Category Archives: History

A horse?

Chalk figures on hillsides are not uncommon especially in southern Britain but they still retain the air of mystery. What are some of them?  Who created them? Why are they there? They also caused an issue on maps.  Early modern cartographers drew maps but out of necessity gathered information from other surveyors. This is where errors crept in.  Imagine an surveyor of the Berkshire Downs at Uffington saying “well, there’s this white horse on the side of the hill”.  The prehistoric ‘horse’ famously does not look like a horse therefore the misunderstandings can be seen as a result, most notably the Sheldon tapestry map of Oxfordshire which has a truly majestic (and enormous) white horse striding over the side of the hill.



Richard Hyckes who designed the tapestry was not to know the reality was rather different.





The error was repeated by John Rocque albeit with a more modest horse.











It wasn’t until the Ordnance Survey surveyed the country was the Uffington White Horse depicted as it truly is.





The Cerne Abbas Giant is actually a giant cut into the chalk of Dorset, rather a famous one. He is  younger than the horse but his beginnings are still shrouded in mystery but possibly something to do with former Cerne Abbey nearby. For some reason he was only represented as lettering by Isaac Taylor 1765.

However, the Ordnance Survey somewhat sanitised him when the 25” was published in 1888.

The Long Man of Wilmington in East Sussex was not so problematic, so much so that he didn’t appear at all until the OS came along. The map by Thomas Yeakell and William Gardner (1778-1783)  ignores him completely – whether they were unaware of the chalk figure or merely swerved the opportunity of representing it history does not tell us.


Sheldon tapestry map of Oxfordshire  [1590?] (R) Gough Maps 261

John Rocque. A topographical map of the county of Berks (1761) Gough Maps Berkshire 6

Ordnance Survey 2nd edition 1:2500 Berkshire XIII.14 1899

Isaac Taylor. Dorset-shire. 1765 Gough Maps Dorset 11

Ordnance Survey 1st edition 1:2500 Dorset XXXI.2 1888

Thomas Yeakell, William Gardner. The county of Sussex. 1778-1783. Gough Maps Sussex 14

Ordnance Survey 3rd edition 1:2500 Sussex LXVIII.15 1909

Urbs in Rure

In the mid-nineteenth century Oxford was still a small town dominated by the University but surrounded on three sides by water which had the effect of curtailing expansion of decent housing but by 1850 a series of circumstances led to the development of the North Oxford suburbs, in the St Giles parish. The population of the town grew sharply between 1821 and 1841, the Great Western Railway arrived in 1844 and, later in the 1870s, University fellows were allowed to marry thus leaving their college lodgings to live nearby. St John’s College owned a large tract of land, known as St Giles Fields which it had acquired in 1573 from George Owen, physician to Henry VIII to the north of the town. The middle class of professionals with disposable wealth were growing, housing was required so the time was ripe to develop this land.

The first attempt came in 1852 when architect Samuel Lipscomb Seckham (who went on to built Bletchley Park) was asked by the College to submit drawings for a new suburb to the north of the town. This terraced crescent of handsome Italianate houses with communal garden, rather in the style of Bath, became Park Town, the earliest planned development in Oxford.

This was the forerunner to the later developments of Walton Manor and Norham Manor. Once again Seckham produced this drawing for the what was to be called Walton Manor. As you can see most of the large villas are in his preferred Italianate style except for one which oddly shows elements of Victorian Gothic. This was not as successful with only one of the residences being built – still currently at 121-123 Woodstock Road.

The Walton Manor estate plan was revived in 1859 with Seckham still in charge but with the plan considerably changed. The following year an adjoining piece of land was offered for sale to become the Norham Manor estate by St John’s College. Initially Seckham was to manage both estates but William Wilkinson an architect from an auctioneering family of Witney, nearby, was awarded the supervision of Norham Manor. Wilkinson’s practice was prospering but involved church restorations and work for the rural gentry on domestic and agricultural buildings rather than villas and terraces.

His vision for the estate can be seen clearly from this view which was painted by him in c.1860. In this incredibly detailed watercolour you can see it has been conceived as a gated community of large suburban villas for the wealthy middle classes. By the mid-1860s Wilkinson had taken over the whole of the North Oxford suburb development and was building his pièce de resistance, the Randolph Hotel (1862-64). This Oxford landmark is still standing in its Gothic splendour.The large individual residences of both Norham Manor and Walton Manor were largely complete by 1870 so attention was turned to the smaller semi detached and terraced houses which give the area its character today. However, not everyone was a fan – Thomas Sharp of Oxford Replanned (blog here) felt the area was an ‘architectural nightmare’.

The spread of development can be seen clearly in the map record.
















Ordnance Survey 1st edition 25” Oxfordshire XXXIII.15 1876
Bird’s eye view of the Walton Manor Estate [1854] C17:70 Oxford (103)
Proposed Norham Manor Estate [c.1860] MS. Top. gen. a. 22
Plan of an Estate called Park Town [1853] C17:70 Oxford (30)
T. Jeffreys. Plan of the university & city of Oxford 1767 Gough Maps Oxfordshire 17
Alden’s new plan of the city and university of Oxford 1888 C17:70 Oxford (5)
Plan of Oxford 1902 C17:70 Oxford (6)
Plan of the city and university of Oxford [1949] C17:70 Oxford (36)

Obscured by clouds

It is hoped that the work now offered to the Public, will be found to rank among those which convey to the reader, at once, their plan, and in these, their own recommendation’.

If ever the introduction to an atlas sounded like the start of a Jane Austen novel it’s Edward Quin’s fascinating ‘An historical atlas in a series of maps of the World as known at different times…A general view of universal history from the creation to A.D. 1828′, published in 1830. Quin’s atlas shows the geographically known extent of the World (to Europeans) in a series of 21 maps, starting with the deluge in 2348 B.C. and ending with the General Peace of 1828.

The Deluge, from Edward Quin’s An historical atlas…1830. 2023 b.9

The beauty of Quin’s atlas comes from this sense of mystery achieved by revealing the known parts of the World according to the period of the map, with the rest of the World covered by thick, dark billowing clouds. With our knowledge of the World growing with each map the clouds withdraw a little further and more of the World is revealed. The engravings were by Sidney Hall, and as can be seen by this extract from the Deluge map Hall was a skilled engraver. Hall’s life and work in cartography is a fascinating story in itself, as when he died his wife carried on his work. To read more about Hall and his wife Selina see an earlier blog here  

The way the areas shown on the maps advance with each period can be seen in this map.

We are now in the eighth period, From the birth of Christ, to the death of Constantine, A.D. 337′ . By this point the World as was known had grown considerably. While the atlas is very much an European view of the World Quin does highlight non-European empires, with the Chinese and Indian Empires all appearing in this map. The Islamic Empire first appears on the twelfth, ‘From the dissolution of the Western Roman Empire, A.D. 476, to the death of Charlemagne, A.D. 814′, which is shown below

But Quin is very much a product of his time. The World starts not in the deep geological past, a theory recently introduced by, amongst others James Hutton in a two volume work published in 1795 (title page from first edition shown) but with the Creation (‘As to the origin of the Earth we should be entirely ignorant, had we not the aid of the Holy Scriptures’), with the earth populated from the ‘parents of mankind’, Adam and Eve. This basing of knowledge on religious belief continues with the next map, which goes forward to the exodus of the Israelites in 1491 B.C. It’s not till the fourth map, showing the World between the foundation of Rome and the death of Cyrus that that we move away from the Bible and start to see the classical authors as the source of information.

From the dissolution of the Western Roman Empire, A.D. 476, to the death of Charlemagne, A.D. 814′.

The last map to show the World with any cloud still covering unknown parts is this, from the eighteenth period, ‘From the death of Charles V. of Germany, A.D. 1558, to the restoration of the Stuarts in England A.D. 1660’. 

Despite exploration into and across the Pacific by, amongst others, Magellan, there is still cloud cover over the margins of the Earth, it would take the next map, ‘A.D. 1783, Independence of the United States’ before the World was revealed in full.

Quin wasn’t the first to create an atlas in this way, with earlier examples from Germany but Quin’s was the more famous, and certainly better illustrated. Later editions used Hall’s engravings at the start but soon these were replaced by a less-effective hemisphere based World view, you can see this online here Search Results: All Fields similar to ‘An and Historical and Atlas and Quin’ – David Rumsey Historical Map Collection


Ephemeral maps

These two albums of cuttings show the progress of the First World War through the essentially ephemeral medium of maps for newspapers; being the method the ordinary person could follow the progress of the war visually.  The maps were small scale and general with a strong basic message which had to overcome the disadvantages of poor quality paper and usually small size. Arrows on the map would have covered miles on the ground!



These maps were not drawn or published to be kept, they were to describe a short period of time which would soon be superseded. In an era without 24 hour rolling news on screens everywhere, these ephemeral maps and illustrations were very important to provide context.



See this map of the Battle of Messines (7th-14th June 1917) which is in its infancy so much that the newspaper maps have yet to have a title.

Newspaper illustrators did not confine themselves to just to maps as you can see from the diorama sinking of the Lusitania. The diagram gives circumstances of the disaster which would have resonated as there were 123 Americans out of the total 1,195 lost souls.

Another example is the map Location of Mid-West Men which would have particular relevance to our trans Atlantic allies.

The Bodleian has a rich collection of  trench maps and they have been blogged about before here and here but it is interesting to compare the broad brush newspaper image with an actual published map.


By being a snapshot in time they provide researchers a very interesting contemporary view of the ebb and flow of the situation on the ground and not a full historical record with all the benefits of hindsight.


Depictions of Europe continue after the Armistice was signed until 1st February 1919.  Maps appeared afterwards concerning the changing political situation and the fate of Germany.

The scrapbooks here was bequeathed by Walter Newton Henry Harding, an interesting character and prodigious collector. The story of his vast collections and how they ended up at the Bodleian is the story for another blog but among the 22 tons of material were these two albums full of maps and diagrams cut from Chicago newspapers offering a uniquely transatlantic view.


Where the great battles the war in Europe are being fought. [Chicago: Various publishers], 1914-1919.  C1 b.97

Copy, reconstruction or fake?

The Map Room was recently given what appeared to be two facsimiles of early printed maps of Paris from the sixteenth century. The smaller one bears a Latin title, “Lutetia vulgo Paris Anno 1575” – a fairly conventional way of giving both the Latin and vernacular versions of a place name in a map title. It’s a colourful, attractive map, showing Paris inside the city walls with the buildings represented pictorially. In the foreground are views, a rural landscape and a view of the Tour de Nesle, part of the city walls. The map is signed by Josse de Reveau.

So far, this appears a fairly conventional facsimile  – a modern printed copy of an attractive early map. But on closer inspection it becomes puzzling. There is no other trace of Josse de Reveau or of the original on which the map was based. The explanation is that the map is actually a reconstruction, originally made in the 1950s by a French artist; inspired by an engraving from the time of Henri III, who was King of France from 1574 to 1589, Daniel Derveaux copied the style and drew Paris as it was in the sixteenth century. According to the company website (the map is still for sale, along with a number of similar maps and map themed gifts),  “He signed ‘Josse de Reveau’ to make it look authentic.” The name could be an adaptation of Derveaux’s real surname. The map has fooled many into thinking that it is a facsimile of a sixteenth century map, and it is recorded thus in several library catalogues. We have not identified a specific map from which the information was taken.

A second map of Paris in the same category was acquired at the same time. This has an even more complex history in terms of the origins of the information. The title in a scroll design across the top of the maps is “Icy est le vray pourtraict naturel de la ville, cité, université de Parisy;” both the wording and the archaic spelling are copied directly from a large and detailed map of Paris made in the mid-sixteenth century by Olivier Truschet and Germain Hoyau. Some of the decorative elements on this map are taken from the same source. The original is held in the university library in Basel, Switzerland.

The map itself is smaller and simpler than that produced by Truschet and Hoyau, and is largely based on the one published by Braun and Hogenberg in their Civitates orbis terrarum, an atlas of the world’s cities in six volumes which appeared from 1572. The foreground is occupied by human figures; two labourers, two ladies in grand dresses, and two finely dressed gentlemen, one on a horse. There is also a view of Paris along the bottom. We have been unable to identify the source of these images, so at least three, possibly four sources went to make up this composite map. Again there is a fictional cartographer, and this time a publisher as well; “Rossingol execut [made] 1576. A Paris, chez Melchior, Quai du Port au Foin qui regarde l’Ile Nostre Dame” – the publisher and address look authentic and convincing, but are invented. There is no definite evidence as to the origins of this reconstruction; it may well be the work of Derveaux again, but it dates from the 1930s and the company has no record of it.

It is difficult to know what to make of these maps – were they originally made as a deliberate attempt to deceive, a whimsical experiment, or a way of improving access to historical sources? As regards the historical information on the maps, they are fairly useful; the details seem to have been quite closely copied from early maps. Having said which, we should also remember that no map can be relied on entirely to show the landscape as it was at a given time –  but that probably deserves a separate discussion.

Lutetia vulgo Paris Anno 1575. Daniel Derveaux, 1958.  C21:50 Paris (208)

Icy est le vray pourtraict naturel de la ville, cité, université de Parisy. Publisher not identiifed, [1930?] C21:50 Paris (209)

Hurrah! Hurrah! for Japan

In 1877 the political satirist Frederick Rose produced the ‘Serio-comic war map for the year 1877′.  Rose used the map to compare Russia to an Octopus, the analogy being that Russian tentacles, grabbing hold or in some cases choking various countries, symbolized how Russia was attempting to gain influence over Europe. An earlier blog on cartoon maps featuring this map amongst other examples and can be found here

Serio-comic war map for the year 1877 by Frederick Rose JJ puzzle pictures folder 1 [28], 1877

Cartoon maps are good at making a serious point (most deal with expansion and empire building) in an immediately appealing and understandable way. The mix of strong imagery and a history that often seems to repeat over and over again means that they remain relevant long after initial publication. In 1904 Russia and Japan went to war over the fears both had over the other’s areas of influence in Manchuria and and Korea respectively (a blog about a map of the war is here.) and a Japanese student, Kisaburō Ohara, took Rose’s map and extended the area shown further east to include ‘Manturia’ and ‘Corea’ with one of the sinister arms of the Octopus reaching out to the area. On the map China becomes the Empress Dowager Cixi, complete with the bound feet fashionable at the time.

A humorous and diplomatic atlas of Europe and Asia, 1904. B6 (209)

While the majority of the European countries remain with the same national portraits In a change to the Rose original to show what potentially could happen to any country to fall under Russia’s sphere you only need to look at how Finland, Poland and the Slavic countries (which would become Yugoslavia after World War One) are all portrayed by skulls to suggest the effect Russian influence had on these nations.

Text on the map is in both Japanese and English with the English text in the box repeated in Japanese along the bottom. The text starts ‘Black Octopus is a name newly given to Russia by a certain prominent Englishman [i.e. Rose]. For the black octopus is so avaricious, that he stretches out his eight arms in all directions, and seizes up everything that comes within his reach’ and ends on a patriotic note, ‘ Suffice it to say, that the further existence of the black octopus depends entirely on the outcome of the present war. The Japanese fleet has already practically annihilated Russia’s naval power in the Orient. The Japanese army is about to win a signal victory of Russia in Corea and Manchuria. And when…St. Petersburg? Wait and see! The ugly Black Octopus! Hurrah! Hurrah! for Japan!’.

The 1904 map is a strange mix of quality and some parts definitely work better than others. The new parts, which is pretty much everything east of Persia, have a fresh look and have enough space for the countries to be represented well while with the reduced size of the map from the original Europe is a bit too crowded. Scandinavia in particular looks bad compared to the 1877 version. Italy is intriguing, treating the Pope and the Vatican like a toy on string following the defeat of Rome and the Papal States in the war to unify Italy in 1870.


This map shows the problems throughout Europe dating back to and before the Rose map of 1877, problems which would continue after the end of the Japanese war with Russia. Following the 1870 Franco-Prussian War France and Germany point arms at each other while the large empires of Turkey and  Astro-Hungary are both split in two, one by a Russian tentacle, the other by the two different countries, Austria and Hungary, that make up the Empire, both bringing different languages, cultures and groups of people to a large part of Central Europe. The Balkans are a frightening bunch of skulls, a foretaste of what was soon to come with two Balkan Wars and the origins of the First World War. Then there’s the  potential for conflict and jealousy over spheres of influence in the Near and Far East.

This is the strength of cartoon maps, the most obvious types of maps apart from those produced by totalitarian regimes where bias plays a part in the way the map looks. Purely judged on cartographic merit it’s a poor map, but in all other aspects; aesthetically, historically, novelty, the map is a wonderful example of its type.

My dearest friend…

In 1747 the antiquarian William Stukeley received an unexpected letter from an English-born resident of Copenhagen. This was from Charles Bertram, a 24 year old student at the University of Copenhagen, and was a letter of introduction from the younger man to Stukeley, who was 60 and a published author on subjects as diverse as stone circles and other megalithic remains, druids, medicine, and illness.

This was the beginning of a number of years of correspondence which started off being a discussion on Danish ancient monuments but quickly moved onto a tantalising revelation that he was in possession of a previously unknown manuscript, a history of Roman Britain including a map written by ‘Richard of Westminster’. Stukeley, after initial scepticism (with good reason, Bertram never allowed Stukeley access to the original manuscripts, saying he was sworn to secrecy by the owner), was slowly convinced of the legitimacy of Bertram’s discovery as Bertram carefully included his copied out versions of sections from the manuscript during their correspondence.

Amongst the earliest examples of the work sent to Stukeley was a map, ‘Mappa Brittaniæ…’ dated 1747.

Gough Maps British Isles 12

After showing the material to others Stukeley was told that it was around 400 years old, and that the probable author was in fact Richard of Cirencester, a 14th century cleric. This would put it roughly in between the early British maps of Matthew Paris and the famous Gough Map of Great Britain, held here at the Bodleian (more information on these maps can be found here Mr. Gough’s map ( ). Bertram’s copy of the manuscript map included more detail on Roman Britain than had previously been known and was a more accurate portrayal of the outline of the country than these and other early maps.

The correspondence continued, reaching a cartographic height in 1755 when Stukeley received from Bertram the first copy of the map printed from a plate. On the reverse is a letter which Bertram signs off,  ‘I am for the present & forever, dear sir, your most obedient Servant…’ He could also have added liar and forger to his dedication as Bertram had made the whole thing up.

The recto and verso of Gough Maps British Isles 13, sent from Copenhagen on October 16th, 1755.

A number of different versions of this map then appear.  Bertram a had a plate made so he could include the map in book published in 1757 but before this Stukeley had made his own copy where he’d changed the orientation to put north at the top and tidied up the general appearance to create a more pleasing looking map.

Stukeley’s manuscript copy of Bertram’s print, Gough Maps British Isles 14. 1755

The full text of the manuscript appeared in a 1757 book with histories of Britain by the 6th century monk and cleric Gildas and  the 9th century monk Nennius. By associating the forged work of “Richard of Westminster” with two established works Bertram intended to give the work  legitimacy as part of an established tradition of writing on ancient and Roman British history.

Title page of Britannicarum gentium historiæ antiquæ scriptores tres: : Ricardus Corinensis, Gildas Badonicus, Nennius Banchorensis, 1757. Gough Gen. Top. 80

In the same year Stukeley published an account of a talk he’d given the year before on Richard of Cirencester to the Antiquarian Society, ‘with his antient map of Roman Brittain [sic]; and the itinerary thereof‘. This is the map sent to Stukeley by Bertram in 1755.

Bertram sought no financial gain from his association with Stukeley, turning down a number of requests by Stukeley to purchase the manuscripts. His motives seem unclear; a possible attempt by a younger man to have fun at the expense of an older historian, a delusional attempt to gain some fame or a cynical plan to gain the respect of an established figure so when he eventually published the work he’d be able, as he does in the introduction, to mention favourably Stukeley’s name and association with the project. That Bertram first raises the ‘manuscript’ with Stukeley in 1747, ten years before publication of the book, and draws the first map the same year suggests the latter.

Bertram died in  January 1765 (Stukeley was to follow 3 months later). It was after his death that the lack of any evidence of this mysterious manuscript began to raise questions about its existence. An English translation and original text version was published in 1809 but by the middle of the century the work was broadly dismissed as a forgery, not before it had managed to damage the reputation of Stukeley and been used by Edward Gibbon when writing the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Major-General William Roy, whose mapping of Scotland after the Jacobite Rebellion led to the creation of the Ordnance Survey. Roy’s book on Roman Antiquities in Britain, posthumously published in 1793, used Bertram’s map as a source for some of the location names, as did early editions of Ordnance Survey maps.

Of all the parts to this story possibly the most interesting are the letters from Bertram to Stukeley, which are also stored here at the Bodleian. In an old green book titled ‘Bertram’s letters to Dr. Stukeley. M.S. 1746 & c. (MS. Eng. Letters b.2) are 31 letters starting with the original introduction written in 1746 but not sent till the following year and then followed at first with information and drawings about Danish megalithic monuments.

A drawing of megalithic remains from Bertram’s letter, dated October 16th 1753.

The most important letter in the collection dates from 1747. After first complementing Stukeley by down-playing Danish remains compared to those that Stukeley had worked on and published about (‘Some circles and hinges of stone are also to be found here, but none, i believe in the whole World to equal that on Salisbury Plain’) Bertram mentions for the first time the

manuscript in his possession that would lead to so much correspondence, speculation, maps, published work and, eventually, condemnation and tarnished reputations. Stukeley’s letters are lost so we only have Bertram’s side, no chance to see how Stukeley dealt with this revelation, and these drip with so much sugary flattery it’s hard to get an idea of how Stukeley reacted to the news of the manuscript, but judging by the infrequent mention of the manuscript in the following few letters it seems caution was the approach taken.

This rich and fascinating archive came to the library in 1809 from the collection of the antiquarian and collector Richard Gough. As well as the maps and items shown here the collection also includes Stukeley’s original drawings and writings on Stonehenge, Avebury and other ancient monuments as well as a large quantity of maps, plans and prints of British topography.

Winter short, but very cold

The end of January marks the eightieth anniversary of the end of the Battle of Stalingrad, generally regarded amongst military historians as the turning point of the Second World War. German troops in the city surrendered on January 31st, with the encircled troops to the north following on a few days later. For Germany Stalingrad was meant to be a quick battle, a way of cutting off the Volga River supply route before the main objective of the Caucasus oilfields. Instead vicious street fighting bogged down an already extended army, forcing them into another Russian winter.

In preparation for the invasion of Russia in June 1941 the German army produced a large amount of mapping. Most of the topographic at 1:50,000, 1:100,000 and 1:200,000 was based on pre-existing Russian maps but the Germans also produced a large amount of small scale mapping, including thematic maps, to help plan the invasion. Examples here show both the range of maps made and the logistical issues involved in invading a country which had, in the countryside at least, poor transport in place and a winter that could be brutal. Due to the large size of the maps shown here these extracts centre on Stalingrad.

Wehrgeologische Übersichtskarte des Europäischen Russlands, 1941. C40:6 (163)

This extract from a much larger map shows the geological conditions around Stalingrad (which is just north-east of centre, on the bend of the river). The brown indicates a loess soil structure, which makes for finely grained soil. Good for agriculture but not much good for transport or water retention, something which the legend on the map states, ‘wasserversorgung schwierig’ (‘water supply difficult). The map also shows something else that was going to be a major problem for the German troops fighting in the area. The dotted blue lines show areas of frost by months. Stalingrad falls into the zone where there was on average four months of frost which, with extended supply lines and lack of winter-clothing, led to German troops fighting in freezing conditions without appropriate winter gear, many suffering from frostbite and other aliments as a result.

Strassenzustandskarte der besetzten Ostgebiete, 1942. C40:6 (50)

From another large map comes this extract showing the road set-up around Stalingrad. This shows on the surface what the geological map hints at, the dotted red lines of so many of the roads around the Stalingrad area are graded ‘Ungeeignet, d.h. für Mot. Verkehr nicht geeignet’ (‘Unsuitable, i.e. not suitable for motor traffic’) while the lack of knowledge of the area (the map dates from August 1942, when the battle for the city started, and would partly be based on earlier Soviet maps) is shown by the continuous red-lined roads being labelled with a general description of ‘good’. There’s also this text box…

… which asks for the ‘Cooperation of all required! (Mitarbeit…)’  going on to request that any changes in road condition be reported immediately, a hint to the boggy nature of loess ground when the rains come.

And then there are the general topographic maps made by the cartographic branch of the army. Maps such as this example at various scales cover the whole of Europe, most of North Africa and the Middle East. Usually based on pre-existing national sets (the British maps are adapted versions of earlier Ordnance Survey commercial maps) these are often highly detailed and, with added text and town plans on the reverse, specialising in the area shown. Sheet D49 of ‘Mil.- Geo.- Karte Östeuropa 1:300 000′ (1942, C40 (72a)) covers Stalingrad.

The city is shown with a black box surrounding it indicating that there’s a town plan on the verso. Text on the side covers topics such as soil, structure, hydrology, climate (‘winter short, but very cold’) , transport and population. As an example of the confidence the army had in a quick victory at Stalingrad the map also lists 8 locations east of the Volga, beyond the city, to take as well.

Finally, the city itself. This is the city plan from the back of the 1:300,000 sheet, again this features text on the city (population – 445,470 as of 1939 – etc) and a list of objectives.

The city stretches out along the west bank of the Volga, making the key features an easy target for the German artillery that surrounded it and the bombing raids by the Luftwaffe. Vastly outnumbered soon Soviet troops were occupying the factory area to the north of the map (nos. 31-39) the station area (Bhf. just below no. 40) and the important low hill of Mamayev, fought over and won and lost continually throughout the battle (shown by the spot height 100. west of nu.39 and now the site of the ‘Heroes of the Battle of Stalingrad’ memorial).

As well as the large amount of single and series sheet maps produced the cartographic branch of the army (the ‘Abteilung für Kriegskarten und Vermessungswesen’) produced large numbers of information pamphlets for various countries. The earliest were made out of hard board but as more and more were produced brown paper packages were created. These included maps, books on locations and features (duplicating a lot of the information shown on some of the maps here) and photographs. Here’s the pamphlet package for the area covering Stalingrad

Miltärgeographische Angaben über des Europäische Russland, Die Wolgagebiete, 1941 C40 e1/K

And here are two images from the book of photographs, the first showing the central square and the second the tractor factory  (no. 31 on the town map extract above), sight of some of the heaviest fighting throughout the battle for the city

In contrast to these military maps is a series of maps published in an atlas by the New York Times during the war (2023 d.39). These maps show a history of the war from its origins in treaties after the First World War up to publication of this, the second revised edition in 1943. While German forces were in retreat in the East Western Europe was still firmly in control of the Axis powers and the outcome in the war was still in doubt. Typical of the sort of maps that were common in newspapers during the war here are two maps from the atlas, with an extract from the first at right, covering the Russian campaign before and after Stalingrad (a short blog about maps in newspapers can be found  here ).

Last word (and map) to the victors. On a large map covering four sheets the ‘Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union’ (1956, C40 (427)) shows the advances, retreats and battlegrounds between the German Invasion in 1941 to the end of the war in Berlin in May 1945. Around Stalingrad the thick orange and red tipped arrows can be seen that show how the Soviet advance, codenamed Operation Uranus, encircled and then cut off supplies to the Axis forces (Italian and Romanian divisions also fought at Stalingrad), eventually forcing those trapped to surrender.

The map was published in 1952 by the Glavnoe Upravlenie Geodezii i Kartografii, the official cartographic department for the Soviet Union, and known more commonly by the initials GUGK.

A blog on the changing names of the city on the Volga can be found here




During the Little Ice Age of the sixteenth to the nineteen centuries the River Thames occasionally froze right from bank to bank. Never ones to pass up a commercial opportunity the good folk of London decamped onto the ice to sledge, skate, roast oxen, play nine pins or drink coffee.  The whole of London life was there and obviously maps and keepsakes were produced to mark the occasion. Mementos were even printed on the ice.

The maps produced at this time show quite an organised affair with rows of stalls and marked footpaths.

The first frost fair was in 1608, then 1683-84, 1715–16, 1739–40, and 1789 then the final one in 1814. The maps we hold date from the earlier fairs in the seventeenth century. This one is illustrative rather that truly accurate but encapsulate the holiday-like feel of the time.



We may never see the Thames frozen in London again so these are not only historical documents but images unlikely to be repeated.Gough Maps 21

Broxb. 95.89

‘…Wonderful things…’

A short blog to mark 100 years to the day that Howard Carter, a team of archaeologists and        local workers cleared the last of the rubble from steps in the Valley of the Kings and found an undamaged door at the bottom. After removing this outer door the door to the tomb of Tutankhamun was revealed. Two days later, November the 26th, 1922, Carter, along with Lord Carnarvon, made a small hole in this door which Carter then peered through. Asked if he could see anything by his patron Carter uttered the most famous words in archaeological history, ‘Yes, wonderful things…’

Nearly 100 years earlier the west bank of the Nile was mapped by the one of the first Egyptologists John Gardner Wilkinson. Wilkinson produced a detailed map on 6 sheets, with the relief beautifully and realistically engraved. Here’s the sheet covering the Valley of the Kings area.

Topographical Survey of Thebes…by J. G. Wilkinson, 1830. (E) E13:30 Thebes (1)

This is an extract from the map showing the Valley above the Temple of Deir el-Bahari.

With its use of shading and hachures (the short engraved lines showing direction of slope) you get a real sense of the hills and valleys. Following his death in 1875 Wilkinson’s extensive papers came to the Bodleian, an invaluable resource for the study of Egyptian antiquities before the onset of tourism and removal of objects changed their appearance for ever (The page of hieroglyphs at the sides of this blog come from one of Wilkinson’s note-books, MS. Wilkinson dep d.47). Here’s a beautifully hand-drawn sketch of the Valley of the Kings from Wilkinson’s papers.

Valley of Biban el Molook, or of the Tombs of the Kings of Thebes’. Original manuscript by John Gardner Wilkinson, c1830? MS Wilkinson dep. a.22 (fol. 70).

In this map Wilkinson identifies each tomb with letter; by the time he had drawn and published the ‘Topographical Survey…’ these letters had been replaced by the numbers that are still in use today, as can be seen in this extract from the map. Tutankhamun’s tomb would be found by Carter close to tomb 9, the shared tomb of Rameses V and VI.


Karte der Westlichen und Umgebung von Luķsor und Karnak [Theben] 1909. E13:22 (1)

This 1909 German map of Luxor and the surrounding area shows how different the relief is on the west bank of the Nile compared to the east. It’s a land of contrasts, of flat fertile land close to the river and desert and mountain further out, of a land of life and of death. The hilly area centring on the Valley of the Kings (Königsgräber on the map, and extract at right) is rich in tombs of royals, nobles and workers. It’s also a map full of the wonders of ancient Egypt. On the east bank the temple at Karnak, the greatest of all surviving Egyptian temple complexes and on the west bank famous archaeological sites, including the temples of the Ramesseum, Medinet Habu and Deir el-Bahari as well as the Valley of the Kings and Queens.

Here’s another of the sheets from Wilkinson’s map of Thebes with the Luxor and Karnak temples.

The library holds a set of maps showing the area around the tombs, ‘The Theban Necropolis’, published by the Survey of Egypt in in 1924. Frustratingly it doesn’t include the sheet covering the Royal Tombs though one sheet, C-7, does include Howard Carter’s house.

The Theban Necropolis, 1924. E13:30 Thebes (3) sheet C-7

Want to know more about the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb? There’s a marvellous exhibition on at the Bodleian until February next year, details here Tutankhamun: Excavating the Archive | Visit the Bodleian Libraries (