(Take me back to) The Black Hills of Dakota

Geological maps are often amongst the most colourful of all the cartographic genres, with the majority using a wide range of colours to show the land beneath our feet. One of the first recognized geological maps produced in this way was William Smith’s celebrated map of England and Wales, from 1815, featured in an earlier entry in this blog, http://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/maps/2015/01/ . Towards the end of the Nineteenth Century the Ordnance Survey  started to produce detailed, and often beautiful,  geological maps of Britain and Ireland, something which continues to this day with the British Geological Survey (https://www.bgs.ac.uk/).

This map of the Black Hills of South Dakota is a variation on the usual method of geological representation. The publishers, the United States Geographical and Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain, Region, have used four different symbols of birds in flight to show the underlying


Bird’s eye view of the Black Hills…1879. F6:49 (12)

geology of the region.  A lack of any compass directions, text or scale on the map leaves a confused view of a complicated geological area. The Black Hills region has been dated back as far as 1.8 billion years, and was formed by magma deposits released during the movement of tectonic plates during the event known as the Trans-Hudson Orogeny (orogeny is a term used to describe geological events that cause major changes in the appearance of the Earth due to tectonic movement). The dramatic rings around the main area are caused by anticlines surrounding a dome (an anticline is a geological fold where strata are pushed together).


The Black Hills has a history as complex as its geology. Long been a site of spiritual importance the Hills took on a political significance after treaties giving the lands in perpetuity to the Lakota Indians in 1868 were ignored with the discovery of gold in 1874, and with defeat in the Great Sioux wars in 1876 the tribes were forcibly moved to reservations outside of the Black Hills area. A ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1980 stated that the relocation of the tribe was illegal, and that the Lakota were entitled to compensation, something which the Lakota refuse to accept as they believe that the only acceptable outcome is the return of the Black Hills. Mount Rushmore is on the eastern edge of the Black Hills and just across the border into Wyoming is the Devil’s Tower National Monument, created in 1906 and the first National Monument in the United States.


At the top of the map, just off the scan shown here, is the text ‘Dept. of the Interior, U.S.G and G. Survey, J.W. Powell in charge’. The U.S. G. and G. is the United States Geographical and Geological Survey, now called the U.S. Geological Survey and still producing maps to this day. J.W. Powell was an important figure in both the surveying and the exploration of the American West. John Wesley Powell was the second director of the U.S. Geological Survey but is remembered more for leading expeditions down the Colorado and Green Rivers, culminating in the first navigation through the Grand Canyon. A journey even more impressive considering that Powell had lost an arm during the Battle of Shiloh in 1862.


The area of the Black Hills, hard up against the border with Wyoming, shown on a more conventional geological map. The main part of the hill is schists (speckled brown) and granite (brown) surrounded by a ring of sandstone (light blue) and limestone (darker blue).This band of sandstone and limestone corresponds with the flat plateau of the western part of the raised dome in the earlier map.

Geological map of South Dakota, 1951. F6:49 (6).

Gunpowder, treason and…maps


While searching through a book of documents about the Oxfordshire village of Ewelme for a map enquiry staff came across this intriguing document. A fourteenth century recipe for, amongst other things, making gunpowder.

ewelme 2IMG_0209








Which at this time of year brings to mind the Gunpowder Plot

Remember, remember the fifth of November,Gunpowder treason and plot.
We see no reason
ewelme 3Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
Guy Fawkes, guy, t’was his intent
To blow up king and parliament.
Three score barrels were laid below
To prove old England’s overthrow.
By god’s mercy he was catch’d
With a darkened lantern and burning match.
So, holler boys, holler boys, Let the bells ring.
Holler boys, holler boys, God save the king.

And what shall we do with him?
Burn him!


These extracts of maps of Westminster show the layout of the Palace area at the time of the plot. The conspirators had purchased the lease on a building near the House of Lords and began tunnelling to underneath the House. By November the 4th a stockpile of gunpowder was discovered in rooms underneath the House and the plot was foiled. The first map, by Ralph Agas shows a mix of birds-eye view and street lay-out of the area


Plan of London (circa 1560-1570) by Ralph Agas. Facsimile published in 1905. (E) C17:70 London (433)

while the second, confusingly drawn so that south is at the top,  shows the House of Lords and the layout of buildings around both Houses of Parliament. The Old Palace Yard is also shown, scene of the execution of a number of the conspirators the following year.


Undated map of Westminster from Gough Maps 23

The image at the start of the blog comes from a pamphlet published in 1679 (and then reprinted in 1819), and shows Guy Fawkes with a lantern which was for a long time at the Bodleian, but is now in the Ashmolean Museum http://britisharchaeology.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/highlights/guy-fawkes-lantern.html

Lawn A e.73

What’s in a name

Physical features rarely change. It takes something pretty spectacular, a volcanic eruption or large-scale mining say, to make a difference to the surface of the earth. Maps reflect this, hardly changing apart from the style of printing or colours used. What does change though are names, particularly names in countries which go through political or military upheaval. Stalingrad is one of the more famous cases in point.


Sheet M38, Saratov, G.S.G.S. No. 2758. c1920. B1 (41)

Originally called Tsaritsyn the city changed its name to Stalingrad in 1925 to honour Joseph Stalin, who had been the chairman of the local Military Committee during the Russian Civil War in 1919. After Stalin’s death and re-evaluation of his time the city changed its name for a third time in 1961 to Volgograd, the ‘town on the River Volga’.


Blatt-Nr M 38, Ssaratow, Generalstab des Heeres, 1943. B1 (41)

These maps come from the International Map of the World, one of the most ambitious and celebrated of all map series. The scheme was originally proposed at an international Cartographic Conference in 1891 by a German cartographer called Albrecht Penck with the intention of covering the whole of the Earth with maps at a scale of 1:1,000,000.  The suggestion ran into immediate problems, both technical and political, not least of which was determining the meridian used. Meridians are crucial in the making of maps, especially a global series as this would be, as they set the degrees used. French cartographers wanted to use their Paris-based meridian, English cartographers pushed for Greenwich.


NM 38, Volgograd, Army Map Service, 1965. B1 (41)

For Penck the benefits of such a scheme were numerous but the two most important were that the maps would produce a general cover of the Earth at a scale detailed enough to be of use and that a large area of the Earth had already been mapped at this or a similar scale so the scheme was already, unofficially and without been called as such, partly in place. Penck set out the rules by which his maps would be made. Latinized names and the use of as few colours as practical were intended to give the maps as uniform a look as possible. It took until 1904 before numerous issues were resolved, and for the first maps to be produced, with French, German and English military cartographic groups publishing maps of areas of colonial interest (Germany maps of Eastern China, France maps of Persia and the Antilles and the English Africa). Eventually the entire globe was covered by 2,500 sheets, sheets which often had numerous editions and published by countries with opposing political views. For example during the period of the Second World War different editions of the sheet covering London and the Channel were  published by the cartographic departments of the British, Soviet and German military.




German (1941), English (1944) and Russian (1938) versions of sheet M30, from the International map of the World series. B1 (41)

Stalingrad is of course most famous as one of the major battlegrounds of the Second World War. Situated on the western bank of the Volga River, with a large industrial output and a key strategic position controlling the river traffic to central Russia, the battle for the city started in August 1942 and lasted 5 months. After initial heavy losses Russian troops were able to re-group in the country to the east of the river and in a large pincer movement encircle German troops in November. This map of the city is printed on the reverse of a general series of maps of Eastern Europe published in 1942 by the German Army. The main map features, as well as the map itself, a large amount of text on the landscape, transport network and population of the area shown on each sheet. On reverse the town plans has further text on the city shown, with an index of crucial points.


Umbegungsskizze von Stalingrad, on reverse of sheet D49 of Osteuropa 1:300,000. 1942. C40 (72a) [D49]


Plans of Spanish cities

spine-2These panoramic views of Spanish cities come from the celebrated atlas Civitates Orbis Terrarum, published between 1572 and 1617 in numerous editions in German, Latin and French. The atlas features plans of over 450 cities, mainly European but with some (including a number of views of Jerusalem) from the Middle East, from North Africa and two; Mexico and Cusco, from Central and South America.

The plans in the Civitates… are presented either as a panoramic view, like the Spanish examples shown here, or as a normal map. The panoramic maps allow for local scenes to be included in the foreground, mostly these are of an agricultural or pastoral nature such as this scene of


Barcelona, which as well as the wooing couple include a ploughing team and a rather dramatic rainbow. Another plan, that of Conil de la Frontera on the Atlantic coast, shows a group of fisherman salting their catch outside of the impressive walls of the city.


The atlas was published during a time of both religious upheaval and the spread of the Ottoman Empire in the East of Europe. While the majority of the views feature the type of scenes shown in this blog piece others reflect in some of the plans the threat to peace and established order in Europe at the time. Many have a gallows outside of the city walls, while the plan for the Hungarian city of Papa shows the punishment by impaling for the Christian garrison by the invading Turks. This last plan, that of San Sebastian, also has a dark element, showing the martyrdom of the Saint that gave the town it’s name.


spineThe two gentleman in the bushes looking up at the Saint are Abraham Ortelius and Georg Hoefnagel. Both were engravers and painters who worked on many of the plans in the atlas and feature – in a way similar to Alfred Wainwright in his mountain and walking guides – in a number of the plans. By the first publication of the Civitates… in 1572 Ortelius had already published the first volume of his hugely successful Theatrum Orbis Terrarum in 1570, a series that ran to 34 editions in a number of languages, which the Civitates…was designed to be a companion piece. Both the Theatre… and Civitates… atlases benefitted from improved techniques in printing in the early 16th century. From the early days of printing the woodcut method, where the areas of a piece of wood are carved off leaving just the parts of the wood raised which are then inked and the image transferred onto paper, were the standard way to present a map. By the early 16th century this process had been replaced by metal engraving, which produced an image with finer detail and more depth. The process is the exact opposite of wood cut, with metal engraving lines and areas are cut away that will become the map, the sheet is then covered in ink, which is wiped off the surface of the metal leaving ink only in the cut grooves. Paper is then pressed onto the plate and the ink is transferred onto the paper. As well as the improvements in reproduction that engraving brought to map production it also had another benefit. The plates were often sold on to other cartographers when no longer needed, enabling later prints to be produced.


Cadiz, taken from Civitates Orbis Terrarum, and published between 1593 and 1594. The shelfmark for this, and the other maps shown here, is (E) C38 (167). There is a facsimile of Civitas orbis Terrarum by Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg, based on a Latin edition published between 1612-1618, on the open shelves in the Rare Books Reading Room of the Weston Library, the shelf mark is G1 B1.18.


The frontispiece from the 1572 Latin edition of Civitates orbis Terrarum. The figure on the left is Minerva, Goddess of intelligence, peace and wisdom. Minerva is particularily relevant to the atlas as she is the patroness of cities.  Opposite her is Hercules, symbolizing strength  and courage. When shown with Minerva the two represent strength, both the physical and moral kind. Cybele, Greek goddess of the Earth and protector of cities sits at the top. Vet D1 b.2.

The Civitates… is just one of the maps featured in a new book published by the Bodleian on maps, Treasures from the Map Room, details of which can be found here                    http://www.bodleianshop.co.uk/books/new-arrived/treasures-from-the-map-room.html


Treasures from the Map Room

Staff at the Bodleian and other specialists have written a book, Treasures from the Map Room, which has essays on 75  maps from the collection. They include historically important maps, interesting quirky ones and some of our personal favourites. From the Gough Map of 1370 to the map created by the artist Layla Curtis for the NewcastleGateshead Festival of the Visual Arts in 2006 the book shows the range of material held in the Bodleian’s collections, and includes maps hand-drawn by J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and General Gordon, beautifully illustrated Venetian portolans, military and scientific mapping as well as cartographic works of art. We feature here one of the maps from the book, which is published today.

 5A ptol_for_blog_smaller

This woodcut world map, published in Ulm in 1486 and based on much earlier information, has an intriguing link with the European discovery of the Americas. The map data comes from Claudius Ptolemy (fl. 146-c.170), who composed his Geographia in Alexandria in ca. 160 AD. He provided coordinates for 8000 places, tied­ into a grid of longitudes and latitudes; an extraordinary achievement for the time. It is not known if he ever made the maps his work describes, but the text survived in Arabic manuscripts as a set of instructions for making maps of the known world. In the early fifteenth century it was translated into Latin by ­Jacopo d’Angelo;   the ­maps were­ later revised by Nicolaus Germanus (fl. 1451-1456), a German Benedictine. He aimed to follow­ Ptolemy’s instructions and his maps must be close to those ­Ptolemy himself might have compiled. Ptolemaic atlases are amongst the earliest printed books.  A version with the maps engraved on copper was produced in 1478, but this woodcut version has a unique charm.

This copy belonged to King Ferdinand and Queen­ Isabella of Spain, whose coat of arms is in the book.  Ferdinand and Isabella supported Columbus’ voyage across the Atlantic. Although Ptolemy’s locations were amazingly accurate for their time, his calculation of the Earth’s circumference was an underestimate.  Columbus (who owned a 1478 edition of the Geographia) believed the distance to China to be less than it was, based partly on this. As Ptolemy’s geography demonstrates, the understanding that the world was round was nothing new even in Columbus’s day. But this world map raises intriguing questions. Would Columbus have planned to travel west to China, and encountered the Americas on the way, without this misconception? Would Ferdinand and Isabella have been so supportive if they had not also owned a copy of the book that supported his theory?

‘Typus orbis terrarum’ from the ‘Geographia’, by Claudius Ptolemaeus Alexandrinus, trans. Jacobus Angeli, ed. Nicolaus Germanus. Ulm: Johann Reger, for Justus de Albano, 21 July 1486; with the maps from the edition of ­Ulm, Lienhart Holl, 1482. Arch. B b.19 (Bod-inc. P-529 (2))

The full article is in Treasures from the Map Room: a journey through the Bodleian collections. Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2016. ISBN 978 1 85124 250 4. Available from the Bodleian bookshop.

Smoke on the water

This untitled map shows the route of the journey made from Siam to Brest by the French Ambassador for King Louis XIV to Siam, Alexandre, Chevalier de Chaumont in 1686. The journey taken is shown by the dotted line going through a large area of the South Atlantic (the distance between Ascension and St Helena alone is close to 750 miles). The map is undated but comes from the Libro dei Globi, by the Venetian cartographer, globe maker and Franciscan Monk Vincenzo Coronelli, published between 1683 and 1704.


The map centres on the islands of St Helena and Ascension, discovered by the Portuguese in the previous century, important lands that break up the hazardous journey across the Atlantic. As well as the cartographic detail on display the map also features boats from Brazil and the Congo and fishing vessels from Guinea. Using fire as a way to attract fish to the boat the fishermen then spear the fish using a trident. One boat has a fire burning inside, with holes to allow smoke into the water, presumably to stun the fish. In the middle of the map are a group of putti, winged spirits (this time with additional fishes tails). Usually shown engaged in an activity here they are carrying a piece of Elephant ivory.

fire inset

Coronelli was a highly acclaimed maker of globes, with commissions from the great families of Europe, Louis the XIV amongst them. The Libro dei Globi is an atlas made up of the maps which were drawn for the globes. More correctly called Gores, the sheets are cut to fit around a spherical ball, hence the shape of the map shown here.


This example of a Gore map comes from a facsimile of the Libro dei Globi on the open shelves of the Map Room, in the Weston Library, G1 B1.21q

Unnamed map by Vincenzo Coronelli, circa 1683-1704. (E) K14 (124)

London and the blitz

This new addition to the collection is a large-scale general tourist map of central London. Almost as an aside the map shades the areas in the city damaged or destroyed by the blitz.


Bacon’s large scale plan of the City of London, 1947. C17:70 London e.217

This close-up of the area of the City shows how much damage was caused by raids between 1939 and 1945 which hadn’t been re-built by the time of the publication of the map in 1947. The damaged areas are shaded light green.


By the end of the war nearly 3000 buildings in the City had been destroyed, with 340 killed. In the London region the amount killed was close to 30,000. There is an informative book on the open shelves in the reading room, Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945, by Laurence Ward and published by Thames & Hudson, which reproduces the maps created by the London City Council to show the areas of damage. Using County Series Ordnance Survey maps from 1916 the maps have been shaded in showing the levels of damage caused.


Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945. Ward, L. Thames & Hudson. G24 C17.85

A map’s journey

Maps tell a story. They may just show the simple topographic layout of the area portrayed (as is the case with most maps produced) or they may have a specific purpose; geology, population, historical studies for example. It is rare that the map itself is the story, as is the case with the map shown here


Strassenkarte 1:300,000, Blatt Belgrad (Beograd). Originally published by Freytag & Berndt.. 1941, C1 (20)

First produced by the Austrian map publisher Freytag & Berndt as one sheet in a road map series of Europe in the 1920’s the map has then been overprinted by the Military Command of the German Army occupying Serbia in August of 1941. This is a rare example of a map produced by the German Army during World War II where they have overprinted an existing commercial map, as opposed to printing their own work.


‘Corrections of this map with thanks accepted’, a message also in French and German above the overprint by the German military indicates that the map was originally published for an international market.

This in itself would make the map interesting. But after the defeat of Germany and the end of the war Allied forces took a large amount of resources from the defeated army, including maps. The Bodleian holds in it’s map collection a large amount of German mapping which has come to us from the Ministry of Defence. This map has had a different route to the library though. Stamps on the opposite side of the map to the corner shown above show that American State and Intelligence branches took the map and others like it. As there was a continuing American


presence in Europe after the war to help in the re-building and security it is impossible to say if the map stayed in Europe or travelled back across the Atlantic. Either way, the stamps make clear that by 1948 the map had been through four important and different hands. How it then made its way into the collection of a London academic institute, who then donated it and many other maps to the Bodleian in 2015, is unknown, just one more twist in the tale of a simple road map with a fascinating history.

Strassenkarte 1:300,000, Blatt Belgrad (Beograd). 1941, C1 (20)


Battle of the Somme

July the 1st marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, and with it the anniversary of the day of the greatest loss of life in British military history.

Trench maps made in preparation for the battle are shown here, as well as editions of sheets made during the battle itself, which lasted from July to mid-November. A trench map, especially one covering an area of heavy and prolonged fighting, gives a false impression of the land it portrays. Farms and woods shown on the maps would have been the ghosts of buildings and trees long since destroyed by bombardment, and only the heaviest of craters left after detonated mines would be shown, not the shell holes of no mans land.


Apart from a few ‘secret’ maps which included both English and German trenches the majority of maps show only the German trench systems in detail. These maps show the incredible lengths that armies went to the defend ground and supply those in the front-line. German trenches have numerous support and communication trenches, fall-back positions and artillery areas and were of a higher standard than their English equivalent, many of which were but a short distance away.


Beaumont, 57D S.E. 1 & 2 (parts of). War Office, 1916. These two trench maps are of the Beaumont Hamel and Thiepval areas, both scenes of intense fighting on and after the 1st of July. Comparing the two maps shows how little progress was made in the fighting. The first map has trenches corrected to 28-4-16, the second corrected to 30-7-16. C1 (3) [1490] and [1491].

As German attacks in 1914 and early 1915 came up against stiff opposition they were able to build strong defences behind their front-line, taking advantage of higher ground and then fall back into these positions. Dug-outs were constructed deep into the ground and trenches were lined to prevent flooding. These defences were able to withstand the withering artillery that the British rained down on the German front-line in the days leading up to July the 1st, and as troops went over the top at the given signal German troops were able to lay down a fire which proved fatal to the advancing troops, many of which were from Pals Battalions, formed from towns and cities, sometimes places of work, and fighting for the first time.  The enormous loss of life on the first day, nearly 20,000 killed and many more wounded, meant that many communities back in England shared in a collective grief.


Detail of wire etc in no mans land, June 1916. Map showing trench systems in an area north of Ploegsteert Wood, Belguim. C1 (3) [269]

Trench map development mirrors that of the war. At the out-break of hostilities in 1914 British forces fought an enemy constantly on the move and so less-detailed mapping, French 1:80,000 and Belgian 1:100,000 sheets, were used. It was only when fighting became static with the introduction of trench warfare that more detailed, and more accurate mapping was necessary. These maps were designed for artillery, targets are highlighted in red circles while grids are incorporated into the maps so exact locations can be pinpointed both by Signallers and those manning the guns behind the lines.

The Bodleian has a large number of trench maps from the First World War. As well as maps by the British there are a small number of German and French maps as well as a large number of maps covering he Gallipoli campaign in both English and Turkish. Along with officially produced maps by the combatants cartographic departments, newspapers and commercial map publishers produced maps for the home market.

pall mall

The front page of the Pall Mall Gazette for the 1st of July. N. 2288 b.4

Maps for the Battle of the Somme, 1st July, 1916

In preparation for showing maps here of the Battle of the Somme on the 1st of July 1916, we post a map from the Bodleian’s extensive trench map collection showing the front-line on the Western Front on the 27th of June 1916, 100 years ago today.

trench 1

In a conference between the British and French in December 1915 it was decided to launch joint attacks by French, British and Russian forces against the Central Powers at some stage in 1916. With the attack by German forces on the French forts at Verdun in February 1916 pressure was put on the British to relieve the embattled French troops, and General Sir Douglas Haig, Commander of the British Army in France, reluctantly agreed on a launch date of July the 1st, aware that the majority of his troops were under-prepared and most hadn’t seen action yet.

This map, sheet 4 of North West Europe, is published by the cartographic department at the War Office, the Geographical Section, General Staff, and is a revised reprint of a 1915 map. The scale is 1:250,000, detailed enough to show villages, towns and rivers but not enough to show the details needed for artillery and infantry operations. More detailed mapping at 1:10,000, 1:20,000 and 1:40,000 were produced in their thousands up to the end of the war.

This extract from the map shows the main area of British attacks on the 1st of July, and includes names that were soon to become famous for the fighting that was soon to take place over the often battered and ruined remains  of villages and farms; Beaumnot Hamel, Mametz, Thiepval and Longueval amongst so many others. We will feature maps over the next couple of months that show the progress made by British forces over this area.

trench 2

North West Europe, sheet 4. Geographical Section, General Staff No. 2733. War Office 1915, revised 1916. C1 (3) [2567].