THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Maps and views blog

12 posts categorized "Watercolours"

24 November 2016

20th Century Panoramaniac

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I love panoramas and this one inspired my love of the Alps and mountain mapping.

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Heinrich Berann, [Jungfraubahn mountain railroad, Switzerland], 1939. British Library Maps 1060.(4.).

Panoramas form a fascinating niche collection within the 4.5 million maps in the British Library‚Äôs collections. They have a long history and my second favourite is the 1851 fabric view of London produced for the Great Exhibition with south at the top and the original ‚ÄėCrystal Palace‚Äô laid out in Hyde Park.

Changing mapping technologies have influenced the panorama and its uses in war, discovery and peaceful pursuits especially winter sports.

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Heinrich Berann, Atlantic Ocean Floor, 1968. ¬©National Geographic

The British Library's current exhibition Maps & the 20th Century: Drawing the Line showcases the finest exponent of the late 20th century, Heinrich Berann (1915-1999) and his panorama of the Atlantic sea-bed.  An Austrian, Berann began with his Grossglockner Hochalpenstra√üe of 1934 and his final panoramas of U.S. ski areas came out in the mid 1980s.

My favourite is one I discovered while sipping a non-alcoholic beverage in a street café in Interlaken and is a paper beer tray mat with an image of Berann's Bernese Oberland panorama (top image). Under the glass, this utterly stunning piece of art showed the whole area in perfect, sunny weather, a wispy cloud over the Jungfrau, each railway, road and mountain in perfect detail. It made me want to explore more… once the rain clouds had dispersed of course. And it was there to be got wet, scrunched up and thrown in the bin… how!

This map made me realise there was more to maps than an my trusty Ordnance Survey sheet of Hexham, no matter how good they were, and I wanted to discover more about cartography in all its facets.  Berann is no longer with us but his panoramas still inspire cartographers and art lovers alike.

See more of Berann's stunning work here

Maps & the 20th Century: Drawing the Line is now open

Dave Watt

11 November 2016

Colouring maps for adults

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Adult colouring books. Leave it to the kids? Whether you’re addicted to them, or bamboozled by their appeal, they’re probably here to stay. Adult colouring atlases (currently for sale in the British Library shop) are particularly interesting, and not so peculiar as you might think because before printed colour came in during the late 19th century, by hand is exactly how maps were coloured.

It wasn’t so usual to use colouring pencils in, say, the 18th century. Instead it was usually a water-based paint such as watercolour or the thicker gouache which could provide a brighter and smoother finish.

Page80+81Daniel Stoopendaal after Isaac de Moucheron, 'Plan or View of Heemstede in the province of Utrecht'. Amsterdam: [N. Visscher], ca. 1700. Maps C.9.e.9.(25.).

There were certainly expert map colourists, for example the artist who coloured prints such as the one above from the British Library's sublime 18th century Beudeker Atlas (online version here). Something to aspire to, colouring book enthusiasts.

But colouring maps wasn’t as glamorous a pastime as you may think. There are rumours, for example, that among others the 19th century London mapmaker John Tallis used child labour for the colouring of his maps. Looking closely at the outline colour in the map below, I think we can all agree that a gold star was probably not so forthcoming.

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John Tallis, 'North America'. From Tallis's Illustrated Atlas and Modern History of the World. London, 1851. Maps 5.e.25.

So when you next find yourself daydreaming as you delicately shade pale pink just the right side of a printed line, spare a thought for those browbeaten children who would likely have had at least 50 atlases to complete before bedtime.

Our exhibition Maps & the 20th Century: Drawing the Line is now open. 

17 December 2015

The Curious Map Book

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The map researcher and dealer Ashley Baynton-Williams has written a book about some of the weirder and more wonderful historical maps in the British Library's collection.  From the hundred maps included in 'Curious Maps', now published, we asked him to select his top three. Ashley.

I have always had an interest in maps created by the 'mapmaker at play', maps which have been historically - though not altogether accurately - termed  'cartographic curiosities'. Given the British Library is home to the best printed map library in the world, choosing a hundred of them for inclusion in 'Curious Maps' was a difficult task. Selecting the following three highlights from among them was even more difficult. Many of them were topical productions, produced to illustrate or satirise current events. The following selection shows how little has changed with the passage of time.

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Lilian Lancaster, 'United States a correct outline', 1880. British Library Maps cc.5a.230

A recurring figure in the book is Lilian Lancaster, a well-known English actress, singer and stage performer, with a notable talent for drawing cartoons and caricatures, often cartographic in nature. Lilian was on a tour of the United States in 1880, during the final stages of the Presidential election, and the campaigning inspired her to draw two cartoons. Superimposed on the outline of the United States, this manuscript depicts the 'rough-and-tumble' of the campaign, with comic portraits of the two candidates as squabbling children in dresses: James A. Garfield (the Republican challenger) and his opponent Winfield Scott Hancock (the Democratic candidate). Uncle Sam has turned his back on the mayhem, clearly thinking that the future occupant of the White House should be chosen from serious men campaigning in a serious manner, not these two, throwing simplistic sound bite punches.

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Thomas Onwhyn, Comic Map of the Seat of War with entirely new features [The Crimean War], 1854. British Library Maps X.6168.

Of all the different genres of curious map in the book my personal favourites are the serio-comic satirical maps of the second half of the nineteenth century. Of these, the best is Thomas Onwhyn's 'Comic Map of the Seat of War with entirely new features', signed 'Done by T.O.'. The initials are rather concealed along the southern coastline of Turkey and only recently spotted, allowing us to properly identify the mapmaker. Onwyn was the son of Joseph Onwhyn, an artist and engraver who had produced a 'Map of Green Bag Land', in 1820 which satirised the increasingly messy attempts by King George IV to divorce Queen Caroline.

The seat of war map was published in 1854 at the onset of the Crimean War between Great Britain, France and Turkey, on one side, and Russia on the other. A skilled production, it has a strong claim to be the very first serio-comic map. There are all manner of satirico-political references, with notably barbed comments about Russia.

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However many times I look at it, there is always something new to see. I love the awful British puns (as does my friend, writer and blogger, Tim Bryars) - particularly the alcohol-related ones: Malta is depicted as a tankard of ale (malt beer); the Caucasus Mountains are a row of bottles with corks a-popping, labelled 'Cork as Us Mountains & Bottle him', while Constantinople is represented as a bottle of port, labelled 'The Sublime Port'!

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The Crimean war was fought to peg back Russian aggression in south-eastern Europe. The references to the war in the Baltic and Black Seas give a humorous take on war, characterizing it as clipping the Russian bear's claws. This light-hearted approach was not always well received, with one reviewer complaining about this viewpoint while the reality was that men were daily being killed, wounded or dying from other causes.

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Johnson Riddle & Co. Hark Hark The Dogs Do Bark, 1914. British Library Maps 1078.(42.).

When the First World War commenced in 1914, a new generation of artists produced comic maps to satirise the protagonists. Many thought that the war would be of short duration. But by 1915, when the human cost of the conflict became apparent, propaganda mapsadopted an altogether darker tone.My third choice is 'Hark! Hark! The dogs do bark!', published by Johnson, Riddle & Co. in 1914. The artist has chosen to depict the different nations as dogs. Many are obvious choices, notably the British bulldog and the French poodle, while Germany (the enemy) is depicted as the funny-shaped and rather harmless dachshund, rather than the German Shepherd (Alsatian) or Rottweiler that a German publisher might have chosen. I like to think that the puppet-master who is controlling the strings of the Royal Navy ships is Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, while others argue that it is simply a generic 'John Bull' figure, and any likeness to Churchill coincidental.

The rather naive jingoism of these two satirical maps makes for fascinating and compelling, images alas, that war could be as harmless and as 'fun' as the cartoons satirising them. 

The Curious Map book is published by the British Library and available here.

Ashley Baynton-Williams

02 September 2015

A Rare View of the Siege of Boston (1775-1776)

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The British Library is pleased to have a number of of maps and views currently on display in a special exhibition at the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at Boston Public Library. These maps, which come from the King's Topographical and RUSI collections, were digitised and catalogued thanks to a project involving the Leventhal Map Center and generous private sponsors. The exhibition is entitled 'We Are One: Mapping America‚Äôs Road from Revolution to Independence,' and we are delighted to host this guest blog post about the display by Allison Lange. 

In late April 1775, twenty-five-year-old British Lieutenant Richard Williams left Europe for Boston to take part in the American war. The battles of Lexington and Concord earlier that month had prompted British troops to retreat to the city, which was soon surrounded by American soldiers. Williams landed in Boston in June, and‚ÄĒdespite the circumstances‚ÄĒhe was glad to be there. He declared in his diary, ‚Äúthe Land was a pleasing object after six weeks of absence from it.‚ÄĚ

Williams’s duties were tied to the land. As a cartographer and artist, he mapped the area for military and political leaders to study. The British Library’s map collection includes several pieces of his work that offer unique, beautiful views of life during the siege.

The day after his arrival, Williams took stock of Boston. He went to Beacon Hill to view the rebellious colonists surrounding the peninsula. ‚ÄúBoston is large & well built, tho‚Äô not a regular laid out town,‚ÄĚ he concluded. Williams thought the area had seen better days ‚Äúbefore the present unhappy affairs‚ÄĚ when ‚Äúit was livly [sic] and flurishing [sic].‚ÄĚ

Add_ms_15535_5[Richard Williams] (active 1750-1776), 'A Plan of Boston and its Environs Shewing the True Situation of His Majesty‚Äôs Troops and Also Those of the Rebels, Likewise All the Forts, Redoubts and Entrenchments Erected by Both Armies.' 1775. Manuscript, pen and ink and watercolour. British Library Add.MS. 15535.5.  Publicdomain

Williams used his view from Beacon Hill for his maps and sketches. He likely drew the Plan of Boston and its Environs Shewing the True Situation of His Majesty’s Troops, which is part of the British Library’s map collection, from this spot. The map depicts the positions of the British and American troops in October 1775. Fortifications were colored yellow for the rebels and green for the British. Camps, like the one on the Boston Common, are red.

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Richard Williams (active 1750-1776), 'A View of the Country Round Boston, Taken from Beacon Hill‚ĶShewing the Lines, Redoubts, & Different Encampments of the Rebels Also Those of His Majesty‚Äôs Troops under the Command of His Excellency Lieut. General Gage, Governor of Massachuset‚Äôs Bay.' 1775. Manuscript, ink and watercolour. British Library Maps K.Top 120.38.  Publicdomain

In addition to this map, Williams captured the landscape with watercolors like A View of the Country Round Boston, Taken from Beacon Hill. He sketched Boston‚Äôs churches and homes and documented the British camps that had transformed the city into a military base. At the bottom of the scene, Williams included a key to identify fortifications like Castle Williams and the ‚ÄúRedoubts of the Rebels.‚ÄĚ

British military and political leaders commissioned maps like these to gain a better sense of the Revolutionary War. Williams drew his Plan of Boston and sent it to London, where it was printed less than two weeks before the British evacuated the city on March 17, 1776. He also sent his watercolor view, one in a series, to London. This piece eventually made its way into the British Library’s King George III’s Topographical Collection.

After evacuating Boston and sailing for Nova Scotia, Williams became ill and abruptly stopped writing in his diary. He returned to England, where he died on April 30, 1776. Although he died young, the unique views he left behind offer valuable insights into life during the siege.

For the first time, the British Library has loaned these items for display in the city that Williams captured on paper. Williams’ work is featured in the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center’s exhibition at the Boston Public Library. The exhibition, We Are One: Mapping America’s Road from Revolution to Independence, uses maps to explore the events that led thirteen colonies to forge a new nation. We Are One demonstrates that maps, from Williams’s plan to early maps of the new nation, were central to the revolutionary process. The exhibition features maps as well as prints, paintings, and objects from the Leventhal Map Center’s own collection and those of twenty partners, including the Library of Congress, William L. Clements Library, and John Carter Brown Library. Explore geo-referenced maps from the exhibition here.

The exhibition will be on display at the Boston Public Library through November 29, 2015. We Are One then travels to Colonial Williamsburg from February 2016 through January 2017 and to the New-York Historical Society from November 2017 through March 2018.

The Leventhal Map Center also hosts the NEH-funded American Revolution Portal database. Researchers can access maps from the American Antiquarian Society, British Library, Library of Congress, and other institutions in one search. Users can download images for research and classroom use.

Access these resources and learn more about We Are One here 

Allison K. Lange, PhD