Untold lives blog

12 posts categorized "Maps"

19 April 2018

The Plans, Maps and Views of Lieutenant-General William Skinner, Chief Engineer of Great Britain

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Born to a merchant in St Kitts in the Caribbean, William Skinner (1700-1780) lost his parents at a young age and was adopted by his Aunt and her new husband Captain Talbot Edwards, Chief Engineer in Barbados and the Leeward Islands.

Skinner was educated at military colleges in Paris and Vienna and received his warrant as practitioner engineer in 1719. By 1757 he had risen through the ranks to become Colonel William Skinner, Chief Engineer of Great Britain, and in 1770 he was made Lieutenant-General.

Image 1A View in Newfoundland (Add MS 33233, f. 26)

At the British Library we hold Skinner’s personal collection of maps, plans, surveys and views (Add MS 33231-33233) which show the variety of places where he worked throughout his career, as well as giving an insight into the working process of a military engineer in the 18th century. 

From the start of his career Skinner was sent all over the world.  He became known as an authority on fortifications, and worked on important projects including the building of fortifications on Menorca and surveying Gibraltar, where he later served as Director of Engineering.

Image 3A View of the South Front of the Mountain of Gibraltar (Maps K.Top.72.48.d.)

After the Jacobite Rising of 1745, Skinner was asked to lead a major project to build fortifications in the Highlands. Fort George, built on the sea front north-east of Inverness, was finally completed in 1769 and is still in use today.

Image 4A Plan of Fort George (Maps K.Top.50.33.)

Skinner became Chief Engineer in 1757, just after the Seven Years War (1756-1763) had begun, and many projects that he worked on at this time were as a result of this conflict. In 1761 Skinner was sent to Belle Île in France, which had been captured by the British in order to have a base from which to attack the French mainland. General Studholme Hodgson who had led the raid on the island, complained about ‘the set of wretches I have for engineers’, at which point Skinner was brought in to survey the defences and provide accommodation and shelter for the Armed Forces which had been left to hold the island.

Image 5Plan of the Citadel and Part of the Town of Palais Belle-Isle (Add MS 33232, f. 3)

As Chief Engineer all military building projects needed to be submitted for his approval. One such project was the building of fortifications around St John’s in Eastern Newfoundland. This area had been reclaimed from the French in 1762 after the Battle of Signal Hill, which was the final battle of the Seven Years War in North America.

Image 6A View of Conception Bay, Newfoundland (Add MS 33233, f. 34)

William Skinner died on Christmas Day 1780. He kept on working right up until the end of his life, and had passed on his engineering talent to his grandson, who worked successfully as an engineer in the US.

All the items from Skinner’s collection are available to be viewed in the British Library Reading Rooms, and one of his views of Newfoundland (Add MS 33233, f. 34) can currently be seen in our Treasures Gallery.

Stephen Noble
Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Catalogue links:

Maps and Plans, chiefly of fortifications or surveys for military purposes, Add MS 33231 A-PP
Surveys of Belle Isle, France, and plans and sections of its fortifications during the British occupation after its capture in 1761, Add MS 33232
Views of fortifications and landscapes, Add MS 33233


01 February 2018

'A Prospect of Fort St.George and Plan of the city of Madras'

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The 'Prospect of Fort St.George’  was commissioned by  Thomas Pitt, governor 1698-1709, but was only completed after his death in 1726. The sheet consists of both a prospect (a bird’s eye view sketch of the civic buildings) and an urban plan. The map represents west at the top rather than the left of the sheet, is superbly detailed and very large - over 1 metre wide and ⅔ metre high.

Fort St George 1

All images are taken from Bodleian Library Gough Maps 41 No. 138 – ‘A prospect of Fort St. George and Plan of the City of Madras actually surveyed by order of the late Governr. T. Pitt ...’ c.1730. Reproduced here with the kind permission of the Bodleian Library.

Fort St. George was, in origin, essentially a fort. The inner citadel was built in 1640, the outer wall and four bastions by 1659, primarily as protection from the ‘inland Enemy’, variously Mughal generals, nawabs, and the rulers of Golconda.  Visitors approved of the fortifications’ height and thickness, although Andrew Cogan was summoned to explain why he had ‘extravagantly and irresponsibly built Fort St George when the Company’s stock was so small’.

The English population in Madras was very small: under 200 at the end of 1699 with 30 servants of the Company, 35 free merchants, and 38 seafaring men not constant inhabitants of the town. There were 14 widows, 10 single young women and 22 wives. The ‘native’ population of the Presidency was however estimated at 300,000 and their influx for work made Madras  a rapidly expanding town. The street names reflect the very active commerce in cloths: Comatee is the Telugu for ‘trader’, and Chitee was a member of any one of the trading castes in southern India.

Let's take a look at some of the features of the plan:

Fort St George 2Anchorage at Madras for large ocean-going Indiamen was always problematic.  Ships had to anchor some way from shore, and narrow lighters beat the ferocious surf. 

Fort St George 3White Town

Fort St George 4Black Town

Each community had its own space with a burying ground.  The most basic division of social space was that between Black Town and White Town (reserved for Europeans). Workers such as weavers were actively sought after by the town’s governor, but others came by themselves to avoid the arbitrary rule of the sultans of Golconda.

 Fort St George 5
The Inner and Outer Gardens were complemented by the New Gardens in the 1680s, complete with ceremonial garden houses and a pavilion. Pitt was a keen horticulturist. Visitors commented on the variety and healthiness of the guavas, oranges, mangos, grapes, lemons and coconuts grown. 

 Fort St George 6

Governor’s House, on three storeys, crenelated into a three-part façade including a central projection, was built in 1693 close on the seaboard walls.


Fort St George 7The northern neighbourhood of Muttial Peta was a spillover area populated by urban artisans, such as goldsmiths and blacksmiths, which developed as New Black Town (George Town) in the 1750s.

Fort St George 8Choultry Street (outside the Choultry Gate) was a place for transacting public business, and included the courts of law.

Fort St George 9

St Mary's 


Fort St George 10St Andrew's

St Mary’s was the chief Anglican church, sometimes jokingly called Westminster Abbey in the East. It was consecrated in 1680 but only received a spire in 1710. Capuchin friars ministered to the Roman Catholic ‘Portuguese’ population in St. Andrew's church until it was torn down after the Treaty of Aix La Chapelle (1748).


Fort St George 11The hospital was purpose built in 1692 and rebuilt in 1710. It was later demolished for defensive reasons because its height was considered excessive.

 Fort St George 12The Mint. Madras’ production of its own coins has prompted discussion about the nature of its sovereignty some time before the idea of empire was consciously put into action by the British.

 Fort St George 13The Sea Gate. Here the keys of the town were handed to the French after the infamous surrender of 1746; here too, returning ships and cargoes were sold at packed, pre-announced auctions.
Stefan Halikowski Smith
Department of History, Swansea University

Further reading:
University of Oxford, Bodleian Library, Gough Maps 41 No.138 – ‘A prospect of Fort St. George and Plan of the City of Madras actually surveyed by order of the late Governor T. Pitt ...’ c.1730.
British Library Maps 54570.(27.) is a collotype reduction from the original document in the Bodleian Library.
British Library - P2524 John Harris, Original copper plate for engraving 'A Prospect of Fort St George', Madras, used in Thomas Pitt's prospect and map of Madras in the Bodleian Library. c 1710. Also P363 - a modern printing of the Prospect  taken in July 1970.

Brimnes, Niels. Constructing the colonial encounter: Right and left-hand castes in early colonial South India (Richmond, 1999).
Fryer, John.  A new account of East-Indian and Persia, in eight letters. Being nine years travels, begun 1672. And finished 1681 (London, 1698).
Hamilton, Alexander. A new Account of the East Indies, (Edinburgh, 1727), 2 vols.
Lockyer, Charles. An account of the trade in India, containing rules for good government in trade, … with descriptions of Fort St. George, …, Malacca, Condore, Canton, Anjengo, …, Gombroon, Surat, Goa, Carwar, Telichery, Panola, Calicut, the Cape of Good-Hope, and St. Helena. Their inhabitants, customs, religion, government, animals, fruits, &c. To which is added, an account of the management of the Dutch in their affairs in India (London, 1711).
Love, Henry. Vestiges of Old Madras, 1600-1800, 4 vols. (London, 1913).
Madras Tercentenary Commemoration Volume, ed. Rao Srinivasachari, (O.U.P. 1939)
Muthiah, Subbiah. Madras discovered: A historical guide to looking around (Madras, 1981)
Srinivasachari, C.S. History of the city of Madras (Madras, 1939)
Stern, Philip J.  The company-state : corporate sovereignty and the early modern foundation of the British Empire in India, O.U.P. 2011.


27 April 2017

Picturing Places - Taking a wider view?

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Think of the British Library’s collections - it is probably books rather than prints and drawings which come to mind.  Think of Gainsborough, Constable or Turner:  do you picture Sublime, imaginary paintings rather than ‘topographical’, place-specific prints and drawings?

33_h_5 6 8

33.h.7.: Peter Fabris, The eruption of Vesuvius, from Supplement to the Campi Phelgraei (1779) Noc

Picturing Places, a new free online resource launched today by the British Library, aims to widen perceptions of both the British Library’s holdings and topographical art.


Maps K.Top.14.83.e.: Anonymous, Interior view of the east end of Netley Abbey near Southampton (about 1790-1810) Noc

Rather than seeing topography as marginal compared to the landscapes in oils or watercolours by the canon of ‘great artists’ or more imaginative and Sublime images, Picturing Places celebrates images of specific places in the graphic arts, sparking a lively debate around nationhood, identity, and cultural value.

Add MS 36489 C 1

Add MS 36489 C 2

Add MS 36486 C: George Scharf, Panorama of Ratisbon (Regensburg) (1845) Noc

The British Library holds the world’s most extensive and important collection of British topographic materials: from handwritten notes by antiquarians to rare first editions, extra-illustrated books and unique compilations of plates, text and drawings by named collectors, the British Library is a treasure trove for anyone with an interest in the intersections between place, art, representation and history.  The full extent and depth of the collections are only now being properly recognised and explored. 


Add MS 15546, f.101: Samuel Hieronymus Grimm, A service in Bath Abbey (1788) Noc

Picturing Places explores the Library’s extensive holdings of landscape imagery and showcases works of art by well-known artists such as J.M.W. Turner alongside images by a multitude of lesser-known figures.  Only a few have ever been seen or published before, as historically, the British Library’s prints and drawings have been overlooked by scholars.  The material in these extensive collections reflect the scholarly and artistic practices of earlier eras when images and texts would have been seen as more closely equivalent.  They have been neglected due both to the overwhelming volume of material and the perception of their relative ‘insignificance’ in the context of a national library where text has always taken precedence. 


746.e.2.: Robert Wallis after JMW Turner, Stonehenge, from Picturesque Views in England and Wales (1829) Noc

While landscape images have often been treated as accurate records of place, this website reveals for the first time the many different stories involved – about travel and empire, science and exploration, the imagination, history and observation.


Add MS 15509, f.11: John Cleveley, junior, The ruins of Killaru, Islay (1772) Noc

Picturing Places is an outcome of a current British Library research project, Transforming Topography, which we began in 2013 with a research workshop sponsored by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.   We have partnered with other institutions such as the Royal Collection and British Museum and with academics worldwide.  93 authors representing emerging and established experts in fields such as art history, history, cultural geography and geography are currently involved, and we have 108 essays now being processed for publication.  Films from the Library’s 2016 Transforming Topography conference exploring the depiction of place are also available, providing revelatory insights about the history of landscape imagery.

Keep an eye on Picturing Places and  @bl_prints for updates as the project progresses.

Felicity Myrone
Lead Curator, Western Prints & Drawings


06 June 2016

Making stale and nauseous water sweet!

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An advertisement was sent to the Secretary of the East India Company in 1763 about the intended publication of a series of engravings of the Battle of Havana.  The views were to be taken from sketches drawn in 1762 by ‘the Inventor of the Machine for reducing stale and nauseous Water, sweet’. 

  Durnford IOR E 1 45 f 470

 Advertisement sent to the East India Company in 1763, IOR/E/1/45 f.470 Noc

The artist and inventor was Elias Durnford (1739-1794), a civil engineer with the British Army, who is better known for his role surveying and developing a town plan for Pensacola in Florida.

Durnford was born in 1739 in Ringwood, Hampshire, the eldest son of Elias Durnford senior.  He trained as a civil engineer under John Peter Desmaretz of the drawing office in the Tower of London.  Appointed ensign in the Royal Engineers in March 1759, he served with the Royal Navy at the battle of Havana in 1762.  Durnford was appointed aide-de-camp to Lord Albemarle and was asked to draw a series of sketches of the battle, which were later published as announced in the advert. After Cuba, Durnford was sent to Florida as chief engineer and surveyor, where he was responsible for drawing up the town plans for Pensacola. In 1769 he was appointed Lieutenant-Governor, an appointment he held until 1778.

During his time in America, Durnford also designed a plan for a canal to run from the Mississippi to the town of Mobile. If it had been implemented the scheme would have been the first canal in America.  As well as potentially bringing new trade and settlement, the canal could perhaps have changed the course of the War. Military and political difficulties at the time however meant the proposal was never properly considered.

Mobile maps_k_top_122_94_1

Maps K.Top.122.94.1 Plan of Mobile, 1763 Images Online  Noc


Durnford was still living in Florida at the beginning of the American Revolutionary War and was given command of Fort Charlotte at Mobile, a town near his estates. Durnford was heavily outnumbered during the war but refused to surrender the fort, believing relief would come from Pensacola. He eventually surrendered in March 1780 after having safely negotiated safe passage home for the English residents, and protection from persecution for the locals who had assisted him. His estates and plantation were however burned to the ground.


Pensacola maps_k_top_122_97

Maps K.Top.122.97 Coastline of Pensacola as seen from the sea, 1763 Images Online  Noc

On returning to England Durnford worked on the ‘Makers Height’ defences at Plymouth Docks, before being appointed Chief Engineer in the Caribbean, where he eventually died of yellow fever on 21 June 1794.

Several of the engravings produced from Durnford’s original sketches are in the King George III Topographical Collection at the British Library. The Library also holds a copy of the published engravings from the 1760s.

I have been unable to discover anything so far about Durnford’s machine for purifying stale water. Was it a success?  Can any of our readers help?

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records Cc-by

Further reading:
IOR/E/1/45, f 470 - advertisement for a publication of engravings of the battle of Havana.
William Elliot,  A view of the Harbour & City of Havana.  Six views for Lord Albemarle, inscribed by Elias Durnford (London, 1764).
Maps K. Top. 123.28.a through to Maps K. Top. 128.28.f - The King's Topographical Collection holds the six engravings, produced from Elias Durnford’s original sketches, which were published between February 1764 and August 1765.
Add MS 16367 G - A coloured military plan of the attacks carried on by the English in 1762 against the city of Havanah and Moro Fort, surveyed by Lieut. [Elias] Durnford, 1762.
The National Archives hold the plans and drawings for the town of Pensacola; along with drawings and correspondence relating to the proposed canal from Mississippi to Mobile.



11 March 2016

Did he intend to blow the [insert film quotation here] doors off? An eighteenth-century powder mill in Germany.

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King George III’s Topographical Collection, currently the subject of an ongoing cataloguing and digitisation project here at the British Library, contains some approximately 40,000 maps and topographical views from around the world. Amongst the collection are objects that suggest an interest, perhaps George’s own, in engineering and other technical endeavours; there are plans, projected and realised, for canals, roads, military fortifications, siegeworks and so on.

One recently catalogued item within the collection could be seen to embody this combined interest in maps and engineering. It is an eighteenth-century manuscript map showing a powder mill, for the manufacture of gunpowder, in Germany.

Maps K.Top.100.34.

PLAN DER IM AMTE HARBURG OHNWEIT MEKELFELD belegenenen Pulver Mühle / G. Braun fec. Maps K.Top.100.34. Untitled

Entitled PLAN DER IM AMTE HARBURG OHNWEIT MEKELFELD belegenenen Pulver Mühle, this map is signed at lower right by “G. Braun”. A date of about 1770 is attributed for the map’s production based on comparison with another map in the collection (Maps K.Top.100.33.) that is dated and also signed by Braun.

  Maps K.Top.100.34. [detail showing signature]

Maps K.Top.100.34. [detail showing signature] Untitled

The map shows the mill at Meckelfeld in present-day Lower Saxony, located south-east of Harburg in the borough of Hamburg. The mill buildings are shown on the river, the source of power driving the mill to grind the gunpowder.

Maps K.Top.100.34. [detail of mill buildings]

Maps K.Top.100.34. [detail of mill buildings] Untitled

The skill and care involved in the map’s production (it is certainly not a preliminary sketch) could suggest that it was intended to be seen (and used?) by a person or persons of note. Had George III himself, perhaps as King of Hanover, expressed an interest in this mill?

It is the decorated title cartouche at lower left that emphasises the map’s unusual subject matter.

Maps K.Top.100.34. [title cartouche]

Maps K.Top.100.34. [title cartouche showing an explosion] Untitled

Not only does this cartouche include a lettered key to the individual buildings shown on the map, which comprise the powder magazine, the drying house, the coal house and the saltpetar store (?), amongst others, it also depicts, quite fabulously, what happens when things, perhaps, don’t turn out exactly as planned. Given the look of mild surprise rather than abject horror and outright panic on the depicted gentleman’s face within the cartouche, one might conclude that such explosions were not uncommon!

Kate Marshall, Maps Cataloguer, King George III's Topographical Collection

30 January 2016

A tradition of trade: the opening of the London Docks

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January marks the 211th anniversary of the opening of the London Docks.

The London docks were built by John Rennie, the Scottish civil engineer also responsible for canals, aqueducts, bridges and other docks.  Before the docks were built, it could take up to three months for cargo to be unloaded, leaving precious goods at risk of damage or theft.  The construction of the docks allowed the London Dock Company to command a 21-year monopoly over ships carrying rice, tobacco, wine and brandy, from all over the world with the exception of the East and West Indies.

The British Library has material relating to the London Docks which can be found on Explore the British Library.

This includes a significant number of views as well as early printed material relating to its planning and opening such as 'Reasons in favour of the London Docks' by William Vaughan, 1797, a copy of which was presented to the British Musuem by Vaughan himself.


'Reasons in favour of the London Docks' by William Vaughan, 1797, in A collection of tracts on wet docks for the Port of London, 1797. British Library 1029.d.9.(5). Untitled

The docks fast became a part of London topography and images of them were included in published walking tours such as Walks through London by William Clarke and Views of London by Charles Heath.


The Shipping Entrance, London Docks, drawn and engraved by John Charles Varrall for the 'Walks through London', published by William Clarke, New Bond Street, January 1817, British Library 010349 n 22.   Untitled


'Entrance to the London Docks' engraved by Charles Heath, drawn by Peter DeWint, published by Hurst, Robinson & Co, London, 1829, in Views of London. British Library 010349.n.22. Untitled

Views of the Docks were produced in all shapes and sizes and at different prices. Probably the most impressive and expensive were the bird's-eye-views by William Daniell. These hand-coloured aquatints were large at 49 x 86 cm and were self-published by Daniell in 1808 as part of the series Views of the London Docks. Today, the area around Wapping and the London Docks is virtually unrecognisable from the scenes depicted by Daniell.


A View of the London Dock. Drawn, engraved and published by William Daniell, 1808. Aquatint with hand-colouring. British Library Maps K.Top.21.31.3.b.PORT.11 TAB.Untitled


An elevated view of the new dock in Wapping. Drawn, engraved and published by William Daniell, 1808. Aquatint with hand-colouring. British Library Maps K.Top.21.31.3.a.PORT.11 TAB.Untitled

Alexandra Ault, Curator, Manuscripts and Archives 1601-1850, British Library.

12 January 2016

Mud Hovels, Mean Houses and Natural Philosophy

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John Michael Houghton was an important member of the East India Company’s expedition that surveyed the Persian Gulf during the 1820s. A talented draughtsman by trade (his fourth son was the painter Arthur Boyd Houghton), he drew many of the charts and maps produced by the survey, now held in the British Library’s India Office Records map collection. Houghton’s drawings of towns such as Dubai, Sharjah and Al Bida (Doha) are amongst the earliest-known visual descriptions of these places.

  Houghton 1

Lieutenant Houghton, ‘Debay in 6 ½ fathoms’ IOR/X/10310, f 15  Noc


Houghton also wrote a ‘memoir’ which describes all that he saw on the survey between Musandam and Dubai. This memoir has been digitised and is now published on the Qatar Digital Library.

Houghton was born in London in 1797, the son of a naval surgeon employed by the East India Company.  He received a classical education before sailing for China on board the Elphinstone on 25 March 1812. In Canton he transferred to the Bombay Marine’s survey ship Discovery, which spent five years surveying the China Seas. By 1821, Houghton had risen to the rank of Second Lieutenant, and was working as marine draughtsman on the East India Company’s survey of the shores of the Persian Gulf.

  Houghton 2

Houghton’s signature, in the introduction to his ‘Memoir’ of the Arab coast of the Gulf. IOR/X/10309, f 4 Noc


Lieutenant John Guy, commanding officer of the Discovery, engaged Houghton to produce an account of the voyage along the Arab coast of the Gulf.  In vivid detail he described the coastal landscapes he saw, and the human settlements and local rulers he encountered, writing from the perspective of an outsider encountering a foreign land. Houghton described the houses of Sharjah as ‘mean’ and the town of Dubai as ‘a miserable assemblage of mud hovels, surrounded by a cow mud wall’.

  Houghton 3

Lieutenant Houghton, Extract of the coast from Jezeerat Gunnum to Ras Sheik Munsoud. ‘Continuation’. IOR/X/10310, f 7 Noc


Of greatest interest to Houghton were the geological formations he saw from the deck of the Discovery.  Studying the cliffs and shallow inlets encountered along the Arabian coast of the Persian Gulf, Houghton compared and contrasted what he saw with what he had read in the latest geological studies from Europe, including the works of  John Playfair, Erhard Georg Friedrich Wrede, Leopold von Buch, and John MacCulloch.

Houghton 4
Plate from John MacCulloch, A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland, including the Isle of Man (1819) via archive.orgNoc


Comparing the southern climes of the Persian Gulf with the seas around northern Europe, Houghton began to formulate conclusions of his own. His observations led him to refute Wrede’s ideas that ‘the sea is retreating to the southern hemisphere’, and the Italian natural philosopher Paolo Frisi’s assertion that the sea appeared to be ‘sinking near the poles, and rising towards the Equator’.

Houghton continued his rise through the ranks of the Bombay Marine after the completion of the Persian Gulf survey. By 1833, he had risen to the rank of Commander, and was Auditor of the Indian Navy. Ill health forced him to retire in 1838, though it was not until 1874 that he died at his home in Hampstead, London.

Mark Hobbs
Subject Specialist, British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership  Cc-by

Further reading:
Maps and other records produced by Houghton on the Qatar Digital Library
‘Coast Views taken while employed on the Survey of the Arabian Side of the Gulf of Persia By Lieutenant M. Houghton, Draughtsman H.C. Marine’. IOR/X/10310. British Library, London
‘Persian Gulf single charts.–Memoir.–Lieut. Houghton’. IOR/X/10309. British Library, London
Paul Hogarth, Arthur Boyd Houghton (London: Gordon Fraser, 1981)
Maurice Packer, Officers of the Bombay Marine (London: c.2012)

03 December 2015

Fanciful fortifications?

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King George III’s Topographical Collections contains a number of important and unique separate volumes, particularly manuscript atlases. One such example is the so-called “Molino Atlas”.

The Molino atlas is a collection of manuscript maps and drawings depicting, on the whole, geographical locations important to the Venetian Empire. It is named for the Molino family of Venice, to whom a number of the maps are dedicated, and the majority of the maps were created around 1630.

  Molino arms
The Molino family arms taken from Maps K.Top.78.31.b.(vol.ii.20.).
[previously Maps 6.TAB.5.(20).]   Noc

The atlas is significant not only for its George III provenance, but also for once having belonged to Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) and it is listed in the Sloane printed books catalogue.  Sloane presented the atlas to Queen Caroline, consort of George II.

Previous catalogue descriptions have disputed the number of maps contained within. The British Museum’s  1829 catalogue  of the collection suggests the atlas contains 95 maps, but the 1844 catalogue of manuscript maps, charts and plans suggests 94 maps. The current count confirms there are actually 117 separate items in the atlas, to include maps and also some drawings.

Of particular interest are a number of maps of imagined and idealised military locations. It would not have been unusual for a young, earnest and ambitious military engineer to undertake such maps at this time.

  Maps 6.TAB.5.(1)
Maps K.Top.78.31.b.(vol.ii.1.). [previously Maps 6.TAB.5.(1).] Noc

The map above was identified as "A plan and section of the fortifications of Palma" in the 1844 catalogue. However, the shape of the fort does not seem to correspond to Palma, Majorca (there is no indication of any coastline), nor does it correspond in number of bastions to that magnificent Venetian-built star fort of 1593 at Palmanova, Italy.

Maps 6.TAB.5.(20)FULL
Maps K.Top.78.31.b.(vol.ii.20.). [previously Maps 6.TAB.5.(20).] Noc

This map is unusual within the atlas for being signed; by Giovanni Battista Vitelli. The lengthy text at lower left, surmounted by the Molino coat of arms, comprises a dedication to Filippo Molino.

Maps 6.TAB.5.(20)
 Detail from Maps K.Top.78.31.b.(vol.ii.20.). [previously Maps 6.TAB.5.(20).] Noc

Again, the 1844 catalogue is quick to assign the map as being, "A plan of the fortress of Trau" However, the fort bears no resemblance to any defences in Trau (now Trogir, Croatia). Careful reading of the text confirms it was produced in Trau, and seems to be another example of an imagined fort (with a waterway running through it!).

  Maps 6.TAB.5.(26)
Maps K.Top.78.31.b.(vol.ii.26.). [previously Maps 6.TAB.5.(26).] Noc

Finally, this map has previously been catalogued as “Casal” (Casale Monferrato?), but shows seven bastions, whereas the citadel actually had six. Whether this is a plan for an imagined fort, or whether it exists (or existed) and has not yet been identified correctly, or whether it is a proposal for a fort, it is an interesting inclusion in the atlas.

These are not the only maps of imaginary locations within the K.Top, there is evidence to suggest even George III produced his own map  of an invented palace, but the Molino atlas is a wonderful repository for many of these idealised maps.

Kate Marshall
Map Cataloguer, King’s Topographical Collections   Cc-by