Category Archives: History

A battle plan from the Second Opium War

Sketch illustrating the action fought on the 18th of September 1860… is an example of a type of map called a Battle Plan. Created by historians to illustrate books on campaigns these types of map have also been used for educational purposes or for items for sale to the general public. The Bodleian holds in its collection a large number of such plans; the Napoleonic wars, the American Civil War and numerous colonial conflicts in Africa are just a few examples available to consult. This plan is of the  battle of Chang-Chia-Wan, fought between French and British forces and the Chinese between 1857 and 1860 during the Second Opium War over trade restrictions, hostility to British settlers and the selling of opium in the West.

sketch

Divisions are indicated by the rectangular blocks and troop and cavalry movements shown by lines of advance. The use of the rectangular box to indicate units of troops is a long established practise which continued up to and past the Second World War, the main difference between the old and the new being that divisions got bigger as the areas of conflict grew, and maps as detailed as this, which has a scale of 2 inches to a mile, become less relevant as whole fronts are depicted.

Judging by the marble design on the verso of the map and the tag (not shown) at the top of the map this is most probably a fold-out from a book. Single sheet maps from the time don’t usually have the elaborate marble pattern on the back that this one has.

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Marbling is created when paints are floated onto a gum solution and then swirled into patterns, paper is then laid on top of the pattern which is transferred on to the paper and then dried.

It is interesting to note that the map is lithographed by Col. Sir Henry James, Director-General of the Ordnance Survey. A second map from the Opium Wars shows the situation between the 1st and 21st of August and the taking of the Taku forts (D5:17 (30)).

Sketch illustrating the action fought on the 18th of September, 1860 by the allied armies in China taken from the road survey made by Lieut: Colonel Wolseley, D.A.Q.M.G. and Lieut: Harrison, Rl. Engineers [1861]. D5:17 (29)

 

Pepys and the Navy

pepysThis map, dated 1686, is the work of Capt. Greenville Collins, Hydrographer to Charles II. Between 1681 and 1688 Collins surveyed the coast of Britain, eventually bringing out an atlas based on this work, Great Britain’s Coasting Pilot; being a new and exact survey of the sea coasts of England, Scotland, and the chief harbours of Ireland… in 1693. This work, which was the first proper survey of the whole coastline, proved to be sufficiently accurate to be still used over a hundred years later. While some were critical of Collins’s maps considering the limitations imposed on survey work of the time they are remarkably accurate, as can be seen in comparison with a later Admiralty Chart of the area published in 1876 (Collins’s map is aligned with west at the top). The tools available to Collins were measuring chains, compasses and lead lines for measuring depths, all of which should ideally be used on a flat and stable surface, things hard to come by on board ship. Navigators on ship would use the lines radiating out from the compass rose (the arrow on a compass rose indicates north) and other points as well as the leading mark lines, which are aligned with prominent landmarks, to find safe passage around a coastal region with numerous hazards; sand-banks, rocks and narrow channels are an obvious example on the map. The numbers are soundings, showing the depth of water at given points.

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Extract from England – East Coast, Harwich approaches, Published at the Admiralty 3rd June 1876. Sheet 2025.cartouche pepys

Admiralty charts such as the example here were first published in the early 1800s and continue to be published to this day. They make up the greatest part of the yearly intake of maps into the Bodleian.

The map, as well as being an important example of an early Naval chart, is also of interest due to the dedication in the cartouche. The map is dedicated to Samuel Pepys, who was made Secretary to the Admiralty in 1673, four years after deciding to end his diary writing after concerns about his eyesight.

 

The cartouche is richly decorated in the style of the time, with fish, shells and a lobster to highlight the nautical theme of the map while the two figures above the dedication by Collins to Pepys are putti. Often winged these chubby children represent here the surveying work that went into the creating of the map, evidence of which is shown amongst the fish and shells.

 

Harwich, Woodbridg and Handfordwater with the sands from the Nazeland to Hoseley Bay…1686.   (E)C17:28 (46)

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.