Category Archives: History

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.’

The Great Game

This map of the north west frontier of India reveals some fascinating political manoeuvres. Produced in 1889 and titled simply ‘Afghanistan’, it shows the boundaries between British India and Afghanistan. It was made during the period sometimes described as the Great Game, when the imperial ambitions of Russia and Great Britain were fought out in the border regions of Afghanistan. 
The map is accompanied by a letter, dated 1890, from W.J. Cuningham of the Foreign Office in Simla, which makes clear that the map was intended to publicise the British view of the boundaries, but unofficially and in a rather underhand way.
The letter begins by explaining that a new official map of Afghanistan is to be produced, which shows the established boundaries, ‘… to the publication of which exception cannot be taken by other countries.’
The accompanying map – ‘unofficially prepared, for confidential use’ shows the actual situation on the ground, and the territories controlled by Afghanistan, Russia and British India. The map is a Survey of India unpublished proof, and boundaries, some of them complex, are marked by hand in colour.
The third part of the letter is most interesting. Having explained the need for an uncontroversial ‘official’ map, and a more controversial, secret, unofficial one, there follows the clear instruction to give an unofficial briefing to commercial cartographers. They should be given access to this unofficial map, as ‘it may be advisable to communicate to them the approximate boundaries, which … we should prefer to have marked in their maps.’ Commercial publishers were to be encouraged to produce maps showing the situation on the ground; in particular, they were ‘to indicate, as certainly not within Afghanistan, the belt of frontier tribes which intervenes between India and Afghanistan.’
The situation the map shows is a complex and confusing one. There is no key, but Afghanistan is outlined in blue, India in red and Russian territory in green. Between the red and blue lines there are territories enclosed by neither and marked ‘Frontier tribes’ – the Survey’s finely hachured relief making clear that the area is mountainous and inaccessible. The border between Afghanisatan and Pakistan now runs through the region; it was divided by the Durand Line in 1896 and is still disputed today.

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

Two of (nearly) everywhere

Changes in British social and economic landscape in the years leading up to the publication of this map of Emigration in 1851 were immense. The increase in population which saw an estimated 9.5 million in 1700 grow to over 27 million in 1841, the growth of the railways in the early 1800s and the movement into towns following the Industrial Revolution led to an  over-crowded and polluted existence for many.

Britain had become a colonial power in the World, and                                                                     with it came the opportunity for people to start a new life. On the map each colonial country hints at the rewards offered, be it furs from the as yet unnamed Canada to the gold in Africa and wool in Australia the map promotes the idea of emigration, of moving to the other side of the World to start again. Tables at the bottom of the map list British possessions and give details of climate, size and a description of the land and produce to be found. In the decades either side of the map’s date nearly 4 million people left Britain for a new life overseas.

This is map has a number of interesting features. The centring of the map is unusual, as is the doubling up of most of the landmass. This is done to show routes to and from British ports without having to break routes up at the edge of the map. The Britain on the right covers the routes to America while the Britain on the left has routes to the East and then onto Australia, across the Pacific and then overland across the narrow isthmus in Panama (it was another 65 years before the Panama Canal would open in 1914) and then across the Atlantic to home.  A steamship journey from Southampton round the Cape of Good Hope to Sydney in 1851 would have taken eight weeks by steam, four months by sail, and cost between £15 and £70 (equivalent to £1,460 to £6,800 today)  depending on class – cabin, intermediate or steerage. The map pre-dates a number of countries, or changes in the names of others. Canada wasn’t named as such until 1867, with the name only appearing over a small bit of land near the border with part of the US,  Alaska is still part of Russia (Russian Alaska features in an earlier blog post http://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/maps/2017/11/), and why is the word ‘communists’ written between Texas and the Arkansas River? New Zealand has a North and Middle Island, but no South Island. The information given is also fascinating. According to the map ‘The Anglo Saxon race deteriorate usually in residing between 25 degrees Lat. Nth and Sth of the equator’ and according to the table of countries adult yearly death rates per thousand were 14 in Australia and 28 in Texas, which seems bad until you compare it to the 27 per 1000 of those who stayed in Britain.

Emigration onto colonial lands meant displacement for any native peoples. Lands were advertised as being open and free, full of animals to trap or hunt and with fertile soils ideal for the growing of crops. A large number of maps produced from the mid-1700s onwards included details of opportunities for hunting or land regardless of the peoples already there. This example comes from ‘The United States of North America…’ by W. Faden, 1783 (E) F6 (163) and shows area in what was part of the Louisiana territory but now part of Iowa and settled by Sioux and Padoucas Indians which has ‘extensive meadows full of Buffaloes’.

Books were produced to encourage emigration, with information on conditions, what should be taken, what could be grown and so on. This guide to North America, published in 1850 (400.14 r.47), describes the ideal emigrant. ‘America being a growing country and a land for labour and industry, the poor industrious labouring man, with a wife and two, three, or more sons and daughters fit for labour and of sober habits, would do well to emigrate’.

While the labouring man is roundly cheered and welcomed, the Native American isn’t. ‘Their warlike propensities; their revengeful, brutal and blood-thirsty acts and devices of torture on their captives; and the hardy defiance with which the poor miserable wretches pass through their sufferings till death are altogether astonishing’. A similar publication for those emigrating to Australia (1833, 810.14 r.29) is equally harsh on the native inhabitants, ‘….miserable and incurably degraded natives, fast vanishing from the land, are no longer numerous or bold enough to molest the white inhabitants’.

The costs and travel time involved meant that for many this would be a one-way trip. Best in that case to follow the advice offered at the end of the preface to ‘A practical guide for emigrants to North America’, ‘Whoever may make up his mind to emigrate, should decidedly wean himself from all the ties and endearments of home, or he will become unhappy and discontented under any circumstances, and, like many thousands, sigh to return’.

Emigration map of the World, or Geographical and physical map of the World on Mercator’s Projection shewing the British possessions, with the date of their accession, population &c. all the existing steam navigation, the overland route to India with the proposed extension  to Australia  and the route to Australia via Panama, Published by Letts, Son & Steer, London c1851. B1 (268)

 

Something we should not forget

Old maps of countries are often the cause of wistful thinking, it’s rare though that a map is produced for that very reason, as is the case with this map of pre-Second World War Eastern Germany.

At the end of the war large numbers of German nationals were stranded in lands which were in the control of the Soviet Union or would become part of an enlarged Poland. They either fled or were expelled from these areas and found their way to West Germany. These 10 million exiles  – Vertriebene or expellees – formed into political groups. They tried to claim compensation for lost property  and kept the hopes of a reunified Germany alive, based on pre-war borders and  including East Prussia. This map, whose title can be translated as ‘Something we should not forget’, was probably produced in support of  these people. It was published in Berlin in 1957.

Few countries have had their borders changed by war as Germany. Originally a group of separate states the country unified after the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 and then lost territory after the First and Second World Wars. Land lost at the end of the Second World War is the reason for the map of remembrance featured here.

German Empire, Netherlands and Belgium from Bacon’s Popular Atlas of the World, 1909. G1 B1.52

This page from Bacon’s popular atlas shows Germany at its height, between the end of the Franco-Prussian war and the start of the First World War.

Prof. W. Liebenow’s Eisenbahn- und Reisekarte vom Deutschen Reiche mit den im friedensvertrag vorgesehenen gebietsveränderungen, c1919 C22 (182)

The map above, published in Berlin with the proposed changes from the Treaty of Versailles, has used an earlier pre-war railway map of Germany to show the changes to German territories from the Treaty of Versailles. Overprinting on existing maps is a common practice, saving on costs and, more importantly considering the dramatic changes taking place, time. The red area to the East would become the Polish corridor giving a previously land-locked country access to the sea.

The Daily Telegraph Map of Germany, c1919. C22 (116)

This map is an English version of the Deutschen Reiche map above. While similar In some aspects one important feature here is highlighting land where different nationals are prominent. Shading shows that the land that would become the Polish Corridor had a majority of Poles.

A Polish proposal for annexation of German Territory, 1944. C1:2 (108)

This map of the possible annexation of East German lands is published by the Office of Strategic Services, the Intelligence Department for the United States towards the end of the Second World War. The agency would evolve into the C.I.A.

The first map shown here is also an interesting example of a pictorial map. Pictorial maps ignore all but the most basic topographic detail but are richly decorated with pictures relating to the area shown.  As there would be little need to produce a practical map of an area which was off-limits this portrayal of land, industry and attractions  further emphasises the purpose of the map.


 

Maps for the 3rd of November

Maps for events taking place of the 3rd of November, with forty-one years separating the two.

The first is a simple plan of a dramatic day’s action, ‘Bombardment & capture of Acre, November the 3rd 1840′.  The map shows both the layout of the citadel of Acre, now a coastal town on the Mediterranean in Israel but at the time part of the Ottoman Empire, and the ships of the British, Turkish and Austrian navies who bombarded the Egyptian forces that had taken control of the Citadel as part of a campaign to gain control of Ottoman territory.

Despite its small size the map is full of detail, giving not just a list of ships with captains and guns but precise timings for the start and end of bombardment and the amount of casualties both sides suffered, the British and Allies with 18 killed and 42 wounded while the Egyptians lost a staggering 2300 killed and 3000 captured.

The large number of casualties resulted from a direct hit to the Citadel magazine, dramatically depicted on the map, which tells us that the explosion killed not only ‘1700 men but also 5 donkeys, 3 camels, 12 cows and some horses’.

Extract from Acre plan showing magazine exploding. Note different amount of unfortunate donkeys.

In contrast to brutalities of war this second map is from a sales catalogue for the auction of farm land near Cropredy in north Oxfordshire, on the 3rd of November 1881.

Like the Acre map it focuses on a small area to the exclusion of any surrounding countryside, but while the Acre map is one of death and destruction the listing of plots and fields, along with  decorative corners is a picturesque representation of the English countryside in map form. A large number of auction catalogues for land feature maps such as this example.

This extract is from the first edition of the Ordnance Survey 1:2,500 map of the area. Plots 139, 140 and 141 correspond to lots 1, 2 and 3 on the auction map. The map dates from 1882.

Bombardment & capture of Acre, November 3rd 1840, from a rough sketch taken on the spot by Joseph C Brettell, mining Engineer’. 1840 (E )D26:20 Acre (1)

Plan of an estate at Cropredy, Oxfordshire, for sale by auction by Messrs. Simmons & Sons, atnthe White Horse Hotel, Banbury, on Thursday, 3rd November, 1881. 1881. C17:49 (53)

Nineveh

This beautiful map of Nineveh is a sad remainder of the recent destruction caused by ISIS forces in the Northern Iraq area. For a time Nineveh was the greatest city in the World, capital of the Assyrian Empire, until its sacking in 612BC. Trade between the Mediterranean region and the East travelled along the Tigris River, bringing great wealth to the city.

nin1

As well as the threat posed by opposing forces fighting in and around Mosul  the area is also down-river of the Mosul Dam, declared in 2006 to be the most unstable in the world. Mosul is situated on a major fault-line and any tectonic activity in the area, which has in the past caused damage to temples and buildings at Nineveh, could be disastrous.

The main part of Nineveh, the Koiyunjik mound, has been excavated a number of times since the mid-1800s. Remains of Palace buildings and temples have been found here but looting has

centre

caused considerable damage to the site. Modern Mosul now spreads east beyond the historical site of Nineveh with suburbs between the two mounds of Koiyunjik and Nebbi Yunus. As of the 9th of January the ruins of Nineveh were on the front-line of territory held by ISIS and the Iraqi Army.

The map is published by the East India Company, which up until a few years after the date of the map controlled large parts of the sub-continent. Given a Royal Charter to trade with India in 1600 the company subdued large parts of the country and it was only with an act of Parliament in 1858 following rebellion in 1857 that the British Government, in the form of the Raj, took over control.

leftVestiges of Assyria, sketch 1st, an ichnographic sketch of the remains of rightancient Nineveh, with the enceinte of the modern Mosul…constructed from trigonometrical survey in the spring of 1852 at the command of the Government of India by Felix Jones… Published by John Walker, Geographer to the Honble East India Company, Feb 2nd 1855. D19:30 Ninevah (1)

 

Gunpowder, treason and…maps

g-p

While searching through a book of documents about the Oxfordshire village of Ewelme for a map enquiry staff came across this intriguing document. A fourteenth century recipe for, amongst other things, making gunpowder.

ewelme 2IMG_0209

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which at this time of year brings to mind the Gunpowder Plot

Remember, remember the fifth of November,Gunpowder treason and plot.
We see no reason
ewelme 3Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
Guy Fawkes, guy, t’was his intent
To blow up king and parliament.
Three score barrels were laid below
To prove old England’s overthrow.
By god’s mercy he was catch’d
With a darkened lantern and burning match.
So, holler boys, holler boys, Let the bells ring.
Holler boys, holler boys, God save the king.

And what shall we do with him?
Burn him!

 

These extracts of maps of Westminster show the layout of the Palace area at the time of the plot. The conspirators had purchased the lease on a building near the House of Lords and began tunnelling to underneath the House. By November the 4th a stockpile of gunpowder was discovered in rooms underneath the House and the plot was foiled. The first map, by Ralph Agas shows a mix of birds-eye view and street lay-out of the area

westminister

Plan of London (circa 1560-1570) by Ralph Agas. Facsimile published in 1905. (E) C17:70 London (433)

while the second, confusingly drawn so that south is at the top,  shows the House of Lords and the layout of buildings around both Houses of Parliament. The Old Palace Yard is also shown, scene of the execution of a number of the conspirators the following year.

west-2

Undated map of Westminster from Gough Maps 23

The image at the start of the blog comes from a pamphlet published in 1679 (and then reprinted in 1819), and shows Guy Fawkes with a lantern which was for a long time at the Bodleian, but is now in the Ashmolean Museum http://britisharchaeology.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/highlights/guy-fawkes-lantern.html

Lawn A e.73

London and the blitz

This new addition to the collection is a large-scale general tourist map of central London. Almost as an aside the map shades the areas in the city damaged or destroyed by the blitz.

bacon

Bacon’s large scale plan of the City of London, 1947. C17:70 London e.217

This close-up of the area of the City shows how much damage was caused by raids between 1939 and 1945 which hadn’t been re-built by the time of the publication of the map in 1947. The damaged areas are shaded light green.

close-up

By the end of the war nearly 3000 buildings in the City had been destroyed, with 340 killed. In the London region the amount killed was close to 30,000. There is an informative book on the open shelves in the reading room, Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945, by Laurence Ward and published by Thames & Hudson, which reproduces the maps created by the London City Council to show the areas of damage. Using County Series Ordnance Survey maps from 1916 the maps have been shaded in showing the levels of damage caused.

book

Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945. Ward, L. Thames & Hudson. G24 C17.85