Maps and views blog

Cartographic perspectives from our Map Librarians

Introduction

Our earliest map appears on a coin made in the Roman Empire and our latest appears as pixels on a computer screen. In between we have the most complete set of Ordnance Survey maps of Great Britain, the grand collection of an 18th-century king, secret maps made by the Soviet army as well as the British government, and a book that stands taller than the average person. Read more

06 December 2022

Norden and Van den Keere: Two seventeenth century atlases digitised and online

Two bound sets of maps from the British Library’s core collection of early modern English cartography have recently been digitised and placed online. Harley MS 3749 is a series of 18 hand-drawn maps of parts of the Royal estate at Windsor, produced in 1607 by the English surveyor, mapmaker and author John Norden (c. 1547-1625).

The title-page of John Norden's 'A description of the honor of Windesor', 1607.
John Norden, 'A DESCRIPTION OF THE HONOR OF WINDESOR..' Windsor or London, 1607. Harley MS 3749, f. 1r.

Harley MS 3813 is a collection of 37 (of an original 44) small printed maps of English and Welsh counties and areas of Ireland and Scotland, engraved by the Flemish artist Pieter van den Keere (1571-c. 1646) and printed at around the same time as Norden’s work. Their histories are intertwined in various ways.

Van den Keere, A map of the west coast of Scotland, c. 1605.
Pieter Van den Keere,'Scotiae pars que incolis Stratna hern vocatur cum circumsinys' in [A collection of engraved maps of the British Isles], Amsterdam, c. 1605. Harley MS 3813, f. 178v.

Both sets of maps ended up in the collection of Robert (1661-1724) and Edward (1689-1741) Harley, the 1st and 2nd Earls of Oxford, thousands of manuscripts, printed books and associated materials which became one of the founding collections of the British Museum in 1753. Norden’s work, produced for and originally owned by James VI and I (1566-1625, came into the Harleys’ possession in 1710, whilst Van der Keere’s maps reached the collection in 1725.

In addition to their shared provenance, it is interesting to note that the two mapmakers knew and worked with each other. As well as his surveying work and devotional writing, Norden conceived of  a grand multi-volume county-by-county geography or ‘chorography’ of Britain, having recognised, like others, the public appetite for maps and geographical writings following the success of Christopher Saxton’s atlas of 1579. Norden’s Speculum Britannia was not completed, but he started work on a number of counties, and even published some of them. The first published county, in 1593, was Middlesex, containing maps including ones of London and Westminster engraved by one Pieter van den Keere.

John Norden's map of London, 1593.
John Norden, 'London', from Speculum Britannia: Middlesex. London, 1593. Maps Crace Port 1. 21.

Van den Keere would become one of the most important engravers of the 17th century. He had moved to London in 1584, and was apprenticed to the London-based Dutch engraver Jodocus Hondius (1563-1612). He left London for Amsterdam in 1593.

Van den Keere's map of midland counties of England, around 1605.
Pieter Van den Keere, 'Northamtoniae Bedfordiae Cantabrigae Huntingdonae et Rutlandiae com'. Amsterdam, c. 1605. Harley MS 3813, f. 45v.
Christopher Saxton, map of Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, HUntingdon and Rutland.
Northamton, Bedfordiæ, Cantabrigiæ, Huntingdoniæ et Rutlandiæ comitatuum vicinarumq. regionum partium adiacent nova veraq. descriptio a.o. d. 1576 / Christophorus Saxton descripsit. London, 1579. Maps C.3.bb.5.

Harley MS 3813 is one of several ‘proof’ sets of small county maps copied from Saxton’s and others’ maps of parts of Britain. It is commonly thought of as the blueprint for a mooted atlas of Britain along similar lines of Norden’s Speculum. Writing in 1972, Helen Wallis believed that it might have been Van Den Keere’s collaboration with Norden that inspired him. The Harley example has been finely hand-coloured and contains hand-written descriptions on the topography and gentry of each county (another set in the Royal Geographical Society has the same handwritten text), suggesting the role of a mock-up of what such a publication might look like.

A page of handwritten notes concerning the counties of Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdon and Rutland, c. 1605.
Pieter Van den Keere, [handwritten notes concerning the counties of Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdon and Rutland]. Amsterdam[?] , c. 1605. Harley MS 3813, f. 46r.

The date of 1599 appears on three maps and it is sensible to assume that Van den Keere engraved them all around this time. But he didn't print them until 1605 or later, observed R.A. Skelton in 1970, due to the evidence of the paper used. The maps were not officially published until 1617 in an illustrated abridgment of Camden’s Britannia by the Amsterdam publisher Blaeu.

John Speed, map of Middlesex from 1611-12.
John Speed, 'Midlesex described with the most famous cities of London and Westminster' from The theatre of the empire of Great Britaine. London, 1611-12. Maps C.7.c.20.

For whatever reason, neither Van den Keere’s or Norden’s projects properly got off the ground. The work which eventually sated the English appetite for maps was John Speed’s Theatre of the empire of Great Britaine of 1611-12, which incidentally included county maps engraved by Van den Keere's former teacher Jodocus Hondius. Speed’s Middlesex map (above) even incorporated copies of the Van den Keere-engraved London and Westminster maps that had appeared in Norden’s Speculum... Middlesex of two decades earlier.

John Norden, map of Windsor Castle, 1607.
John Norden, [A map of Windsor Castle] in A description of the honor of Windesor.... 1607. Harley MS 3749, fs.001r.

Norden’s little atlas of Windsor royal parks (Harley MS 3749) was the sort of project Norden turned to following the stalling of his Speculum. It is a bespoke and exclusive product drawn on vellum, showing for the royal landowners’ gratification their palaces and deer-stocked parks. This tradition of manuscript mapping of private estates would extend into the 20th century, but county atlases such as Van den Keere’s became in many ways the principal English cartographic output, certainly up to the end of the 18th century. This is proven by the strong afterlife of Van den Keere’s small county maps, which were reissued in various forms, including as a 'minature Speed atlas' (despite their having preceded Speed) up to 1676.

Engraved title page for the 1627 edition of Van den Keere's atlas of Britain.
Pieter Van den Keere, England Wales Scotland and Ireland described and abridged ... from a farr larger Volume done by John Speed. London, 1627. Maps C.7.a.6.

Despite their obvious differences, the two Harley volumes have displayed an oddly close bond down the centuries, right up to the present day with their digitisation and placing online together. This might not have been the case had they suffered the fate that befell the rest of the Harleian collection in 1890 when, as part of a deal between the British Museum’s Departments of Printed Books and Manuscripts, the printed and manuscript material was separated and apportioned between the two.

With this in mind, it is serendipitous that the two atlases remain a just few shelves away from each other, albeit one a printed anomaly within a collection of the written and drawn.

References:

  • Laurence Worms & Ashley Baynton-Williams, British map engravers: a dictionary of engravers, lithographers and their principal employers to 1850 (London: Rare Book Society, 2011).-
  • Sarah Bendall, Dictionary of land surveyors and local map-makers of Great Britain and Ireland 1530-1850. (London: British Library, 1997).
  • Rodney Shirley, Maps in the atlases of the British Library: a descriptive catalogue c. AD 850-1800 (London: British Library, 2004).
  • Atlas of the British Isles. By Pieter Van den Keere c. 1605 / Introduction by Helen Wallis (Lympne Castle, Kent: Harry Margary, 1972).
  • Frank Kitchen, ‘John Norden (c. 1547-1625)’ in Oxford dictionary of national biography [accessed 5 December 2022].
  • R.A. Skelton, County atlases of the British Isles, 1579-1850: a bibliography (London: Carta Press, 1970).
  • Peter Barber, ‘Mapmaking in England, ca. 1470-1650’ in David Woodward (ed.), The history of cartography volume 3: part 2, cartography in the European Renaissance T (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 1589-1669. 

31 August 2022

The new Roy Military Survey Gazetteer

The British Library and National Library of Scotland are pleased to announce the availability of a new gazetteer which allows all the names on the Roy Military Survey Maps of Scotland (1747-55, British Library Maps CC.5.a.441) to be searched and browsed. Through the hard work of a team of volunteers over the last six months, all 33,523 names on the Roy Map have been recorded. The transcription workflow has also recorded related or nearby names from the Ordnance Survey 1st edition mapping from a century later in order to help searching and provide additional context for the Roy names. The results are of huge value for local and family historians, placename researchers, as well as all those interested in the landscape of 18th century Scotland. As well as being able to find any name on the map, it is also possible to now generate distribution maps of particular name elements, or dynamically view all of the names in a particular area. The Gazetteer can also be downloaded in accessible formats for onward use and research.

roy-gazetteer-interface-mills
Keyword searching for ‘mill’ names on the Roy Highlands layer to view a distribution map. (View online)

The Roy Military Survey Map is surely one of the most significant and attractive maps of Scotland. It was a distillation of military intelligence, planned in the wake of the defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden in 1746, and surveyed at the same time as the brutal ‘pacification’ of the Highlands. The English military commanders in Scotland during the Jacobite Rebellion of the ‘45 had been 'greatly embarrassed for want of a proper Survey of the Country' and something needed to be done about it. The decision to place the Survey in the hands of a young civilian from a small village near Carluke, William Roy - who had no military surveying experience, and who was then in his early 20s - was a surprising one, even if it turned out to be an inspired and successful decision. Over the next eight years, until the mid 1750s, the whole of the Scottish mainland was surveyed at the detailed scale of one inch to a thousand yards, or about 1:36,000. For many parts of the Scottish Highlands, it is the most detailed and informative map that survives for the entire 18th century, and for all areas, the only standard topographic map prior to the Ordnance Survey mapping in the 19th century. As part of the King George III Topographical Collections, it has always been a treasured item within the British Library’s holdings, and fortunately more recent digital technologies have allowed its wider availability online, as well as transcription projects like this.

roy-map-kenmore
A detail from the Roy Military Survey of the environs around Kenmore in Perthshire, with the lower end of Loch Tay to the left.

Our project to record all of the names on the Roy Map was based on the long interest in the map from those hunting for the existence and location of particular places, especially for local and family history purposes. Place name researchers have also regularly examined the Roy Map as a key documentary source for the 18th century. Many of the textual entries on the map allow other types of research too, confirming the location of things like mills, kirks, castles and estate grounds. Many significant elements of the pre-Improvement landscape - such as the smaller kirk towns and cottar towns, as well as things like moors and commonties - are clearly shown too. But libraries lack the manpower for major gazetteer recording projects, and although machine-learning and artificial intelligence continue to make strides, we felt that the only way to achieve our objective at present was by gathering a volunteer group as part of a crowdsourcing project.

roy-transcription-interface
The Roy Map transcriptions interface, allowing both the Roy Map name (left) and the Ordnance Survey first edition name (right) to be transcribed.

In January 2022 we asked for volunteers to help with three new map transcription projects, and were thrilled (and relieved!) to find over 650 people signed up to take part. We were able to create the interfaces for recording the names using the open-source web-mapping software behind the NLS maps website, and this was helpful, as we continued to change and update these interfaces in response to feedback. We also set up an online discussion forum for participants, which has been very heavily used - 142 members, and over 210 posts over a 5 month period. Successive phases of the project revised and checked the initial names, and their related Ordnance Survey names, so that all of the names were reviewed and edited several times over. The success of the project owes itself very much to these volunteers, who have not only put in several months of hard work, but also continued to suggest changes as we went along to improve the results. As with all website projects, we also have the ability to keep revising and correcting names in response to feedback - the Gazetteer will become ever more perfect over time! Although we have just now launched the Gazetteer, some minor revision work is still ongoing, and we are happy to receive suggestions and corrections from the wider community.

Highlands_18_March_2022
The Roy Map Transcription interface showing work in progress - names in blue with one transcription and those in green with a second transcription.

Would William Roy have approved? We certainly hope so - as the “father” of what became the Ordnance Survey, he would have fully understood the value of national initiatives to gather geographic and topographic information. He would surely have delighted in the detailed scrutiny which his ‘magnificent military sketch’ was still getting, over 250 years after its original creation. That said, he might feel puzzled and worried about all the tartan, now very visibly on sale only a stone’s throw from where his Military Survey was drawn in Edinburgh Castle!

View the results of the Roy Military Survey Gazetteer Project:

 

By Christopher Fleet,

Map Curator, National Library of Scotland.

 

11 May 2022

Remigius Hogenberg's view of Münster

An early print from the British Library’s map collection is currently on display at the Stadtmuseum Münster in an exhibition entitled Münster 1570: History and stories from the capital of Westphalia.

It is a panorama of the town of Münster executed in 1570 by the Flemish artist Remigius Hogenberg (c. 1536 - 1588), and based on a drawn panorama of 1569 by Hermann tom Ring (1521-1596).

Maps 189.b.10
Westvaliae Metropolis Monasteriũ. R. Hogenbergus sculpsit. [Münster, 1570]. Maps 189.b.10.

It shows the Westphalia capital from the south west, with the main churches dominating the skyline and various domestic structures arranged behind the town walls. Outside these walls Hogenberg presents a range of human activity. To the left carts enter the town, whilst to the right in the foreground, figures swim in the River Aa. Some can be seen getting undressed, one needs help in doing so. A dog stands guard over a pile of clothes. This sort of foreground vignette is a typical feature of later 16th century town views, not only entertaining for the viewer but demonstrating that places are about more than their buildings.

Maps 189.b.10 detail
A detail showing people bathing in the River Aa

As a snapshot of a place at a particular time, the panorama is understandably of great historical value to the town. It was produced only decades after the Anabaptist rebellion of 1534-5, in which a radical reformation sect took over, enforcing religious conformity, seizing possessions and religiously-motivated destruction. The rebellion was eventually put down and the leaders executed, their bodies placed into three iron cages hung on the tower of St. Lambert’s church. The cages, which are still in situ today, are shown in the print just above the lancet windows of the church tower. 

Maps 189.b.10 detail 2
Detail showing St. Lambert's church with three cages attached to the tower

Remigius Hogenberg, who produced the print while resident in Münster, presented a proof copy of it to the town council on 26 May 1570. However, this is lost and the British Library’s example, purchased in 1868 from the Berlin book dealer Adolphus Asher, is the only copy known to survive. As well as exhibiting the original, the Stadtmuseum exhibition has skilfully incorporated the image into their design and graphics.

stadtmuseum Münster, entrance to the Münster 1570 exhibition
Stadtmuseum Münster, entrance to the Münster 1570 exhibition. Picture credit: Stadtmuseum Münster, Foto: Sarah Kottmeier

Remigius was born in Mechelen in modern-day Belgium. He was in England by 1572, and alongside other continental artists such as Cornelis de Hooghe and Jodocus Hondius was responsible for producing various engravings there, including maps. For example, Remigius engraved nine of Christopher Saxton’s county maps (see his Lancashire, below), as well as the frontispiece for the 1579 atlas which included them.

Saxton Lancashire Maps C.3.bb.5.
Lancastriæ comitatus palatin vera et absoluta descriptio. Anno D.ni. 1577 / Christophorus Saxton descripsit. Remigius Hogenbergius sculpsit. London, 1577. Maps C.3.bb.5.

Despite Remigius’s fame, he remains arguably less-well known than his engraver-brother Frans (c. 1540-1590). With Georg Braun, Frans produced the first town atlas, the Civitatis Orbis Terrarum, published in Cologne between 1572 and 1617. Among the contents is a smaller and more subdued version of the panorama of Münster, copied from his brother's.

800px-MuensterRemiusHogenberg1570
Georg Braun & Frans Hogenberg, MONASTERIUM urbs in media Westphalia...,from Civitatis Orbis Terrarum, volume 1, Cologne,1572. Image from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MuensterRemiusHogenberg1570.jpg

Münster 1570: History and stories from the capital of Westphalia is at the Stadtmuseum Münster until 25 September 2022.