Category Archives: Bodleian

Treasure Unearthed!

Shelf checking a printed book collection I came upon an uncatalogued atlas which looked very interesting.  Although it had engraved and letterpress title pages for Visscher’s Atlas Minor it was, in fact an atlas factice of mainly seventeenth century maps from atlases of various publishers. It is contained in the Bodleian’s collection of books belonging to John Locke (1632-1704), philosopher and influential Enlightenment figure.

Locke was awarded his master’s degree from Christ Church, Oxford in 1658 and developed into polymath and in 1668 was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society but his interests also covered amongst others medicine, political theory and religious tolerance and influenced by Bacon, Descartes and Hobbes.  Throughout his life he wrote and disseminated his ideas on this range of subjects so it is no surprise that he would have amassed a collection of maps.

 

After his death in 1704, his library was left to his cousin Peter King, later Lord King when in 1947 the Bodleian bought some of the books and manuscripts. The remainder were found at Ben Damph Forest, the seat of the Earl of Lovelace (as Lord King later became) and were later bought by Paul Mellon who then presented this collection to the Bodleian in 1978.

 

The volume itself contains 48 maps, charts and plans produced and published by the leading cartographers contemporary with Locke, so along with Visscher, Frederik de Wit, Carel Allard and Peter Schenk also featured.  Additionally included is an ephemerides by Jean Baptiste Coignard which would have sat well with the maps. Map number 15 A New Chart of the Sea Coasts Between England and Ireland by Richard Mount is uncommon and unusually oriented with west at the top.

The binding is the original vellum with blind stamped border and corner pieces; and large ornament with evidence of ties. There is a spine title in manuscript (Locke?) Visscher Atlas. There is a circular red morocco bookplate with a gilt image of stook of corn and lettering “Oak Spring, Paul Mellon” indicating its later provenance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atlas factice of mainly Dutch 17th century maps  Locke 22.1

Rummaging through virtual maps

Over the past 4 months, the Map Room staff have, like so many others, been working from home. Away from our physical map collection, what have we been doing?

Cataloguing staff are working on a project to to index a large collection of digital scans. Thousands of our maps have been scanned to provide images for research purposes, but we don’t yet have a complete list to show which scan number corresponds to which map. The scans include a huge variety of different maps. There are loose sheets from the Gough Maps collection covering the British Isles, trench maps from WWI, maps from the Commonwealth and African Collections, early atlases from the Allen collection, and around 3000 maps with an (E) shelfmark – sheet maps dating from before 1850, for places all over the world. The latter include beautiful early printed maps (such as the view of Toledo in Spain by Braun and Hogenberg above) and maps made for practical purposes (the second image is from the report for the Bog Commission in Ireland, published in 1814).

There are a small number of manuscript maps as well, such as this sketch of the Kusasi region in northern Ghana, from the Commonwealth and African Collections. It was made in 1927 and shows the area divided into tribal regions; a published map based on this one was produced in Accra the following year. Its condition suggests that it was very much a working document.

A big positive for those involved has been the opportunity to look at images of these interesting, varied and often beautiful maps from our collections. It’s the virtual equivalent of spending days rummaging through the drawers (which we wouldn’t usually have time to do!) This should be the first step towards adding many of these images to the Digital Bodleian collection.

The bogs on the rivers Laune and Lower Maine in Kerry / by. A. Nimmo. J. Basire sculp. From the 4th report of the Commission on the Bogs in Ireland. London: House of Commons, 1814.  (E) C19 (204)

Toletum. Cologne : Georg Braun, 1593. (E) C38 (167)

Sketch map of the Kusasi District, Gold Coast. Signed by C. St B. Shields, 12.12.27. 722.11 t.1 (25).

Treasures from the Map Room

Staff at the Bodleian and other specialists have written a book, Treasures from the Map Room, which has essays on 75  maps from the collection. They include historically important maps, interesting quirky ones and some of our personal favourites. From the Gough Map of 1370 to the map created by the artist Layla Curtis for the NewcastleGateshead Festival of the Visual Arts in 2006 the book shows the range of material held in the Bodleian’s collections, and includes maps hand-drawn by J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and General Gordon, beautifully illustrated Venetian portolans, military and scientific mapping as well as cartographic works of art. We feature here one of the maps from the book, which is published today.

 5A ptol_for_blog_smaller

This woodcut world map, published in Ulm in 1486 and based on much earlier information, has an intriguing link with the European discovery of the Americas. The map data comes from Claudius Ptolemy (fl. 146-c.170), who composed his Geographia in Alexandria in ca. 160 AD. He provided coordinates for 8000 places, tied­ into a grid of longitudes and latitudes; an extraordinary achievement for the time. It is not known if he ever made the maps his work describes, but the text survived in Arabic manuscripts as a set of instructions for making maps of the known world. In the early fifteenth century it was translated into Latin by ­Jacopo d’Angelo;   the ­maps were­ later revised by Nicolaus Germanus (fl. 1451-1456), a German Benedictine. He aimed to follow­ Ptolemy’s instructions and his maps must be close to those ­Ptolemy himself might have compiled. Ptolemaic atlases are amongst the earliest printed books.  A version with the maps engraved on copper was produced in 1478, but this woodcut version has a unique charm.

This copy belonged to King Ferdinand and Queen­ Isabella of Spain, whose coat of arms is in the book.  Ferdinand and Isabella supported Columbus’ voyage across the Atlantic. Although Ptolemy’s locations were amazingly accurate for their time, his calculation of the Earth’s circumference was an underestimate.  Columbus (who owned a 1478 edition of the Geographia) believed the distance to China to be less than it was, based partly on this. As Ptolemy’s geography demonstrates, the understanding that the world was round was nothing new even in Columbus’s day. But this world map raises intriguing questions. Would Columbus have planned to travel west to China, and encountered the Americas on the way, without this misconception? Would Ferdinand and Isabella have been so supportive if they had not also owned a copy of the book that supported his theory?

‘Typus orbis terrarum’ from the ‘Geographia’, by Claudius Ptolemaeus Alexandrinus, trans. Jacobus Angeli, ed. Nicolaus Germanus. Ulm: Johann Reger, for Justus de Albano, 21 July 1486; with the maps from the edition of ­Ulm, Lienhart Holl, 1482. Arch. B b.19 (Bod-inc. P-529 (2))

The full article is in Treasures from the Map Room: a journey through the Bodleian collections. Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2016. ISBN 978 1 85124 250 4. Available from the Bodleian bookshop.

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)

 

History of the Map Room

While maps and atlases have come into the library from its earliest days the map collection began in earnest in 1800, following a decision made to start the purchase of English and Foreign maps. In 1813 the Curators of the library ordered a large table to be made to hold the increasing collection of maps and atlases, which had grown in size with the bequest in 1809 of the collection of Richard Gough, which included the world famous map of Britain, the ‘Gough Map’, dating from the 1370s and the earliest map in existence showing a road network.

449x222_GoughMap

The main part of the collection though has been, from the start, the printed maps of the Ordnance Survey, published from 1801 onwards and which comes into the library under the legal deposit arrangement of 1610. This was followed in the second half of the nineteenth century by the hydrographic charts published by the Admiralty, and by 1882 it was reckoned that the library was receiving between three and four thousand sheets a year from these two organizations alone.

For many years the collection was held in the Douce Room (now part of the Lower Reading Room) where it was felt that ‘In default of means of dealing with them and of space for their storage, maps, it is to be feared, were regard as an encumbrance’. (1)

The collection moved from the Douce Room in 1887, into the Moral Philosophy School room in the Old Schools quadrangle. Fitted out at a cost of £480 this space was soon cramped and it wasn’t until the completion of the New Library in 1939, and with it a large purpose-built room on the east side of the building with storage areas set aside in the stacks on the same floor that the Map Department had finally a proper home.

Increased storage in the New Bodleian bookstack was soon put to good use. Throughout the Second World War and after the library has been fortunate in receiving from the Geographical Section of the War Office, and more recently the Ministry of Defence, a large number of maps from both the Allies and Axis forces, giving the Bodleian not only maps of historical interest but also detailed mapping of parts of the world that the library had poor cover of up until the arrival of these donations.

Bodley’s map collection was held in the New Library until 2010 when, along with all the other material held by the library, the maps, atlases and globes moved to purpose-built accommodation in Swindon. With over a million maps to call on the collection is stored in a controlled environment in drawers with space to let the collection grow, through material published in Great Britain that comes to the library via the legal deposit agreement of 1610 and the large number of donations the Bodleian receives each year. While the Ordnance Survey continues to be the make up a great part of the collection donations from the Ministry of Defence means the library has a large amount of material dealing with Britain’s military and colonial past, from trench maps from the western front to tribal maps of Africa.

  1. Craster, E. History of the Bodleian Library 1845-1945, 1952. Pg 81, X1.11.