Author Archives: tessa

Boats and Maps

Maps come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and one recent purchase by the Rare Books Section was not one I’d seen before.  The artist’s book The last voyage by Tracey Bush is based on a poem by a seventeenth century wit John Taylor who undertook a journey in a paper boat with two stockfish tied to canes for oars from London to Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent.  The map is fashioned into a hand folded paper model of a boat which is accompanied by a booklet with extracts of the poem In praise of the hemp-seed written by Taylor to describe his journey. The booklet and boat are made entirely by hemp paper and are contained in a folder secured by a small piece of hemp rope.

This artistic use of maps is increasing with the popularity of maps as visual objects and you can see them everywhere – mugs, mouse mats and even the former First Lady’s dress. What is it about maps that is so appealing?  Is it the potential for a journey? The depiction of something (generally) real? Or do they just make pretty things to look at? Whatever the draw it has been going on for centuries as can be seen by Leo Belgicus which was first drawn in 1583 by Michaël Eytzinger, an Austrian cartographer.  He depicted the Low Countries as a lion rampant facing east, an image which was popular in various forms for many years.

As was closer to home James Gillray’s caricature of England as an old woman seated on a sea creature.  Otherwise it is the content, rather than the appearance of the map which is more important – who hasn’t seen advertisements for items personalised with a map of a significant location in cufflinks, necklaces and puzzles.

Whatever it is in this age of technology maps remain relevant as practical items (an Ordnance Sheet doesn’t require a mobile phone signal) and an artefact thus still fulfilling the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s definition of cartography as ‘the art and science of graphically representing a geographical area, usually on a flat surface such as a map or chart. It may involve the superimposition of political, cultural, or other non-geographical divisions onto the representation of a geographical area.’

Descriptive sandbanks

 

We are used to seeing maps a certain way; the land in detail with physical features described or shown and generally with north at the top.  On my desk today is a map which turns all that on its head. A chart of the North Sea from the Foreland S to North Bergen, and from the Scaw to the Orkneys and Shetland … By James Thompson, 1777

is a detailed sea chart concentrating on the features at sea, with the land barely getting a look in.

Much is made of the many sandbanks which litter this part of the North Sea with interesting reports, one even describing the Little Fishing Bank as ‘like oatmeal’.

Thompson has also includes several land profiles or “remarkable appearances of land” of coastal features and a descriptive panel to aid the seamen in their navigation. The presence of an identifiable building, such as a church or a distinctive geographical feature were as effective as signposts to mariners.

The other unusual thing about this chart is that for no obvious reason it is oriented with west at the top.

Not a lot is known about John Thompson apart from he described himself as ‘Mariner’ and so was most likely the captain of a vessel crossing the North Sea frequently enabling him the survey the area in such a detailed manner, as shown by the sheer number of soundings. This is in the same vein as Captain James Cook who was doing much the same thing in the Pacific at the time.  It appears that this is Captain Thompson’s magnum opus and is found a small collection of seven charts by sea captains-hydrographers all published in the late 18th century, most by Robert Sayer and John Bennett in London.

 

 

 

A chart of the North Sea, from the Foreland S to North Bergen, and from the Scaw to the Orkneys and Shetland. [1777] (Vet.) 20122 a.13 (3)

 

A funny little map

An unusual little map came to light recently following an enquiry from a reader. William Hole’s map of the archery marks in Finsbury Fields dates from the early seventeenth century and runs from Bunhill in the south to roughly the location of the current Regent’s Canal in the north.  The map names all of the archery targets in this open space which until 1498 was garden and orchard enclosures.   These were removed to turn it into a practice ground for archers, a popular, and legally required pursuit for men.  It is a rare thing, with only a couple of other examples in the Guildhall Library and Bethlem Royal Hospital.  The format of being pasted onto two pieces of oak board which could be folded to makes it both durable and portable, indeed there are the remains of hook and eye clasps which would have locked the boards together. Later in its life, it had a black roan cover and wallet-style case to protect it.

Some of the archery targets are named after physical features, such as Sonday Hill and Stone in ye plaine, or people (Dick Marigold). Notable other places on the map include the well of Dame Agnes Clare “all that well comonly called or knowne by the name of Dame Anne A Cleere invironed aboute with a brickwall, scituate, lying and being on the late King’s waste . . . in a certaine higheway leading from a certaine streete called Old Streete towardes Shoreditch.” which can clearly be seen towards the bottom of the map.  Much further north is a butt named “Ros:brach” which could feasibly mark the Rosemary Branch inn which is the only building known to have existed away from town at this period. Allegedly it was a meeting place for Levellers a few years later, each identifying themselves with bunches of rosemary in their hats.  Now the area is marked by the Rosemary Branch pub and theatre which was rebuilt after a fire in 1783 destroyed the original building.

William Hole was an etcher and engraver who was born near Leeds. Although known for producing maps, he was also a distinguished engraver of portraits and music.  This little map has a more personal, almost playful feel, dedicating it “To his affect: frends M:R: Bake & M:R Sharpe, and all other louers of Archerie frequenting Finsbury-fields” so may not have been produced as a commercial venture.  However, judging by the map symbols for the targets, being denoted by the common graphic of a dot in a circle, it looks like the map was accurately surveyed by a plane table or similar device.  The scale of scores and half scores is unusual too and I can’t find any reference to the length of a score. Also, Hole included the arms of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths in top left corner, of which he was a member.  It is also rather difficult to date with any certainty and only that it appeared sometime between 1605 and his death in 1624.

The map was then traced or copied for inclusion in James Peller Malcolm’s Londinium Redivivum, or, an ancient history and modern description of London published in 1807. It is these copies which are more common with examples in libraries all over the world. However, on these tracings and facsimiles the compass points east, south and west are not noted leading to these works having the erroneous title Finsbury Fields North, as on the original the four compass points are clearly shown. In 1856 John Williams wrote a carefully researched article for the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London comparing the names of map’s archery marks with a manuscript list in the Society of Antiquaries.

Fold it up, pop it in your quiver and off you go for an afternoon’s archery in Finsbury Fields.

Finsbury Fields. [London: William Hole, approximately 1620?] Arch. A d.1

Waste not, want not

The Conservation staff were checking the Duke Humfrey shelves for items for repair when they came across an unusual example of printed waste fragments used as pastedowns. This practice, born of economy as no bookbinder would wish to waste a clean sheet of parchment or paper when a surplus or damaged sheet would do, started early in printed book history as there examples of William Caxton’s work used this way but was especially common in the first half of the seventeenth century. What is more unusual is that it is cartographic waste. This example is of a John Speed work usually found in the King James Bible, Map of Canaan which he originally published in 1598. The endpapers are also blackletter printers’ waste. The volume contains two Latin texts: Philosophia theologiæ ancillans; hoc est, pia & sobria explicatio quæstionum philosophicarum in di sputationibus theologicis occurrentium by Robert Baron (1593?-1639) published in St Andrews in 1621 and De legatione evangelica ad Indos capessenda admonitio.  by Justus Heurnius published in Leiden in 1618.  Often interesting printer’s waste is not evident unless a volume is damaged.

The binding is full sprinkled calf with fillets on upper and lower boards with evidence that it once boasted ties.  What makes it recognisable as an Oxford binding is the two way hatching on board edges.  The shelfmark is 8° B 105 Art., written on the foredge, denotes that is comes from one part of the original Bodleian four-part classification which sorted texts by faculty or subject including mathematics, history, philosophy and literature.

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Armchair Travelling

tour-gameNo upper class young man worth his salt in the eighteenth century could hold his head up if he hadn’t traversed Europe on a Grand Tour. However, for the less fortunate help was at hand in the form of a cartographic race game. Wallis’s Tour of Europe. A New Geographical Pastime was published by John Wallis, a cartographer and map seller in 1794. “Two or three persons may amuse themselves with this agreeable pastime, and if a double set of Counters and Pyramids, six may play at it”. Players use a spinning a ‘teetotum’, a sort of gambling spinning top counting up to 8, to progress as dice were considered gambling instruments thus inappropriate in Christian households.

teetotum

All the players start at Harwich and the race moves across Europe along the numbered route.  They journey from Amsterdam through Germany, Sweden, Norway, even Lapland, Russia, Turkey in Europe, France Italy, Spain and Portugal returning to England through Portsmouth then taking in Scotland and Ireland the winner finally finishing in London after 102 stops. Unlike the real thing the route takes in such places as Wordhuys (Vardo) in Finnmark, Norway, Woronets (Voronezh), Adrianople (Edirne) and Johny Groat’s House in Scotland along with the traditional Athens, Florence and Rome.

The panels on either side of the map detail not only the rules but also lists each stop with a brief description so players could ‘experience’ Europe though text. The players can become well-travelled without the need for a gap year and a fortune.  Games like these were very popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth century in the parlours of middle class households to keep people entertained in the long evenings.

The map itself is a fairly simple hand coloured map with political boundaries and the mountain ranges drawn in pictorially. It is mounted and linen so can be folded neatly and put away when not in use.

title-cartouche

Wallis’s Tour of Europe. A new geographical pastime. London, 1794  (E) C1 (999)

River Thames from its source to the sea

A recently purchased map arrived in the Map Room this week for us IMG_0041all to pore over.  The River Thames from its source to the sea was produced at a time when the Thames was enjoying an explosion of interest as a source of leisure.  Small boats were available for hire at towns such as Oxford, Reading and Windsor, locations which were now conveniently in reach of the railway travelling public.

 

This beautifully executed map was compiled and engraved by Edward Weller to be issued as an insert to the popular newspaper the Weekly Dispatch and subsequently included in The Dispatch Atlas published early in 1863. It is the first state of nine states which were finally produced in the next thirty six years. Weller was one of the first to produce maps using lithography, a cheaper method of production than the more traditional intaglio printing.  After his death in 1884 these steel plates were acquired by the firm of Cassell, Petter and Galpin. The Cassell’s Complete Atlas was issued in 1865, and as Cassell’s British Atlas with the addition of statistical information.016

 

 

The map shows the whole length of the river from the Thames Head, marked, west ofCirencester to the estuarine mud flats at Southend, in three strip maps at a scale of half and inch to 1 mile (1:126,720).  The minimal but precise hand colouring of just the county outlines is still bright and adds definition to the map without taking away from the very fine detail.  The railways, including the recently built Epsom line are shown by double cross hatched lines.

IMG_0042

The River Thames from its source to the sea. London : Weekly Dispatch Atlas [1863] C17:8 (380)