A funny little map

An unusual little map came to light recently following an enquiry from a reader. William Hole’s map of the archery marks in Finsbury Fields dates from the early seventeenth century and runs from Bunhill in the south to roughly the location of the current Regent’s Canal in the north.  The map names all of the archery targets in this open space which until 1498 was garden and orchard enclosures.   These were removed to turn it into a practice ground for archers, a popular, and legally required pursuit for men.  It is a rare thing, with only a couple of other examples in the Guildhall Library and Bethlem Royal Hospital.  The format of being pasted onto two pieces of oak board which could be folded to makes it both durable and portable, indeed there are the remains of hook and eye clasps which would have locked the boards together. Later in its life, it had a black roan cover and wallet-style case to protect it.

Some of the archery targets are named after physical features, such as Sonday Hill and Stone in ye plaine, or people (Dick Marigold). Notable other places on the map include the well of Dame Agnes Clare “all that well comonly called or knowne by the name of Dame Anne A Cleere invironed aboute with a brickwall, scituate, lying and being on the late King’s waste . . . in a certaine higheway leading from a certaine streete called Old Streete towardes Shoreditch.” which can clearly be seen towards the bottom of the map.  Much further north is a butt named “Ros:brach” which could feasibly mark the Rosemary Branch inn which is the only building known to have existed away from town at this period. Allegedly it was a meeting place for Levellers a few years later, each identifying themselves with bunches of rosemary in their hats.  Now the area is marked by the Rosemary Branch pub and theatre which was rebuilt after a fire in 1783 destroyed the original building.

William Hole was an etcher and engraver who was born near Leeds. Although known for producing maps, he was also a distinguished engraver of portraits and music.  This little map has a more personal, almost playful feel, dedicating it “To his affect: frends M:R: Bake & M:R Sharpe, and all other louers of Archerie frequenting Finsbury-fields” so may not have been produced as a commercial venture.  However, judging by the map symbols for the targets, being denoted by the common graphic of a dot in a circle, it looks like the map was accurately surveyed by a plane table or similar device.  The scale of scores and half scores is unusual too and I can’t find any reference to the length of a score. Also, Hole included the arms of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths in top left corner, of which he was a member.  It is also rather difficult to date with any certainty and only that it appeared sometime between 1605 and his death in 1624.

The map was then traced or copied for inclusion in James Peller Malcolm’s Londinium Redivivum, or, an ancient history and modern description of London published in 1807. It is these copies which are more common with examples in libraries all over the world. However, on these tracings and facsimiles the compass points east, south and west are not noted leading to these works having the erroneous title Finsbury Fields North, as on the original the four compass points are clearly shown. In 1856 John Williams wrote a carefully researched article for the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London comparing the names of map’s archery marks with a manuscript list in the Society of Antiquaries.

Fold it up, pop it in your quiver and off you go for an afternoon’s archery in Finsbury Fields.

Finsbury Fields. [London: William Hole, approximately 1620?] Arch. A d.1

Two of (nearly) everywhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A silk escape map

The story of silk escape maps in the second World War is now deservedly well known. The maps, printed on silk as a resilient alternative to paper, were carried by Allied air crews to help them find their way home if they came down in enemy territory. Similar maps continued to be produced after the war, and the Bodleian has a small collection of maps produced in the 1940s and ‘50s. However, the recent arrival of a silk map in the Bodleian Map Room caused a certain amount of interest.  

For one thing, this map appears actually to be on silk. So called ‘silk maps’ were initially printed on silk that had been judged to be below the standard required for parachutes in the early 1940s. But once silk supplies ran out they were made of acrylic material that just isn’t as nice. This one is soft and silky and would make a lovely scarf.

The style of the map is reminiscent of the British silk escape maps of WWII. It has a utilitarian look – it was designed to be functional rather than marketable – with different islands on insets identified by letter codes. The lettering style, layout, and presence of print codes but absence of standard publication information are all typical of WWII era silk maps. It is however in only 2 colours (brown for the hill-shading, black for everything else) –  British silk maps from the same period were more often printed in 3 or more colours.

The map shows ‘Celebes’ – part of Indonesia and known as Sulawesi officially since 1945 – and surrounding islands. The map was made by the RAAF (the Royal Australian Air Force); copies are held in map libraries in Australia and the US, tentatively dated to 1943. It is the first Australian silk map to be acquired by the Bodleian. Its condition shows the resilience of this apparently fragile material – apart from a few loose threads at the edges, it looks as good as new.

Want to know more about the story of silk map production?

This website http://www.silkmaps.com/ gives general background on silk military maps
This article (beginning p.30) explains the role played by MI9 http://www.defencesurveyors.org.uk/Images/Ranger/Ranger%20Volumes/Ranger%20Summer%202009.pdf
The article ‘Wall tiles and Free Parking’ http://www.mapforum.com/04/april.htm tells some of the story behind the silk maps’ production in Britain and their use in a POW camp.

For a more detailed account, the book ‘Great escapes’ by Barbara Bond (Glasgow: Times Books, 2015; ISBN 9780008141301) is a fascinating read.

The National Encyclopædia Atlas

The National Encyclopædia Atlas is a beautiful example of a mid-Victorian atlas. Published in 1868 and intended for both home and school the book features maps of the major countries of the World as well as a short introduction with a number of World maps. Using the double hemisphere method the atlas has two different World views, both thematic. The first has a physical map showing mountain chains, river systems, trade winds and ocean basins, with views of the  Northern and Southern Hemispheres and Land and Water Hemispheres. Double Hemisphere representation is a long-established way of portraying World maps, though the changing of the positioning of the poles to highlight a side of the Earth more land or water based is an unusual feature.

Physical Map of the World, from The National Encyclopædia Atlas 

Directly underneath the two hemispheres is a strip showing mountain profiles, describing itself as a ‘Imaginary section showing comparatively the greatest elevations of the land & the greatest ascertained depression of the sea’. Mountains feature on the next page, with the highest in the Western and Eastern Hemispheres at left and right and river systems going from top to bottom.

The highest mountain in the Eastern Hemisphere, on the right, is of course Mount Everest, which at the time of the atlas was measured at 29,002 feet (it is now measured at 29,029). Just above is a balloon labelled Green. Charles Green was a celebrated balloonist who in 1838 rose to 27,146 feet in an ascent which saw temperatures drop to as low as -27°.

The second World Hemisphere map in the atlas shows ocean currents and isothermal lines (now called isotherms), as well as a small inset showing the comparative distribution of rain. Isothermals are lines showing areas where the temperature of air or sea are the same and is a term first used by the naturalist Alexander von Humboldt during his study of plant distribution throughout the World. Ocean currents are beautifully depicted in graceful pink curves and the map graphically shows the Gulf Stream and the Arctic Currents which have such an effect on the weather patterns and temperatures of Great Britain and the East Coast of the United States.

The National Encylopædia Atlas, 1868, published by William Mackenzie. 3.Δ 1326

Clay on the Western front, a German viewpoint

Geological maps are an important part of cartography. Showing underlying soils and rock formations they have been used to illustrate papers in geology, in helping the planning and construction of canals, railways and other structures and in the extraction of minerals from the earth. Their use in times of war is less obvious, though no less important, as the following map shows.

The map is one of a series produced by the German 4th Army in July of 1918, a crucial time in the latter stages of the war. Peace negotiations with the new Soviet Government in Russia released a large number of German forces to the Western Front, strengthening plans to launch a series of attacks before the arrival of American forces. Initially successful – at one point German forces were within 40 miles of Paris – counter-attacks by Allied troops soon stopped and then re-captured German gains.

In this map from Harmsworth’s Atlas of the World (c1922, 2027 c.225) the German advances made in March 1918 can be seen. The thick blue line is the front-line before March, the  green lines show the advances made by the German army from March 1918 and finally the thick red line is the front-line at the Armistice in November.

The front page of the evening edition of the Pall Mall Gazette on the day the German attack was launched. 21st March, 1918. N 2288 b.4.

This geological map shows a cause for one of the  defining features of the War, mud. The areas of grey that start to appear in the bottom right of the map are the beginnings of the clay beds (ton in German) that would lie a metre or so under the surface throughout the Flanders battle grounds. These clay beds stopped any water seeping into the ground and the intricate system of dykes and drainage channels that controlled the flow of water in peace time had long-since been destroyed by the millions of shells fired over the area. The map states in the bottom left ‘Soil easy to handle; stable only in dry weather. After precipitation the water is kept close to the surface. Funnels fill up quickly with water (Boden leicht bearbeitbar…’.

Kriegsgeologische karte von Nord=Frankreich, Blatt Dünkirchen, 1918. C1:3 (295)

Christmas 2018

Two maps of Christmas Islands, the first off the coast of Java in the Indian ocean, the second in the Pacific Ocean and more commonly known as Kiritimati, which means Christmas in the Kiribati language.

Christmas Island, partly from a survey by C.W. Andrews, F.C.S…1899. L5:1 (3)

The Indian Ocean Christmas Island was discovered in 1615 and named Christmas Island in 1643 by William Mynors.

Christmas Island from a chart supplied by Pere Emmanuel Rougier in 1924…1939. J11:4 (1)

The Pacific Ocean version was discovered by Spanish explorers in 1537 but named by Capt. James Cook on the 24th December 1777. It is a raised coral atoll and part of the Republic of Kiribati.

And now for a quiz. This extract, from sheet 17 of the Gold Coast survey at 1:62,500, has one unusual feature. There is, of course, a chance that the hill is shaped this way, but seems likely the surveyor was having fun. Can you spot it? Answers, or help, to maps@bodleian.ox.ac.uk

Sheet 17, Gold Coast Survey, 1924, E34 (24)

Austerlitz, 2nd Dec 1805

The Battle of Austerlitz, fought on the 2nd of December 1805 between the French under Napoleon and a larger, allied, army of Russian and Austrian troops was a decisive victory for the Grand Armée, forcing Austria to give up substantial territory and breaking up existing coalitions, redrawing both the geographical and political borders of Central Europe.

Plan der Schlacht von Austerlitz a m 2 then December 1805, c1805. (E) C1:5 (445)

The map shows the formations of both armies at the start of the battle and then troop movements, including the crucial drive by the combined army into the right-flank of the French, labelled C on the map. This weakness in the French line (A) was a deliberate ruse by Napoleon which left the middle of the Allied Army exposed (B). The French attacked with as much force as available on the Pratzen heights (H), and here the battle turned to the French.

Austerlitz forced Austria into a treaty with the French. Austria also lost land to France, Germany and the Kingdom of Italy. Russia soon declared war in France. Austerlitz is now in the Czech Republic, and has been renamed Slavkov u Brna.

Austerlitz was a crucial battle for the French, not just in the field but also back in France. Facing financial problems news of the victory was greeted with great acclaim, and within a year books were published celebrating the news.


The map is an example of a battle plan. Battle plans are tricky things to get right, over a static landscape troop movements over a period of time have to be shown to give a sense of the way a battle develops, the Austerlitz map captures this well.

Map of the battlefield of Gettysburg, July 1st, 2nd, 3rd July 1863. 1876 F6:46 (3)

An example of a  later and more detailed map is shown here. Gettysburg was a major battle of the American Civil War, fought in 1863. This map is part of a set showing each day of the three-day engagement in what was a longer and more complex battle than Austerlitz. Stronger and more separate colours are used to differentiate the two opposing armies and the scale and underlying topographic information are more suitable for showing the terrain and action taking place.

Something we should not forget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Alaska before Alaska

This striking map of North America from 1836 first came to our attention because of the labeling of Alaska, here called Russie Américaine. Russia had started to explore the coastline of

Alaska in the 1720’s, with the Dane Vitus Bering the first to travel through the strait that now bears his name. This inevitably led to fur traders moving in and setting up posts, gradually spreading out into the hinterland meeting up with traders coming from the Canadian side in the next century. Never profitable, Russia sold Alaska to the United States in 1867 for $7.2 million.

But there is a lot more to the map than the Alaska question. The map was published at a time of major changes in the way that North America was beginning to develop into the countries and states we recognize today. In 1836 Canada relates to a small part of the country around the St Lawrence River north of the Great Lakes while the rest of this now vast country is left to Native Americans and traders. Mexico extends far up the west coast to the Oregon border, while Texas is shown as an independent state, not yet part of the United States but no longer part of Mexico after defeating the Mexican Army in 1835.

The importance of trade in the opening up of the west is best shown with the settlement of Astoria. Lewis and Clark’s Government-sponsored exploration to open up the West between 1805-06 had lead to further expansion, John Jacob Astor and his Pacific Fur Company being amongst the first to found a settlement, Astoria, on the banks of the Columbia River.

Exploration beyond the Arctic Circle was focused at the time of the map publication in finding the Northwest Passage. British explorers had first started the search for a link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as early as 1576, but it wasn’t until the great naval voyages of Franklin and Ross in the early 1800’s that real progress was made, despite the harsh conditions and sea-ice. Franklin went on a number of expeditions from 1819 leading to the last final expedition in 1845 which ended in tragedy with the loss of all who took part.

Amerique de Nord par A.H. Dufour, 1836. (E) B9 (102)

Maps for the 3rd of November

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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