Category Archives: Britain

Do [not] touch

People have always tried to make sense of their surroundings and plot where they are in the world, often in graphic form. Maps are inherently two dimensional but efforts have been made throughout time to create three-dimensional tactile maps. Primarily they are aimed at visually impaired users but they can also serve to understand relief and the environment in a holistic way. It is unclear when tactile maps started appearing but this lovely example of England and Wales is the earliest in our collections, produced in 1925. It primarily shows relief and rivers but also locates major towns but does not name them.

The development of tactile writing systems really took off in the 19th century with the development of basically embossed versions of roman letters, such as the Moon System but alongside was the use of a logical system of dots representing the letters such as braille.

This globe, which is undated but looks like it was made in the 1960s? uses prominent dots to depict capital cities in Europe but also a chain of mountains in Asia which must be confusing.  You can also see the rivers have been exaggerated and the equator marked to aid orientation.

Tactile maps conventionally were made using thermoforming or vacuum forming which uses heat or a vacuum to fix a material such as plastic or paper over a mould to create a stable physical object. These are very successful but they come with their downside – unlike paper maps they cannot be folded up and put in your pocket. The Royal National Institute for the Blind produced several maps with the Central London map as a typical specimen. With embossed roads and braille labels it is limited in detail so what its purpose is unclear. Was it produced for reference or as a wall map?

What is the future for mapping for blind or visually impaired people? Much work has been done by tech companies with smartphones and hand-held devices. Google Maps can speak directions and even tell you where safe road crossings are while you are using it. Haptic technology is used to generate a hybrid tactile map – for example the signal from your fingers will cause the map to vary when you cross a boundary, such as a road; or come across a symbol, maybe a bank. Although 3D printers can also be used to create maps but do not overcome the portability issue.

The library has a several tactile maps in the collection but this one was particularly challenging as it had no text to identify it. Coming originally from the MOD sample collection it has a red acquisition stamp and a tentative “Torquay” in ball point pen. I could not identify it with a modern map of that area so bit the bullet and tried transliterating the braille labels. It turned out that it needed turning around and it represents the Goswell Road/City Road area of Islington in London!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lake District’s topography lends itself very well so this is an attractive example. Designed as a hanging wall map in four sections it has been executed beautifully with using wooden strips glued together which have been sculpted to form the peaks and trough: shorelines, rivers and names have been burnt in to orient the sighted.  Entered into the BCS Awards which not only is it easy on the eye, it has a beautiful feel demonstrating that this is inclusive and appreciated by everyone not only as a map but as original creative piece. The perfect example of aesthetics and technique.

 

England and Wales. [S.n., S.l.], 1925 C17 (220)

A simplified system of embossed reading for the use of the blind : invented by WIlliam Moon, LL.D. &c. [London] : Moon Society, 1937 Rec. c.185

[World globe in braille]

[Torquay]. [London] : [Royal National Institute for the Blind], [1979] SP 55

Central London. [London] : Royal National Institute for the Blind, 1970. SP 56

Lake District National Park. [Sheffield] : From the Workshop. BCS Awards.

The roads of England and Wales

Our previous blog dealt with some of the first road maps aimed at motorists in the early twentieth century. Although people have been travelling by road for thousands of years, road maps themselves are a comparatively recent invention. Until the 1670s and the advent of John Ogilby’s strip maps, most maps did not show roads, Once the idea had been established it was soon extremely popular; it was widely copied in Britain and elsewhere. Amongst the many maps of the roads of England produced in the late seventeenth century, this is a particularly decorative example.

The map is titled “A new map of England and Wales with the direct and cros roads” (cross roads were those linking between the main roads). Distances between settlements are given in miles. Hand colouring of the county boundaries enhances the map but does not detract from the details. Beneath the decorative and closely written cartouche, two angry sea monsters are having a face off. The cartouche explains that the map is “Sold by Philip Lea Globemaker at the Atlas and Hercules in Cheapside near Fryday Street” (addresses were more fun in those days).

Top right there is a table with information about the counties, including the county town for each one; where this was a cathedral city there is a tiny picture of a bishop’s mitre to accompany the name.

The sea is illustrated with small pictures of ships, as was popular on maps of the time. More unusually, a previous owner of the map has tried their hand at reproducing one of these, and a tiny pen and ink sketch of a ship appears in the Channel along with the printed illustrations.

The map was originally published by Phillip Lea around 1689, in an atlas of England and Wales consisting mainly of Saxton’s county maps. This in itself is remarkable since Saxton’s maps were first published in the 1570s; over one hundred years later, the plates were still being updated, edited and reused (in fact their final use was not until about 50 years after this). To accompany these county maps, Lea included two maps of the whole of England and Wales: one general one, and this one which focused on the roads, thus bringing the atlas thoroughly up to date. It was also sold in a slightly later state as a separate sheet, and was available in four separate strips for greater portability; on the complete map, the joins of the four strips are clearly visible.

A new map of England and Wales with the direct and cros roads : also the number of miles between the townes on the roads by inspection in figures. [London] : Sold by Philip Lea Globemaker, [1689?]. (E) C17 (456)

Mapping the recent past – electronic Legal Deposit

If you want to see what your town looked like 50 years ago, or even 150, the Map Room can find you a detailed Ordnance Survey map to answer the question. And if you want a really large scale plan showing the same site in the present day, you can buy one via an agent for OS Mastermap. But what about the period in between?

The OS map extract above shows Stratford-upon-Avon in 1889 at a scale of 1:2500. Maps at the same or larger scales continued to be published, updated at intervals, until the late twentieth century. In the 1990s, the OS stopped producing printed maps at the largest scales of 1:10,000, 1:2500 and 1:1250. Present day large scale mapping continued to be produced in digital format, and could still be purchased, but each time the data was updated the previous version was lost. There was a danger that recent history would disappear into a black hole. If a researcher in 2022 wanted, for example, an OS Mastermap of Kendal from 2012, what would they do?

The Legal Deposit Libraries – of which the Bodleian is one* – sprang forward to fill the breach. Working with partner organisation thinkWhere, they negotiated a scheme for the OS to deposit an annual digital “snapshot” of large scale mapping across the whole of Great Britain from 1998 onwards. Northern Ireland, which has its own mapping agency, soon followed suit. The dataset is updated annually. It was an early example of electronic Legal Deposit, preceding the official eLD which began in 2013.

What is electronic Legal Deposit? Under Legal Deposit legislation the Bodleian Libraries, and the other LDLs,  are entitled to a copy of every item published in the UK. Legal Deposit of printed materials has existed in some form since 1662, and thousands of the books, maps, serials, and printed music items in the library are here as a result. Electronic Legal Deposit was based on this; it came into force in 2013 and since then many published items have been deposited in electronic rather than print format. You can read more about it here on the Electronic Legal Deposit Libguide. In most cases, electronic Legal Deposit items are listed on SOLO and can be read on any Bodleian Library reading room computer.  Maps deposited on electronic Legal Deposit usually require specialist viewing software, and can be seen on a dedicated terminal in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Reading Room of the Weston Library. You can log in using your Bodleian Libraries username and password. Extracts can be printed using your PCAS account.

This has recently been updated with a much wider range of maps; as well as the large scale OS maps described above you can see a whole array of different maps of the UK here. There are detailed town plans by XYZ Maps and The Clever Little Mapping Company, large scale coastal charts by Antares, and a wealth of cultural information. There is information from Historic England showing locations of all the listed buildings geographically plotted with links to the website, descriptions and images; Historic Environment Scotland and Welsh preservation organisation CADW show similar information for Scotland and Wales. Also included are World Heritage sites, protected monuments, battlefields and shipwrecks.  The map below shows the locations of listed buildings in Portsmouth.

The maps so far are almost exclusively for areas within the British Isles, but the system is set up to give access to maps from anywhere in the world via a map interface. As an increasing amount of publication is now digital rather than printed, this can only grow.

 

*The other LDLs are the British Library, National Library of Scotland, National Library of Wales, Cambridge University Library and Trinity College Dublin, in case you were wondering.

The things you find when you tidy up

Over a decade ago, the Bodleian Map Room moved its collections out of what was then the New Bodleian Library, for the building to be completely redeveloped into the shiny new Weston Library. Anything uncatalogued was given a barcode and brief record to locate it in the new storage facility in Swindon. It was while tidying up the last few of these that we stumbled across this beautiful panorama of the Grampian Mountains. Everyone loves a panorama, so here it is, showing a view across the Scottish landscape.  The hills grow increasingly faint into the distance.  Settlements can be located by the wisps of smoke rising from them, presumably from peat fires.

In the foreground a picturesque rocky outcrop is surrounded by colourful heather; this is captioned beneath “The summit of Benclach, 2359 feet above the sea.”

It’s described as “A view of the Grampian Mountains, taken from the Summit of Benclach the highest of the Ochill Hills, a station in the Trigonometrical Survey of Great Britain, situated 28 miles north west from Edinburgh.” There’s a lot of cartographic history packed into that title. The Ordnance Survey has origins going back centuries, but the Roy Map of Scotland from the 1740s and ’50s is often seen as the immediate forerunner to the systematic survey of the whole of Great Britain begun at the very end of the eighteenth century. The survey started at the south coast, mapping the country at 1 inch to a mile, and worked northwards. It took decades to cover England and Wales, and the first published maps OS maps of Scotland were later still. However, the initial Trigonometrical Survey which worked its way up Britain, plotting exact locations by a process of triangulation, had reached southern Scotland by the 1810s. The panorama was both drawn and published by James Gardner, previously “employed on the Trigonometrical Survey”.

From 1823 Gardner was established in London as a publisher and seller of maps, and sole agent for the sale of Ordnance Survey maps; he retired in 1840 and the business passed to his son. The mention of his earlier role as a surveyor probably indicates that the view was made to be accurate rather than simply an artwork, and certainly seems to show a pride in being involved in this great scientific endeavour. There is an outline diagram underneath which names the mountains, settlements and other features, making the panorama informative as well as beautiful.

The point of origin is probably Ben Cleuch in the Ochil Hills. There is a note stating that it covers “about 85 degrees of the horizon” – nearly a quarter of a circle, stretched out to a view almost two metres long. The view was engraved by Daniel Havell in London, and printed in colour, a quite early example of a colour lithograph.

 

A view of the Grampian Mountains, from the Summit of Benclach the highest of the Ochill Hills / delineated and published by J. Gardner … 1820. C18:5 (93)

An anatomical geography?

This first map from John Andrews’ A geographical atlas of England, divided according to its natural, political, civil, ecclesiastical, ancient and modern divisions …  is at first glance hardly recognisable as a map of England and Wales. It shows only the mountain ranges, and the coastlines are missing.  The next map in the atlas is described as a “Map of the rivers, or anatomy of England”; it is coloured to show watersheds, and again divides the country in an unfamiliar way. It is almost as if the first map shows the country’s skeleton, and the second the circulatory system.

The (very long) title ends with the statement that the atlas is ‘for the improvement of youth‘. The  introduction, ‘on the utility of geography’ emphasises the subject’s long antecedents and practical use. The atlas was published in 1809 in the last year of Andrews’ life, when geography was beginning to grow in popularity as an academic subject in Britain.  Andrews had been publishing for over 30 years, producing many maps of English towns and counties, several of the latter in collaboration with others, as well some important maps of North America. Towards the end of his career he published more thematic works, including a historical atlas, and this, A geographical atlas of England. The atlas is a mixture of scientific, historical and general maps.

Most of the maps had been published before–  they have dates mainly from the late 1790s – and some are too large for the binding and had to be folded in; possibly the atlas was cobbled together from existing stock.  But for all that some of the maps are both beautiful and unusual and suggest different ways of looking at the country.  There are also several maps showing the supposed division of South Britain at different periods in history, such as under the Saxon kingdoms and the Roman occupation; these reflect the contemporary vogue for antiquities and early British history, although the sources used for this information were of dubious accuracy. The atlas ends with a map showing pride in Britain’s naval supremacy (above), giving the maritime counties and compass directions from London.

Although the atlas covers England and Wales, the map titles refer only to England or occasionally South Britain. Wales is unaccountably slighted.

A geographical atlas of England, divided according to its natural, political, civil, ecclesiastical, ancient and modern divisions, to which is added a political chart of Europe, to shew the positions of all the sea-ports, promontories and distances, in order to trace the naval and commercial intercourse between Great Britain, Ireland and the continent. In a series of maps, on a plan entirely new. Calculated to illustrate the history of this country, and for the improvement of youth, by John Andrews.  London : Printed for John Stockdale, 1809.  Allen 359.

 

 

Land ahoy!

 Although this is the time of year when the
lights are lengthening and electronic location devices are almost mandatory, shipping still benefits from the presence of lighthouses warning of hazards. The Chart exhibiting the light houses and light vessels on the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland; and also those on the N.W. coasts of Europe between Ushant and Bergen was created by A. G. Findlay in 1863 and shows the location, extent of the beam of each lighthouse, and gives information about the type of beam and frequency of light pulses. This wealth of information is exquisitely engraved and coloured but as a specialist map it would not have had a large print run. However it is a handsome thing mounted on linen and folded into covers with brass decorative gothic clasps. The boards of the covers are covered in cloth with a blind stamped decoration and the title, motto and coat of arms of Trinity House in gilt.


The map was published ‘By order of the hon[oura]ble. the Corporation of Trinity House.’ which is the authority controlling lighthouses, lightvessels and buoys in England and Wales, Channel Islands and Gibraltar (Northern Lighthouse Board in Scotland). The board was established by a charter granted by Henry VIII in 1514. Prior to this there were privately run beacons or towers so it wasn’t until 1609 Trinity House established its first, Lowestoft Lighthouse, as a pair of wooden towers with candle illuminants. The risk of fire must have been very great but it wasn’t until 1777 the first mirrored reflectors were used.


The cartographer of this map, Alexander George Findlay was a leading compiler and publisher of geographical and hydrographical works and after the death of Richard Holland Laurie, took over the well-known and long established printing house of Laurie & Whittle. He researched meteorology, published nautical directories the whole world and received a Society of Arts medal for his dissertation The English Lighthouse. He also served the British Association for the Advancement of Science so he was uniquely qualified to produce this map.


Today lighthouses are still relevant but function more as a back up to electronic equipment. The last manned lighthouse, North Foreland in Kent, was automated in 1998 after the automation process started in in the early 1980s, bringing to an end the work of the lighthouse keepers or “wickies”. This lighthouse had seen the departures of forces defending our islands and the arrival of all manner of vessels – some in joyous homecoming, some limping back after difficult journeys and trade vessels from all over the world. Trinity house currently maintains 65 lighthouses but it has provided temporary lighting. For D-Day it laid 73 lighted buoys and 2 lightvessels to indicate a safe route for landing craft in the poor weather of the English Channel. Redundant lighthouses have been re-purposed as holiday lets or even conversion to domestic properties – albeit ones with fantastic views!

Chart exhibiting the light houses and light vessels on the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland; and also those on the N.W. coasts of Europe between Ushant and Bergen. London, 1863. C15 d.197

“Mad Jack’s” map

On days like this it is a real privilege to do my job.  This rather lovely manuscript map from around 1795 has been recently purchased to enrich our holdings of large scale parish maps and estate plans but a happy time was spent cataloguing it.

The map is of part of the parishes of Berwick and Alciston north west of Eastbourne in East Sussex showing the lands belonging to “Jn. Fuller Esq.” This gentleman known at the time as “Mad Jack” Fuller (although he preferred “Honest John” Fuller) inherited his estate, Rose Hill, from his uncle in 1777. It is lands attached to this estate, which is now Brightling Park, which feature on the map.

Unfortunately the surveyor is not known nonetheless it is a pretty thing with beautiful penmanship and little vignettes of people and items likely to be found on the land.  The little details are charming: the field gates are drawn in as is a view of the church and the compass rose is embellished with gilt. The lands belonging to “Mad Jack” are numbered to a key giving field names and acreages with the remaining parcels of land having their owners names and areas scribed on them. The scale of approximately 1:10,000 (6” to 1 mile) is large enough to show the area in reasonable detail. It was obviously a working document as you can see many later corrections and additions in pencil, as well as the surveyor’s grid.  The fact that it has been produced on parchment also point to the fact it was heavily used, as paper wouldn’t be up to the task. 

John Fuller was born into a wealthy family of iron makers and politicians in Hampshire in 1757 and initially forged a career in a light infantry company in the Sussex Militia. He subsequently spent two spells in parliament as an MP, the first representing Southampton from 1780 to 1784 and then as member for Sussex from 1801 to 1812. A noted drunk, he was famous for his eccentricities and follies and even received permission to build a 20ft high pyramid as a tomb in the churchyard of St Thomas à Becket in Brightling. In later life he turned to philanthropy, supporting among others the young Michael Faraday and the Royal Institution. He died in April 1834 and was buried beneath his pyramid folly.

A survey of lands lying in ye parishes of Berwick and Alciston in the county of Sussex belonging to Jn. Fuller Esq. Rose Hill 

MS. C17:58 (114)