Category Archives: Uncategorized

Cycling Then and Now

The recent changes to the Highway Code set us thinking about the origin of cycling maps and their development. We have maps going back to 1887 but cycling routes were described purely by text earlier than that with this Walks in Epping Forest. A handbook to the forest paths with cycling and driving routes dating from 1885.

They still hadn’t really got into their stride twenty years later with this account of a route from Witney to Charlbury indicating the amount of puff require by the use of manicules.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interestingly, early advertisements for cycle hire and repair used the language associated with horses; ”warehoused and cleaned” could easily have been “stabled and groomed”. The maps being sold for cycling just showed main roads – which with the absence of many cars were sufficient.

This is map by Mason & Payne shows routes suitable for cycling in 1888 but today they are mainly major A roads with many being dual carriage ways, not really conducive for a pleasant ride through the country.

 

Many did not show relief, rather crucial for a cyclist, but this Bacon’s Cycling Map does show generalised relief in the form of hachures but also railway stations to facilitate cycle touring.

Cycling as a hobby has increased especially in recent years but modern maps and apps are very different from those early examples.  Cycle information is generally overlaid on to a topographic background usually in layers showing you what to expect every metre of the way.

The same route is shown thus

 

Unlike Bacon’s map, it is quiet roads and cycle tracks that are highlighted and sought out to make any expedition safer and more enjoyable. All sorts of analysis and interactive data is also available at the swipe of a finger and there is a sharing element promoting online competition rather than just the satisfaction of making it to the pub at the end first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What probably hasn’t changed is the search for relief from any cycling-induced injuries or soreness as this early advertisement shows.

Walks in Epping Forest (1885) Johnson g.417

The Roads Round Oxford (1896) Vet. A7 e.505

Bacon’s Cycling Road Map of England and Wales. Sheet 5 (1887) – C17 (73)

Mason and Payne’s Cycling Map of the British Isles … (1888) – C15 (180)

OS route courtesy of Stuart Ackland

Strava route courtesy of Nick Millea

Witney to Banbury courtesy of cycle.travel.co.uk

 

Going South

The early 20th century was the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration with the competition between a handful of men really pushing the boundaries of discovery and survey. Ernest Shackleton was at the forefront of this but it wasn’t until after the Nimrod Expedition which he led from 1907 to 1909 that he was able to write about it.

The Expedition, named after the aging ship, Nimrod, was short on funds, lacking experience and preparations were rushed.  Finally the difficulties were overcome and team were underway southwards. The main target was to be the first men to the South Pole. Once the team arrived in Antarctica there were a range of geographical and scientific objectives to be undertaken but there would be long periods of inactivity due to the season and weather. However, Shackleton had put some thought to what the team could do in the long dark winter months.  He took along a printing press with which all the members of the Expedition wrote a book, Aurora Australis.

 

The challenges of writing, illustration, printing and binding this work in the frigid temperatures cannot be overstated and became the first book published in Antarctica. Published at ‘The Sign of the Penguin’ (Cape Royds) the extreme cold meant the printing ink became thick and difficult to work.  It can be imagined that to include maps in this work would just be too difficult. However, about one hundred of these volumes were produced and bound by another expedition member, Bernard Day, using recycled horse harnesses and Venesta boards from the packing cases.

Each copy retains stenciling indicating the provisions packed in that case which gives each copy a name.  The lettering on the Bodleian’s copy is “Kidneys”.

An Australian member of Nimrod Expedition, Douglas Mawson, created the maps of the expedition from surveys he and other members undertook. A geologist at the University of Adelaide by profession, he was ideally placed to do this work.

The maps show the Expedition’s Winter Quarters at McMurdo Sound, Cape Royds, and their routes on land and ice.  The style of the maps is attractively spare but almost illustrative. Printed in colour, the depiction of relief is mainly pictorially stippled with the names of the features are a mixture between prosaic (Brown Island, Snow Valley) and commemorational such as Mount Evans, Mount Doorly, both named by Captain Scott during the earlier Discovery Expedition after colleagues. Also notice the Royal Society Range – it’s always good to keep your sponsors onside. The routes show the first ever ascent of Mount Erebus, the second highest volcano in Antarctica, and the route southwards. It is poignant that the route stops not at the South Pole but at the map edge, dated “16.1.09 Lat. 72° 25’ Long. 155° 16’.”. However, this was the furthest south anyone had reached at that time.

 

The maps were drawn once the party returned to England and were issued in The heart of the Antarctica by Ernest Shackleton which was published in 1909 as a weighty two volume work.

The heart of the Antarctic  2036 d.17,18

Aurora Australis Broxb. 51.14

Treasure Unearthed!

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atlas factice of mainly Dutch 17th century maps  Locke 22.1

Found in a box

 

Looking through a box of uncatalogued maps, plots and diagrams I came across several manuscript architectural plans of the Midland Grand Hotel, London. Now named the St Pancras Hotel it is an iconic landmark on the Euston Road next to that other celebrated edifice of red brick, the British Library. The plans, drawn to show the girders, were by engineer Richard Moreland of Old Street in 1867 at a scale of 10 feet to 1 inch (1:120). You can see all of the modern internal features with the Grand Staircase and the popular Ladies Coffee Room. There are even manuscript pencil marks denoting dimensions which indicate these were some sort of working drawings.


The hotel is a masterpiece of high Gothic designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who beat ten other architects for the commission, even though his design was far bigger and far more expensive that Midland Railway Company specified. The competition was launched in 1865 for a 150 bed hotel but it was finally completed in 1876 with 300 rooms. With its very high standard of fixtures and fittings the Midland Grand soon acquired a reputation as a luxurious upmarket hotel – even better than the celebrated Langham in Portland Place. This luxury didn’t come cheap costing nearly £500,000 to construct it charged the sum of 14 shilling a night – an average week’s wages for an agricultural labourer.

MS. Maps England a. 3

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

The things you find in boxes

This blog post deals with the strange and wonderful things that sometimes appear in unexpected places. It’s something that happens often, making the job all the more rewarding for it. While having a tidy up in the map storage area we found an old rectangular box. Inside were 3 rolled maps; one from just after World War I by the Geographical Section of the War Office, the other two from 1857 published by the wonderfully named ‘National Society for promoting the education of the poor in the principals of the established Church’. Underneath these three objects was this single sheet of paper.

The translation of the main text is ‘Insignia of Iraqi warplanes, equilateral green triangle with black border, red sign in the form of an 8, white square’. The page comes from a booklet made by the German Army, presumably about Iraq though it could equally be about Syria or the Middle East. Iraqi involvement in the Second World War was brief. The Golden Square, a group of army officers, staged a coup in 1941, deposing the ruling family. British concerns that oil supplies would be diverted to the Axis powers lead to a brief, and for the British successful, war in May 1941.

It is hard to identify where this sheet has come from. Throughout the war General Staff of the Germany Army prepared pamphlet packages on a large number of countries, including all European countries, most of the African countries north of the equator and those in the Middle East, but this sheet hasn’t come from one of these.

The pamphlets included maps, information booklets and books of photographs. The books were usually compiled by academics familiar with the country in question and there are pamphlets produced for neutral countries as well as allies such as Italy and Romania. The earliest pamphlets date from 1939 and were produced in strong red cases, by 1943 shortages of materials meant that weaker card cases were used.

Considering the single sheet deals with airplanes it’s appropriate that one of the maps in the Irak  collection deals with airfields.

Until we can find out where this sheet belongs we’ll put it in the ‘Irak’ pamphlet box, ‘Militärgeographische angaben über den Irak’, 1943. D19 e.1

The league of Nations

This large (84 x 53 cm) cloth-backed map of the World issued by the League of Nations

highlights the changes that took place after the First World War following mandates issued by the League. Below a general World map insets for Africa, Arabia and the Pacific Islands show colonial possessions once owned by the defeated nations redistributed amongst the victors.

A League of Nations Mandate is a legal transferring of a Country from one nation to another, this was set up in June 1919 following the Treaty of Versailles.  The map is full of evocative names of countries from former times; Persia, South West Africa, Tanganyika and the Gold Coast, and also includes tables showing the birth of the League as well as flags of member and non-member countries as well as pie charts comparing area and populations of member and non-member countries, presumably as a way of showing the benefits of belonging.

The mandated countries are split into three classes. Class A, the countries of the Middle East formerly in the Ottoman Empire, were countries considered ready for some level of independent control. Class B, which consisted of former German possessions in West and Central Africa which would still need to be in some level of control by a mandatory power, while

 

Class C, the rest of the German Possessions in Africa and those in the Pacific would need to be under full control of the mandatory power. Each transferred country has a box giving details of possession, surrender and mandate, as in Samoa here.

The League of Nations Map of the World, c1926 (C) B1 (1628)

 

A tale of two maps

The contrast between these two maps is striking, considering they are both the same.

The Bodleian has two copies of South America corrected from the observations comunicated to the Royal Society’s of London & Paris… by John Senex, and dating from 1710. The copy on the right is a single sheet which has been folded and then incorporated into an atlas of maps by Senex soon after printing. As can be seen from the image the colours are strong and there is no damage or staining on the sheet.

The copy on the left has just come into the library as part of a large donation of rolls. To protect rolled maps from damage they were often attached to a linen backing and then varnished, hence the frayed and stained appearance of the map. It is now hard to see too much detail on the map compared to its cleaner cousin.

This map has also had additional strips added to the sides and top, with the new title (at top of this blog) and then text on either side about the continent.

The unvarnished map has a beautiful cartouche, which as well as giving title and printing details also gives

 

an idea of a European viewpoint of South America, with an Amazonian warrior, decapitated head and cannibal feasts in the background. The warrior is a common symbol of America and is always shown with a bow and arrow and a crocodile.  Just above is a  representation of a Penguin, with descriptive text stating ‘In this icy sea there are many animals which are half fish, half fowl. They have a neck like a swan which they often thrust above water for air, the rest is allways under water’. To the right of the penguin is the inscription ‘ Here Cap. Halley found the sea full of ice’.  In 1699 Edmund Halley, astronomer and mathematician,  sailed on the Paramore across the Atlantic to carry on experiments on mapping the magnetic currents and flows of the World as well as mapping the Southern Hemisphere constellations and stars. On his return to England in 1700 he published the first magnetic declination chart of the World and then in 1703 he was appointed Savilian Professor of geometry at Oxford University. The map, made by John Senex, is dedicated to Halley. Senex was a prolific publisher of maps and atlases and was at one time cartographer to Queen Anne. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1728 and when he died in 1740 his wife Mary continued his work.

 

The Atlantic has been overly blessed with places that either never existed or have changed names completely. Pepys Island is one of the more celebrated of the ‘phantom islands’ of the Atlantic. Pirates in 1684 sailed close to the Sebald de Weerts Islands and marked this in the ships journal. Later this was heavily rewritten and published by someone keen to gain the favour of the Secretary of the Navy, Samuel Pepys, and named a new island after Pepys despite the original journal stating the island was part of the de Weerts group.  Pepys Island went on to feature in numerous maps up until the mid-1800s.  The Sebald de Weerts islands are now known as the Jason Islands. Just as strange is the naming of the southern part of the Atlantic as the Ethiopic Ocean, a name which dates back to classical times when most of Africa south and west of Egypt was called Aethiopia.

South America corrected from the observations comunicated to the Royal Society’s of London & Paris… by John Senex, 1710. Allen 15a.

Home defence during World War I

It’s always interesting when you get added to the collection a fairly routine map which has been personalized in some way, as in the case here.

London Area is a one sheet in a series at 1:253,440 (1/4 inch to a mile) published by the Ordnance Survey in 1916. This sheet belong to Capt. C.L. Wauchope of 39 Squadron and he has marked all the landing grounds according to class and searchlights in the area around the capital.

39 Squadron was formed early in 1916 as a ‘Home Defence’ Squadron protecting London from enemy attack, in particular from the night-time raids by Zeppelins.  Two rings of landing grounds surrounded the city, one at 5 miles and one at 9 miles and some of these went on to play a prominent role in the Battle of Britain during the Second World War, most famously Biggin Hill.

Landing grounds were classified according to number of different approaches and ground conditions and these landing grounds were used mainly by pilots who had either lost their way or had engine problems, which suggests that Wauchope’s map may not be the only one doctored in this way. The manuscript legends are at both corners of the bottom of the map. Due to limited space in the cockpit of the aeroplanes the map could be folded in half and still have an obvious key, which was important as in an emergency the pilot would want to find as safe a grounding as possible. A first class landing ground would have landings possible from most directions and a smooth, unobstructed surface whereas third class had a limited approach and were usually only used as a last resort.

Despite the small amount of fatalities and damage caused by Zeppelin raids during the war the psychological harm caused by the airships was considerable, as can be seen from this title page of an issue of the War Budget, a weekly illustrated periodical about the War.

 

London Area, 1916. C17:40 (268)

 

The battle of the Medway 1667

This is a remarkable map of a remarkable event. Interleaved amongst Naval papers and letters to and from Samuel Pepys in a volume of manuscripts is a drawing by another noted diarist, John Evelyn, of one of the few examples of enemy action on British soil since 1066, the attack on the River Medway in 1667 by the Dutch.

 

The volume of papers is part of the Rawlinson collection. Antiquary Richard Rawlinson (1690-1755) donated to the Bodleian over 5,000 manuscripts and nearly 1,800 books on such subjects as theology, literature and history.  Evelyn was a contemporary of Samuel Pepys and his diary, which he wrote for most of his life though not to the detail of Pepys’s shorter work, was first published in 1818. This map by Evelyn is included in the collection of Pepys manuscripts because of Pepys’s role in the Navy, first as an administrator and then, from 1673, as Secretary. The raid was part of the Second Anglo-Dutch War, fought between the two nations from 1665 to 1667 to gain the upper hand in trade and World dominance. Between the 11th and the 13th of June Dutch ships sailed into the Medway, firing on Chatham and Sheerness and sinking a number of British ships.

This is an extract of the area around Rochester and Chatham                                                        Yard.  The dotted line between ships 2 and 3 and 7 and 8 is a heavy chain laid across the river to prevent the Dutch breaking through, a measure which failed, allowing the Dutch fleet to sail on and attack the British fleet at will. Ships 12 to 14; the Royal Oak, the Loyal London and the Royal James, were all burnt while the flagship, the HMS Royal Charles (10) was captured and towed back to the Netherlands.

The map is a sketch in pen and ink and there is a letter from Evelyn to Pepys with the map. Dated the 20th of June the letter starts ‘I am heartily ashamed I could not performe yr command before now. It was Friday ere I could possibly get home, and find I am here. I have been so afflicted with ye gripping of the guts that I was not able to bestow the pains intended on the scheme I send you…’A later map of the Essex coast, made in 1686 by Capt. Grenvil Collins, is dedicated to Pepys and features as part of the cartouche a small picture of a battle at sea (posted on this blog in January 2016).

 

 

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

A few pages after this map is a letter Pepys wrote to the Earl of Sandwich when the Earl was Ambassador to Spain in 1667. Pepys often used code when writing his diary, and it is interesting to see that this skill was also important in his official role.

Lord Sandwich was a friend and supporter of Pepys. Sandwich died on board ship during a future War with the Dutch in 1672.

‘ A scheme of the posture of the Dutch Fleet and action at Sher-ness and Chatham, 10th 11th & 12th of June 1667, taken upon the place’. 1667. MS Rawlinson a 195a fol 78