Tiflis, passing himself off as a Military Attache in Italy, accompained by ‘a beautiful Russian Woman, Katia Cocenko Wolkoff’ after giving faked letters of introduction manage to first of all to befriend and then rob and defraud a number of wealthy families in Milan, before making good their escape. Could this be the same Katia is in our photograph?

Many thanks to those who have replied to give us an answer to our question. The city in the picture is Lübeck in Germany.

 

Recycling

Paper shortages during the Second World War meant that large numbers of maps were re-used to produce new sheets on the backs of older copies. While for the most part this meant that cartographic departments of various armies, the Geographical Section General Staff for the British and the Generalstab des Heeres for the Germans amongst others, would use old stock from their collections towards the end of the war Allied forces began to capture large areas of land formly occupied by Axis troops, and with this also captured large amounts of enemy resources, including maps.

With the push into Germany starting in late 1944 the need for large scale detailed mapping of the country became clear, and this is one of the sheets produced by the G.S.G.S. at 1:25,000 scale. The example here is one of a set of over 2,500 sheets.

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But what marks this sheet out from all the others is what is on reverse. When you turn the map over you find, overprinted with thick blue lines and the word ‘Cancelled’, is part of a map which made up a series made by the German Army in preparation for the planned invasion of England in 1941. With perfect symmetry you have an map for the invasion of Germany printed by the British War Office printed on the back of part of a sheet published 3 years before by the Germany Army for the invasion of Britain.

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Germany 1:25,000. Geographical Section, General Staff No. 4414. Published in 1945 by the War Office. C22 (15a), sheet 1321.

 

Ships

Many maps from the late sixteenth century feature ships and sea monsters in and on the oceans. With a large amount of surface taken up by water cartographers used these images as an embellishment to make the map more attractive, but there are other reasons for such decoration; at the time many people believed in the existence of such creatures so to feature

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monsters from the deep would be as natural as portarying an Elephant in Africa, while the opening up of trade with foreign lands and voyages of discovery made sea travel an important part of late Medieval and Tudor times.

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This recent addition to the Bodleian collection, Britannicarum Insularum… by Abraham Ortelius,

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has in its top left corner one of the more dramatic images of shipping to be found amongst the maps held. In a cloud of smoke and explosion a sea battle takes place as a smaller ship advances, firing from the bow and flying what appears to be a flag of Denmark.

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Abraham Ortelius was a Flemish cartographer who started publishing maps and atlases in 1564, this map comes from an atlas of ancient and classical history called the Parergon, and shows the British Isles with British tribes and Roman features, including both Hadrian’s and the Antonine

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Walls and was published in 1590. This would date the map to the time of the Spanish Armada, which set sail in 1588. As the Spanish fleet rounded the North coast of Scotland and started to sail down past Ireland fierce storms sunk many of the ships, though there was no battle of the type depicted on Ortelius’s map.

Britannicarum Insularen Vetus Descriptio…, 1590. Ortelius, A. (E) C15 (971)

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This image of a sea-horse off the coast of Iceland comes from a lavishily illustrated copy of Abraham Oretlius’s Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, published in London in 1606. The sea-horse is described as ‘often dothe fisherman great hurt and skare’. The picture of the Mermaid holding the flag of the Isle of Man at the start of this piece also comes from Ortelius.

Douce O. Subt. 15

 

 

Kiel Canal, flags and naval expansion

To mark the opening of the Kiel Canal in June 1895 Kaiser Wilhelm II and the German Government held a regatta at the entrance to the canal, and invited representatives from the nations whose flags, pennants and ensigns are shown in the panel on the right of the map featured here, including Britain, Spain, France, the United States and Italy, to take part.

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The map shows the ships of the different nations lying at anchor in the Kiel Fjord. Those with crowned heads of state onboard are indicated by the large crown symbol, ships with lesser members of royalty by a smaller crown.

The Kiel Canal is an important link between the Baltic and North Seas, and when completed enabled German ships to move between the two without making the long and often stormy passage around the coast of Denmark. Two years after the 1895 celebrations Germany began to enlarge its navy. By 1905 it had replaced the navies of both France and Russia as the benchmark in which the strength of the British navy was measured. By 1912 Admiral Tirpitz, Head of the German Naval Office, ‘insisted that Germany could not fight a war at sea until the widening of the Kiel Canal was completed’. In 1914 the canal was widened to finally be able to allow the passage of Dreadnought battleships through from the Baltic to the North Sea.

Der Kieler Hafen - 1895

This map, ‘Der Kieler Hafen : mit den ankerplätzen der zur feierlichen eröffnung des Nord-Ostsee-kanals im Juni 1895 in Kiel anwesenden kriegsschiffe’ was published in 1895 at a scale of  ca.1:20,000 by Lipsius & Tischer in Kiel. The shelf mark for the map is C22:28 (74).