Category Archives: Uncategorized

Notoriously false

John Pryer’s map ‘A Pocket Companion of ye Roads of the South Part of Great Britain, called England and Wales…’ is not what it first appears. Originally printed in 1724 the map shows the road system of England and Wales giving distances between major towns and cities and is similar to a host of road and travelling maps published around the same time.

Overprinted onto the original map is additional information tracking the path across the Southern parts of Ireland and England of a solar eclipse on the 11th of May, 1724. Given that the map dates from 1724 there is a chance that this map was published after the eclipse to show the route of the shadow of the Sun, not before. Either way this is the earliest sheet map held in the Bodleian to show the path of an eclipse of the Sun.


A Pocket Companion of ye Roads of the South Part of Great Britain…1724. Gough Maps England and Wales 50

Pryer’s map is a copy of an earlier map with the same title by Herman Moll, from 1708. This map went through several editions and was copied, both legitimately and not, a number of times. Moll includes a complaint against copyists in a piece of text on the map

‘Since ye beginning of this new sett of maps now completely finish’d, several ignorant pretenders have started up & with great shew & noise frequently advertised their trifling performances: calling them cheap, curious, useful & correct: as to the first epithet, they are really dear at any price; in ye 2d. place , everybody may see they are wild, confused and poorly engraven; as for their usefulness, they tend only to lead people into errors; and so far from being correct, that the projection of their principal maps is notoriously false’.

It is not recorded whether Pryer is one of Moll’s ‘Ignorant pretenders’, though the lack of any mention of Moll and his map makes it likely that Pryer used Moll without authority. It does bring into question though why he would include the diatribe against unscrupulous publishers and cartographers if he was one himself.

If there is doubt about Pryer and Moll there can be little of Moll’s opinion of one of the most celebrated cartographers of the time, John Ogilby. Ogilby created, with the publication of


The road from Oxford to Salisbury…from John Ogilby’s Britannia, circa 1675. (E) C17 (370)

Britannia in 1675, the first road map of Great Britain, and with it introduced the concept of strip maps. In the legend to Moll’s original map, and kept in Pryer’s reprint, is the following

/ Principal cross roads & many not to be found in Mr. Ogilby’s book

This seems a harsh dig at what was, for it’s time, a revolutionary way of showing main post routes and the level of detail involved was far greater than that of other maps of the time, including Moll. Ogilby’s innovative design included mile indicators, side routes and hills (including showing the direction of slope) and was soon taken up by other cartographers in both this country and abroad.

The Eighteenth Century saw an increase in both the publication and quality of maps such as Pryer’s as the growth in both astronomy and scientific knowledge advanced, and with it the ability to predict and plot each eclipse. Previously eclipses were reduced to diagrams in the corners of world maps, such as the example here from John Speed’s ‘Prospect of the World’ atlas for 1627.


Extract from ‘A new and accurat map of the World, drawn according to ye truest description, latest discoveries & best observations yt have beene made by English or strangers’. John Speed, A prospect of the most famous parts of the World, 1627. Facsimile edition, G1 B1.21L                                           


Cartoon maps

2015 is the two hundredth anniversary of the famous political cartoon by James Gillray showing Napoleon and Pitt the Younger carving up the World.


The Map Department holds a number of examples of cartoon or satrical maps. Most are designed with a similar intention to the Gillray, that of educating and entertaining at the same time, the maps are based on geographical boundaries but usually have no other topographic features, and instead fill up spaces with figures. This example, from the start of the First World War, is one of the best of this type in the map collection.

European Revue Kill That Eagle 1914.jpg2

European Revue, Kill that Eagle, Published by Geographia in 1914 and drawn by J. Amshewitz. C1 (407)

Despite its initial appearances it has a serious message to convey. Germany looks towards France while Austria, dressed as a clown, clings on desperately while watching horrified as the brown bear of Russia grabs at ankles and talons. Britain prepares to stride across the channel to sort out the mess, ‘Business as usual’ with the Empire in support.

Another example is by the famous Victorian cartoonist Frederick Rose.


Angling in Troubled Waters, 1899. Drawn by Fred. W. Rose, pubished by G.W. Bacon & Co. C1 e.9.

Angling in Troubled Waters shows the troubles caused by the expansionist ideas of the nations of Europe. All have either a fishing rod attached to territorial claims or are in some form of trouble; France fighting amongst itself after the Dreyfus affair, Austria in mourning after the assasination of the Empress Elizabeth in 1898. England, in the guise of John Bull, is the only nation happy with their lot, a common theme in these maps. Carrying a full net of territory Bull has just snagged Egypt on his line. Another famous cartoon map by Rose is ‘Octopus map of Europe’* from 1877, warning of growing Russian influence in Europe.


*The Octopus map of Europe’ by Frederick Rose comes from the Bodleian John Johnson collection, one of the largest and most important collections of printed ephemera in the world, including a number of other cartographic cartoons. This image is from from JJ puzzle pictures folder 1 [28]. information about the John Johnson collection can be found here

Not all cartoon maps are intended for satire though. A book published in 1868 featured maps


Geographical Fun, c1868. Published by Hodder and Stoughton. C1 d.69

drawn by Lilian Lancaster when she was 15, to amuse her younger brother. The book features sketches of Countries according to their characteristics.


So England sits serene on her throne, keeping an eye on Europe but content with her Empire and the strength of the Navy, here symbolized by a ship in East Anglia while Germany,


at this time a separate group of states called the North German Federation but soon to join with Prussia to form the German Empire after Prussian victory over France in the 1870 Franco-Prussian war.





A list of selected accessions to the map collection in May 2015

Les Musulmans dans le Monde, c1955. Centre des Hautes Études d’Administration Musulmane,.     B1 (1493)

Freytag’s touristen-wanderkarte der Dolomiten, c1900. C25:24 (41)

Ethno-linguistic distribution of South American Indians, 1967. H5 (296)

Reconnaissance geologic map of the State of Baja California, 1973. Geological Society of America, F7:13 (22)

Tunisia – Libya borderlands, 1943. Produced by Office of Strategic Services, US Army. Map shows German and Allied troop movements with an inset of the Mareth line defences.


Grand Océan -Iles Marquises, Baie de Tai O Haé (Ile Nuku-Hava), 1909 (original published in 1849). Dépôt-Général de la Marine. J17:5 (9)

Paul Langhans : Deutsche und Tschechen in NordBohmen, 1899. Published by Justus Perthes. C20:6 (50)

The Czech-Slovaks, c1919. Naval Staff, Intelligence Division. C20 (295)


Official Road Map for Allied Forces Europe [France], 1944? AMS M 305 (USAREUR) C21 (717)

France – ports, 1944. United States Army, Office of Strategic Service No. 3163. C21 (718)

Hydrogeological map of the West Bank, 2004. Palestinian Water Authority, D26:4 (5)

Anglo-Egyptian Sudan – sketch map illustrating article 1 of the treaty between Great Britain and Ethiopia signed at Adis Ababa the 15th day of May, 1902. 1902. Intelligence Division, War Office. I.D.W.O. No 1637. E4:12 (11)

Population maps

This population map of the Saxony region of Germany is a recent addition to the map collection. Volksdichte-Schichtenkarte des Königreiches Sachsen nach der Zählung vom 1. Dezember 1900 (Population density layers map of the Kingdom of Saxony after the census of December 1, 1900) shows density of population by colour with two insets for the areas around Dresden and Leipzig from an earlier 1846 census.


Volksdichte-Schichtenkarte des Königreiches Sachsen nach der Zählung vom 1. Dezember 1900, C22:25 (74)

Population maps such as this are, in the field of cartography, a relatively recent product, with the first known examples being published in the early 1800s. Early maps would give tables showing population figures, this example from 1822 has one that is Christian only and colours parts of the World depending on the ‘Degrees of Civilization’.


Clark’s Chart of the World, 2nd ed, 1822. (E) B1 (151)

clarks.jpg crop

inset of Clark’s Map showing population table and legend

But at the same time different ways to portray population figures were being introduced. This map, from 1849, shows the population of Britain based on figures from the 1841 census by using dots to show sizes of cities, towns and villages as well as shading to show general population density.


British Isles elucidating the distibution of the population…1849, (E) C15 (157)

Our original map of Saxony uses a technique called isopleth to show the density of population. Isopleth uses lines to show areas of equal value, the lines are similar to contours on a physical map and work on the same principle. The main advantage is that you can see at a glance the heavily populated areas by the colour ranges shown on the graph. That Saxony was, in 1900, a mainly rural area can be seen be the amount of green and brown cover shown.


Inset from Volksdichte-Schichtenkarte des Königreiches Sachsen showing Dresden according to 1846 census


A list of selected accessions to the map collection in April 2015

Argentina Political Divisions, OSS A-3856. 1944. H3 (222)

L’Hellenisme depuis l’antiquite jusqu’a nos jours, 480 av-J.C. 1921, 1921? C8 (309)

Notes on the Italian Theatre of War and short vocabulary, 1917. War Office, includes glossary and key phrases translated into Italian, text and map of North Italy (G.S.G.S. 2846) C25:1 e.1

Argentina Corn Map – World Statistics, 1939. Published by Sanford Evans Statistical Service. Features tables on corn production, exports and imports etc. H3:5 (17)

Océan Glacial Arctique Spitzberg. Région des travaux de l’expédition de l’Académie de Sciences de Russie pour le mesure d’un arc de méredien en 1899-1901, Académie des Sciences de Russie. M9 (121)

Stadtplan von Istanbul,1940. Generalstab des Heeres. D30:80 Istanbul (32)

Map of the Empire Mail Scheme and other Commonwealth air routes in the Eastern Hemisphere (existing and projected) 1938. 1937, War Office. B4 (135)

Map and guide of Abha and Khamis…, c1988. D50:9 (4)

Catal Agzi liman inkiʂafi. 1938. 3 maps and a diagram on the Ereĝli coal basin in Turkey. D30:3 (22)

Airfields and enemy dispositions, Amami-Gunto and Okinawa-Gunto, OSS No 5509. 1944. D20:46 (3)

Physical chart of North Polar Regions, plotting route of ‘Fram’ and Fridjtof Nansen. 1897. B2 (142)

Cholera epidemic 1863-1868. 1952. B1 (1488)


Bodleian’s collection of maps covering the Gallipoli campaign comes mainly from two sources. As well as a wide range of maps published by the War Office the library holds a number of detailed maps of the peninsula showing defences and trenches published by the General Staff of the Turkish Army. The Turkish maps are of interest because these, published before the First World War, were used by the WO as the main source of information for their detailed maps of the area.

gall turk

This Turkish trench map dates from 1912, and would have been produced in response to the threat posed by Bulgaria in the First Balkan War. This map, and others in the series, were copied by the Geographical Section, General Staff  of the War Office to create their maps of the Peninsula. The British map based on this Turkish one can be seen below. This map shows the area around Anzac Cove. D30:3 (13)

The Dardanelles, the strip of water between the Gallipoli Peninsula and Turkey-in-Asia, is an important link from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. Allied control of this waterway would then make the taking of Constantinople (as Istanbul was called at the time) a serious possibilty, and it was hoped that this threat would be enough to end Turkish involvement in the war.

The campaign, which started with a Naval bombardment of Turkish defences along the peninsula in February 1915 is now regarded now as a military mistake, the blame of which was directed towards Winston Churchill, at the time First Lord of the Admiralty. It is also a source of national pride in Australia and New Zealand, where ANZAC Day is remembered every 25th of April, marking the date when troops from the two countries first landed at Gallipoli. At the time though Gallipoli was seen as a way of easing pressure on the Western Front, where after the initial fighting at the start of the war had been replaced by the stalemate of trench warfare. Taking the fight to Turkey also had other advantages. Two successive wars in the Balkans leading up to 1914 had weakened the Ottoman Empire and a campaign against Turkey was sure to win the support of the neighbouring nations; soon Bulagira broke off negotations with Germany while Greece offered troops and Italy, as yet undecided as to who to support began to lean towards the Allies.

Following the initial bombardment in February ships from the French and British navies moved into the Dardanelles on March the 18th, intending to take out of action the forts lining the shores in preparation for troop landings. Minefields had been identified in earlier reconnassaince but after several ships were hit and were sunk by mines the naval bombardment was called off, leaving defences in place when Allied troops landed on the 25th of April. Anzac troops were scheduled to land at Anzac cove but instead landed a mile north and faced steep slopes and

gall brit

The British version of the Turkish map, again centring on Anzac Cove. Dating from 1915 the map includes instructions on the right in both English and French in how to use the squares on the map to pinpoint positions. D30:3 (20) [407]

defended positions, and soon began to suffer heavy casualties. British and French forces fared better. British troops landed at Cape Helles where on some beaches oppostion was minimal while on others deadly, and were able to move inland and set out forward lines. This was all to no avail though. As in France and Belgium fighting soon took the form of trench warfare as soldiers were forced to dig in. By late 1915 the operation was finally cancelled and by January 1916 all Allied troops had been evacuated off a Peninsula that 265,000 of their commrades had died trying to win.


Capes Helles from the same series as the map of Anzac Cove by the War office, 1915. D30:3 (20) [11]

As well as official maps produced by the two opposing armies commericial maps began to appear soon after the campaign started. Papers such as the Daily Telegraph and publishers Stanfords produced maps which were bought by the public as a way of following the campaign, either from a sense of interest or from a more personnal reason, to learn about the terrain and area where family or friends were based.


The Daily Telegraph War map no. 9, The Dardanelles, 1915. D30:3 (3)

A list of selected accessions to the map collection in March 2015

Standard map of the Witwatersrand Goldfields, 1900. E54:13 (90)

Nordwest-Pamir, Alai-Pamir Expedition 1928, 1931. C40:22 (12)

Map of Poland and adjacent countries shewing nationalities, languages & religions, 1943. C31 (498)

International General Aeronautical Map Britain. G.S.G.S. (Air) No. 113, 1924. Published by the Air Ministry. C16 (851)

Map of Axis annexations, occupations and the puppet states from March 1938 till October 1943, 1943. C1:5 (553)


Roma e Dintorni, 1935. Istituto Geografico Militare. C25:15 (37)

Plan von Berlin und umgegebend bis Charlottenburg, c.1900. C22:45 Berlin (120)

Map of the Kingdom of Siam and its dependencies, [1900?]. D28 (210)

Formosa from the latest Japanese Government surveys, 1901. D21 (137)

Environs of Oxford, enlarged from the Ordnance maps; the Geological Survey & sections by Andrew Stacpoole…New College, 1920?. C17:49 (313)

The Sheldon Tapestry and the Weston Library

The official re-opening of the Weston Library took place over the weekend of the 21st and 22nd of March. After a four-year refit which saw the central book stack – eleven floors filled with books, maps, newspapers and everything else you could imagine (even a ghost on one of the floors) – taken out and re-placed by Blackwell Hall, a large open space open to the public and featuring permanent and temporary exhibitions of Library treasures. The current exhibition, Marks of Genius ( features some of the most celebrated items in the collection, amongst which is one of the Map Department’s most important possessions, The Gough Map (

Taking up a key position in the hall is the famous Sheldon Tapestry map of Worcestershire. Handwoven from wool and silk around 1590 this map is one of four large tapestries that were originally hung in Weston house, the home of Ralph Sheldon.

Tapestry Full_new_v2

Of the four tapestries, the Bodleian owns Worcestershire and Oxfordshire, both of which came to the Library in 1809 as part of a large donation by the antiquarian Richard Gough (it was in this donation that the Library also acquired the Gough Map). The Library owns parts of the Gloucestershire map while Warwickshire is on display at the Warwickshire Museum. Worcestershire has recently been conserved, a project involving the National Trust’s tapestry conservators. Details of how they achieved such spectacular results can be found here

The map is on display in the hall for at least the next year, while the Marks of Genius exhibition, including the Gough Map amongst other items, finishes on the 20th of September.

A list of selected accessions to the map collection in February 2015

Yellowstone National Park, 1907. United States General Land Office. F6:58 (39)

Map of the British Central Africa Protectorate, prepared from a drawing compiled at the Intell: Div: War Office for H.H. Johnston, C.B., H.M. Commissioner and Consul General, B.C.A. 1895. Royal Geographical Society (RGS), March 1895. E40 (194)

Karte des Europäischen Russlands und der Angrenzenden Länder, mit genauer bezeichung der strassen und angabe einiger historich-physikalisch-geaograpischen hauptomente, 1885. Justus Perthes. C40:6 (165)

Sketch map of Syria, Topographical Section, General Staff No 2067, 1907. Shows Aleppo to Medina railroad. D27 (142)

Railways of Greater Germany, Map No 2992, 1944. Branch of Research and Analysis, OSS. C22 (666)

Navarra, 1861. From the ‘Atlas de España y Sus Posesiones de Ultramar’. Includes text and plans of Pamplona, Estella and Tudela. C38:13 (14)

Nanga Parbat-Gruppe und nachbargebeite, 1936. From the Deutsche Himalaya-Expeition 1934. D11:3 (2)

Scheme of the Political and Administrative Divisions of the U.S.S.R., c1939. Also includes geological and mineral information. C40 (431)


Southeastern Siberia, ethnic groups, 1944. No 5904 – R & A, OSS. C40:4 (33) and Southeastern Siberia, distribution of population, 1944. No. 5903 – R & A, OSS. C40:4 (34)

Übersichtskarte für die Russischen Besitzungen in Mittelasien, c1900. Published by E.S. Mittler & Sohn, Berlin. D1:5 (60)

Alai-Pamir Expedition 1928. Fedtschenko-Tanimasgebiet, 1930. Joint publication by the ‘Notgemeinschaft der Deutschen Wissenschaft mit Unterstützung der Akademie der Wissenschaften der U.S.S.R’. C40:22 (11)

W & A.K. Johnston’s Russo-Japanese war map, 1904. D1:4 e.2

Paul Langhans: Die wirtschaftlichen beziehungen der Deutschen küsten zum meere, 1900. Justus Perthes. C22:1 (20)

The economic wealth of Germany, 1919. Supplement to The National Review, February 1919. C22 (668)

Compass traverse of a journey across the Ordos by Major George Pereira, 1911. RGS. D7 (138)

Panoramic view of the Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, c1900. U.S. Geological Survey. F6:45 (35)



Blowin’ up a storm

It’s not often you come across a sense of bitterness from a map. Usually they are pretty emotionless objects, simply showing the authours intentions, unless the subject is one to stir the heart; a plan of a battle maybe, or pre-war ethnic maps of Europe which have such weight of forthcoming events.

huricane 1

This Hurricane map of the Caribbean and Eastern Seaboard seems a first glance to be straight-forward weather map,compiled from information supplied by the United States Weather Bureau. This first scan shows the right-hand part of the map. A second image from the map though shows a note attached by an

hurricane 2

unknown hand in the top left corner, critizing the Bureau for missing the severe hurricane of 1929, as the Americans ‘were too busy chasing piratical English Boot-Leggers to worry about Weather Bureaus notifying the Bahamas Govt.’.

1941 Hurricane Map, compiled from authentic data furnished by the United States Weather Bureau,  1941. G12 (138)