Author Archives: stuart

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.

kiel jpg

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).


Maps showing the spread of disease first appeared in the United States towards the end of the 1700s and used spots to showing the location of individual cases of disease. The most famous example of such a map was created by John Snow, in his book On the mode of Communication in Cholera (1855). Originally published in 1849, this later edition dealt with a notorious outbreak of cholera in the Soho district of London the previous year, which killed 616 people.

The Bodleian holds a similar map by Dr H. Acland and shows the outbreaks in 1832, 1849 and 1854 of cholera in the St Clements and St Ebbe’s areas of Oxford. By mapping the deaths in London and Oxford Acland and Snow were able to show that all shared a common link, the local water pump, proving how water was the medium through which cholera spread which as a result improved the sanitation in many areas of poor and working class housing.


Map of Oxford, to illustrate Dr. Acland’s Memoir on cholera in Oxford in 1854, : showing the localities in which cholera & choleraic diarrhœa occurred in 1854, and cholera in 1832 & 1849; together with the parts of the town described as unhealthy, by Omerod, Greenhill & Allen, and a writer in the Oxford Herald; the parts remedied since the date of their descriptions; the districts still undrained; the parts of the river still contaminated by sewers, in 1855.                                                                               C17:70 Oxford (15)

Among the many maps showing disease in the collection are a number showing the spread of Tsetse Flies in Central and Southern Africa. Tsetse flies feed on the blood of cattle, which has serious consequences for the lives of farmers in the regions were the flies are wide-spread, as infected animals produce little or no milk, their manure is too weak to fertilize already poor soil and the bites can often lead to the death of the animal. Tsetse Flies also cause sleeping sickness in humans, which can lead to disability or premature death.

Featured here are extracts from two maps. Both show the spread of the Tsete Fly, and are of Zambia and an area of Africa which was called German East Africa up till the end of the First World War, and now covers Burundi, Rwanda and a large part of Tanzania.

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(Reverse of) The Republic of Zambia, Tsetse Fly Distribution, 1968. Ministry of Lands and Mines, Zambia. E43 (200)

Both are conventional thematic maps showing the spread of the flies by shading. What is different from other disease maps in the collection is that both feature proment images of the Tsetse Fly.

tsetse 1

German East Fly Map, 1915, Published by Topographical Section, General Staff, South Africa.     E11 (217)

Both images bring to mind the picture of the fly from Robert Hooke’s famous book Micrographia,

fly RH

first published in 1665. Hooke’s work was the first book to show insects and other minute objects as seen through microscopes and also the first published work to use the term cells.




Planning the Allied invasion of France.

The extracts of the two maps shown here are from a number of maps recently catalogued and added to the collection which were published by Allied Forces to help with the invasion of France, and feature coastal towns on both the North East and South West coast. Both sheets are from earlier published sets by the cartographic wing of the British Army, the Geographical Section, General staff which have been overprinted with additional information on enemy defences.

The Calais map is of particular interest. The defence information was added to the map as late as the 12th of September, just 13 days before the Allies attacked the town. Confirmed information is in blue, unconfirmed in red. Information was gathered from a number of sources, including aerial photogaphy and resistance work. Calais, along with other port towns on the North West coast of France and Belgium, had been heavily defended by the German Army, who believed that any invasion by Allied troops would be at this point.


As well as the large amount of information on the front of the map further details are given on the reverse. As well as a full legend descriptions of defences are given in English and French and diagrams of gun emplacements, as shown here.



The beauty of the Portolan

Portolan Charts are navigational aids used by seafarers from the thirteenth century through to the 1800’s, by which time Naval charts had begun to be produced, and published in number.  The majority of portolans are produced on vellum – an animal skin which has been scraped clean and then stretched out on a rack – with some charts attached to boards and folded. Printed charts begin to appear in the early 1500s. Naviagtion is by use of rhumb lines and compass points,  by taking readings of compass directions and speed to determine the course needed to be set.


Page of portolan showing coasts of part of Britain, Ireland, France and Northern Spain

Portolans are often objects of great skill and beauty, and are an early and evocative record of the start of discovery by European explorers.  The images shown here are from the earliest Portolan in the Bodleian, dating from the early 1400’s.  This portolan is  drawn onto vellum and then backed onto a wooden board and shows, over seven charts, the areas of the Mediterranean Sea, the European Atlantic coast and the Black Sea.

IMG_0069 - Copy

Page of portolan showing Italy and Sicily

Though the portolan gives no details of production it is believed to have been produced in Venice and came to the library in 1834 as part of the Douce collection.


Front cover

Portolan charts are often heavily decorated. Ships sail the oceans, wonderful creatures inhabit the lands and some feature the Madonna and Child. Compass roses can often be very eleborate, sometimes including gold leaf in the design.


Inside front cover showng Annunciation

While the charts featured in this portolan are not as decorated as later charts held in the Bodleian the cover, front and back inner sleeves are beautifully created works of art. The cover is a wooden board inlaid with ivory and coloured stone while the inner sleeve shows the Annunciation, with the Angel Gabriel telling Mary of the immaculate conception while the back features Saint Mark, patron Saint of Venice and Saint Paul.


Inside back cover showing Saints Mark and Paul

The portolan was originally enclosed in a leather embossed slip-case, and would have been used by sailors navigating the seas and oceans shown on the maps. The portolan, leather case and notes are now housed separately in a specially made box.


Front of slip-case

Items belonging to Francis Douce were donated to the Library after his death in 1834. Douce was for a time Keeper of Manuscripts at the British Museum so the Bodleian is lucky to have his collection of books, manuscripts and other items, numbering over 19,000 volumes.

Untitled book of seven portolans, early fifteenth century, possibly Venice. MS Douce 390

The Type ‘Q’ Sailing Dinghy

This piece on maps related to the Q Type Dinghy was submitted by a volunteer working in the Map Department

Working as a volunteer in the Map Room in the Weston Library may not be your forte but I can assure you having been doing just that for the last 2 years life is full of surprises. This week we received an embroidered map of London done by soldiers working for the Disabled Soldiers Embroidery Industry set up to help those recovering from action in WW1. Earlier, I was shown documentation about the ‘Q’ Type Sailing Dinghy, an inflatable sailing dinghy used during WW2, which is of particular interest to me as an ex-navigator on maritime Shackletons and Nimrods. One of our primary tasks was Search and Rescue. There were always crews on standby ready to fly and help those in danger at sea whether they be people in ships or yachts in difficulty or aircraft that had ditched. In our aircraft’s bomb bay we carried Lindholme gear which was basically 3 buoyant containers joined by 400 metres of cord, one container had a dinghy in it which would inflate on impact, and the other containers were filled survival rations and equipment. The dinghy had a sea anchor which meant that it would stay roughly where it had been dropped but its position would, of course, be affected by the strength of the local wind and current. The survivors would be rescued by shipping diverted to the scene.


The philosophy behind the ‘Q’ Type Sailing Dinghy, which, as I have mentioned, was in use in WW2, was somewhat different. The dinghy was packed into similar Lindholme gear and dropped to the survivors. However, rather than the survivors ‘sitting tight’ they were expected to sail the dinghy to the nearest land. To do this the instructions, on silk, were comprehensive and included in the dinghy pack. There was a diagram of a fully rigged dinghy with mast, mainsail, foresail, rudder and keel plus a weather cover. There were instructions about how to rig the 4 piece mast, set the sails, general sailing guidance and advice about when to reef the sails. Attached to these instructions, also on silk, were maps of the eastern Atlantic from Northern Norway to the Cape Verde Islands and Iceland. The maps and instructions were all just 12 x 13 inches pinned together in the top left hand corner. The maps were produced by the Sea Rescue Equipment Drawing office and based on the GSGS 4080 plotting series which uses the Mercator projection and landmass heights are shown in metres. There is a compass rose and the lines of magnetic variation are as in 1942. A variable ruler showing statute miles is included alongside the left hand margin.


I do wonder how practical the idea of sailing back to land really was. From experience the Atlantic Ocean is rarely smooth and rigging the dinghy would have been a hazardous occupation. One of the instructions was: ‘don’t stand up in the dinghy as you will make it unstable!’ In any survival situation protection from the elements is the most important thing, especially a cold, windy, wet Atlantic. And navigating back to land, well the dinghy had a compass and knowing roughly your location it should be possible to steer he dinghy roughly in the right direction. Perhaps, psychologically, the possibility of being able to sail back was all important with the chance of being picked up by a ship on the way. Or perhaps, when sitting in the dinghy, it was a case of, ‘Give me a map and I am content’ (Wainwright A. 1938).


Map images from A set of charts showing the coasts of Europe and North Africa, printed on cloth. Published by ‘Sea Rescue Equipment Drawing Office, (F) K1:2 (5)

The following images come from a diagram on the use of the Q type provided by the Royal Air Force Museum. According to Air Historical Branch monograph Air/Sea Rescue issued in 1952 ‘the Q type seems to have been introduced in early 1943 and by the end of that year had been cleared for use in the Whitley, Wellington, Warwick, Lancaster and Halifax – it seems not to have been used in the Lindholme Gear. The lateen rig version replaced a more complex sail plan in 1944’.

dinghy 1







Parallax is a way of determining distances and heights by measuring the angles of a certain point from different locations. Once you have the angles from two points you can then work out the distance by working out the third angle of a triangle and measuring the sides. Amongst other uses parallax is the method in which the distance to stars is measured.

Parallax is also the title of a recent donation to the Map Room, Parallax without tears, the determination of heights from vertical airphotographs

parallax 1

and published in the war years by the Royal Canadian Engineers. Using a giant as an example, the booklet teaches how to measure heights by the use of aerial photograph, the giants eyes

parallax 2

becoming the camera eye with pictures taken from different angles of the object to be measured.

parallax 3

Pictorial representation of transport, or nice pictures of ships, planes and trains

Amongst some recent donations to the Map Room have been some maps featuring planes. One appears on an Air Routes map by British European Airways. As well as the air routes and planes

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BEA International Air Routes, 1954. C1 (1020)


extract from BEA map

the map also works as a tourist guide, showing areas of interest and local customs and peoples. The map goes as far south as North Africa and far enough east to include the Middle East, to continue the transport theme camel trains are featured

cara - Copy

extract from BEA map

The second image comes from a road map of Queensland from circa 1950, which evokes images of Tintin and dashing adventures.

quensland - Copy

[Extract from] Vacuum Road Map of Queensland, c1950. I3:20 (61)

More planes feature in this extract from a map of the travels of Prime Minister Winston Churchill during the Second World War. The map plots the routes taken by Churchill to the various conferences and meetings between the leaders of the three great allied powers.

church 1


church 2

[Extracts from] Dunkirk to Berlin, June 1940 – July 1945. Journeys undertaken by the Rt. Honble. Winston S. Churchill, O.M., C.H., F.R.S., M.P., Prime Minister of Great Britain in defence of the British Commonwealth and Empire, 1947. B2 (101)

Early maps of railways sometimes included images of steam engines, we give two particularly good examples here

railway 2

Drake’s map of the Grand Junction Railway, 1839. (E)C17:5 (18)


Cheffin’s Map of the English and Scotch Railways (Facs), 1845. (E)C16 (359)

Ships feature heavily in maps of the country and any coastal county published before the coming of the railways, signifying the importance of Britain’s reliance on both trade and naval power.

ships 2

[Extract from] England and Wales…by John Rocque, in four sheets, c1761. Gough Maps England and Wales 34

shiops off isle of wight

[Extract from] Hampshire and the Isle of Wight by E. Bowen, 1767. Gough Maps Hampshire 5

plymouth ships

A geometrical plan…H.M.’s dockyard, nr. Plymouth, 1756. Gough Maps Devon 7

To show that road maps are no a modern invention this extract comes from a 1809 map showing stagecoach routes. There are a large number of stagecoach maps in the Bodleian collection, this is one of the few that actually has the mode of transport featured on the map itself


[Extract from] Bowles Road Director through England and Wales…, 1809. (E)C17 (115)

The final map featured shows a more serious scene. In an extract from a map published circa 1746 and showing events from the Jacobite Rising of 1745 two ships are engaged in battle at

ships 3a

[Extract from] Map showing routes of Prince Charles, c1746. Gough Maps British Isles 23.

close quarters off the South-West coast.


A list of selected accessions to the map collection in June 2015

Map of the ancient glaciers of Sequoia National Park, Sierra Nevada, California. 1965. Published by the U.S. Geological Survey. F6:13 (191)

Topographic map of the Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. 1927. U.S. Geological Survey, F6:11 (62)

Map of Queensland showing annual rainfall to end of 1899. c1900. I3:20 (54)

Plan of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. 1892. Ordnance Survey. D26:20 Jerusalem (45)

Railway administration map of the railway system in the Russian Empire, showing the estimated maximum traffic capacity, based upon the actual traffic during the winter period of 1916-17, 1918. Ordnance Survey. With various insets showing junctions etc. C40 (434).

Mean annual rainfall of Australia…1887. Scottish Geographical magazine. I3 (327)

A diagrammatic map of part of the Tigre Province, Ethiopia, showing positions of rock-hewn churches, 1974. Manuscript map. (MS) E3:20 (22)

Map of the Klondike Goldfields, Yukon District, 1900. Geological Survey of Canada. F4:23 (31)

Brisbane River, Victoria Bridge to Fairway Light, 1902. Harbours and Rivers Department of Queensland. I3:50 Brisbane (15)

First World War mapping and the Bodleian

Trench maps are an important source of information regarding topography, defences and changes in the position of front-lines in the First Wold War. They are also, for those looking back at the war from the distance that 100 years brings, a stark representation of how close enemy forces were to each other. Detailed maps such as the one shown here reveal a no-mans land often less than 100 metres across. At first maps were based on existing French and Belgian pre-war sheets, but problems with marrying up scales and grids used on these sheets meant that by late 1914 the War Office and the Ordnance Survey took over production of trench maps, and from then until the end of the war a large number of sheets of different scales and designs were published to meet the varying demands of the British Army.

The development of trench warfare in late 1914 meant a fairly static front-line position. This, along with increasing importance in the use of artillery, led to both a need for accurate mapping of enemy positions and the time in which to produce the maps. Trenches that did not move and positions that stayed stable for months at a time meant that surveying, mainly by aerial observation and photography, produced maps that were often available before any changes in territory held made them obsolete, though this was not always the case during the major offensives launched later in the war. For instance, a map produced by the War Office for the Passchendaele area went through 9 different editions during the 3rd Battle of Ypres between July and December 1917.

trench map scan

Fonquevillers, 57D N.E., sheets 1 & 2 (parts of), G.S.G.S. 3602. 1917. C1 (3) [1449]

The map featured here, sheet 57D N.E. parts 1 & 2, is one sheet in a large series covering the Western Front in great detail, at a scale of 1:10,000. For security reasons only the front-lines of the British trenches are shown while the full scale of the German trenches are clearly defined in red. Grid numbers and then numbers in circles at junctions and angles of enemy trenches are for artillery purposes.

Forty-one members of staff left the Bodleian Library to take part in the war. Up until the start of 1917 all were safe but by the appearance of the first issue of the Bodleian Quarterly Review for 1917 this was no longer the case. ‘The immunity of the members of staff on military service from serious injury has been sadly broken by the death of Lieut. R.A. Abrams…who fell while gallantly discharging his duty on the Western Front on March 4 last, aged 28’. Abrams and a fellow solider were reconnoitring near La Brayelle Farm, in between Gommecourt and Essarts on the map, when both were killed by enemy fire. Abrams death in action was followed later that year by a second Bodleian employee, Lieut. H.J. Dunn, also 28, on November the 26th.


Title page from ‘The Sherwood Foresters in the Great War…’, 1920. 22281 e.1305.

A large number of books were produced in the years immediatly after the War by Battalions detailing the part they played in the conflict. The Sherwood Foresters book can be read as a diary of events set down in chronological order and includes plans and photographs


to accompany the text. The above plan shows the area in the Trench map shown earlier and is also mentioned in the previous page in the book with reference to the death of Lieut. Abrams.


As well as British produced maps the Bodleian holds maps by the French and German armies of the Western Front and Allied and Turkish trench maps from the Gallipoli campaign in 1916.



This June marks the 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo, fought between the 15th to 18th of June 1815. With the defeat of Napeleon by a combined army led by the Duke of Wellington peace was finally restored to Europe after 10 years of fighting following the French Revolution in 1792.


Bataille de Waterloo. PLan de Champs de Bataille de Waterloo dit de la Belle-Alliance. Victoire memorable remportee le 18 Juin 1815, par les armees alliees sous les ordres de S.S. le Duc de Wellington et de S.A. le Prince Blucher de Wahlstadt sur l’Armee Francaise commandee par Napoleon. Published in Belgium in 1816 and comes with sheet of explanatory text, (E) C28:11 (3)

Waterloo has been mapped a number of times since 1815, the Bodleian shows here just two from a number in the map collection, one English and one in French. Both are laid out in a standard cartographic way of depicting armies and formations by using blocks to represent troop positions (coloured depending on Allied or French), topograhy is presented by using hachures to show hills and slopes and the key places are mentioned. The main difference between the two maps is that the french map, published in Belgium a year after the battle, is of the day and hence has to show troop movements throughout the day, indicated here by broken lines and directional arrows. The later English map, concentrating as it does on a particular and crucial point of the battlet, is less cluttered and easier to follow. Both maps come with accompanying text.


Field of Waterloo, towards sunset on June 18th 1815, from ‘A voice from Waterloo..’ published in 1847. The map shows the positions of the opposing forces as the Prussian forces joined the fight and turned the course of the battle away from the French. The map includes, as well as field positions, an index of the key points and events on the day. (E) C28:11 (1)

Waterloo and the wars fought by Napeleon and the French since 1792 feature heavily in literature such as Vanity Fair  and numerous works by Thomas Hardy and indirectly led to the production of the most successful and long-lived of maps, the Ordnance Survey 1” series. Originally published in 1801 as a set of four maps of the Kent coast made in preparation for the supposed French invasion of England the series continues to this day under the guise of the Landranger series.




General survey of the County of Kent, with part of the County of Essex, done by the surveying draftsmen of his Majesty’s Honourable Board of Ordnance, on the basis of the trigonometrical survey carried on by their orders under the direction of Capt. W. Mudge of the Royal Artillery: F.R.S. 1801. Gough Maps Kent 48