Untold lives blog

18 posts categorized "Maps"

06 November 2015

One Year of Qatar Digital Library

This month we celebrate the first anniversary of the Qatar Digital Library Portal, launched a year ago as a result  of the Partnership between the British Library, the Qatar Foundation, and the Qatar National Library. The Portal, available in English and Arabic, has been widely accessed from the Persian Gulf, and its Arabic version is extremely popular. 600,000 images have been uploaded to-date and more content will be made available in the coming years.

The Qatar Digital Library hosts a selection of India Office Records and private papers, maps of the Persian Gulf and the wider region, and Arabic Scientific Manuscripts from the British Library’s Manuscripts Collections.

During the first year, the most popular map was IOR/R/15/1/730 f 88  showing air routes, islands in the Persian Gulf;  and the boundaries of Kuwait and Trucial Area.

   Map showing (A) Air Routes, established and projected; (B) Islands in the Persian Gulf; (C) Boundaries of Kuwait and Trucial AreaNoc
IOR/R/15/1/730, f 88 – Map showing (A) Air Routes, established and projected; (B) Islands in the Persian Gulf; (C) Boundaries of Kuwait and Trucial Area. Map II (accessed in Arabic). 


The most popular manuscript was IO Islamic 1249 - Arabic versions of seven Greek treatises on mathematics edited by Naṣīr al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad Ṭūsī  طوسي، نصير الدين محمد بن محمد, (detail below, f 1v).

Noc Islamic manuscript - Arabic versions of seven Greek treatises on mathematics

 IO Islamic 1249 f.1v

The most popular India Office Records file was IOR/R/15/2/31 File E/8 I Ibn Sa‘ud.  The second most popular file was IOR/R/15/1/480 - 'File 53/7 X (D 54) Kuwait Affairs, Bin Saud (Captain Shakespeare's Deputation)' (detail from f ‎26r below, on the Death of Captain Shakespear).


Letter reporting death of Captain ShakespearPublic Domain Creative Commons Licence




The Qatar Digital Library also contains contextualised explanatory notes and links, in both English and Arabic. The most popular of these pieces is Robots, Musicians and Monsters: The World’s Most Fantastic Clocks, accessed both in English and Arabic. This was closely followed by The British in the Gulf, mostly accessed in Arabic, and The Death of Captain Shakespear, in English.

Keep following us on Twitter @BLQatar to see what the curators are working on, and what is being uploaded every week to the Qatar Digital Library.

Valentina Mirabella
Archive Specialist British Library / Qatar Foundation Partnership



27 October 2015

Captain Cook – Endeavour and Resolution

Captain James Cook was born in the village of Marton in the North Riding of Yorkshire on 27 October 1728. He began his career at sea working in the North Sea coal trade, but in 1755 he enlisted in the Royal Navy. During the Seven Years War he served as the Master on the Pembroke, discovering and developing his talent for surveying.

Engraving of Captain James Cook Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Engraving of Captain James Cook, Add MS 23920 f.1r

The chart below was created by Cook in 1763. It shows the Islands of St Pierre and Miquelon just off the South Coast of Newfoundland.

   Chart of the Islands of St Pierre and MiquelonPublic Domain Creative Commons Licence
 Chart of the Islands of St Pierre and Miquelon, Add MS 31360 f.21

In 1767 Cook was appointed to command the Endeavour on a voyage commissioned by the Royal Society to observe the Transit of Venus from the island of Tahiti. On board were astronomer Charles Green and the wealthy naturalist Joseph Banks whose retinue included the artists Alexander Buchan and Sidney Parkinson (who both died on the voyage) and the naturalist Daniel Solander.

Sailing from Plymouth on 25 August 1768, Cook reached Tahiti on 13 April 1769. After successfully observing the Transit of Venus, Cook opened his secret instructions from the Admiralty which ordered him to search for the Great Southern Continent.  Having failed to find the continent Cook decided to investigate the land sighted by Abel Tasman in 1642, which Dutch cartographers had named New Zealand. The chart below was drawn by Cook and is accurate except for two mistakes: he charted Banks Peninsula as an island, and he charted Stewart Island as a Peninsula.

  Chart of New ZealandPublic Domain Creative Commons Licence

Chart of New Zealand, Add MS 7085 f.17

Cook carried onto the Eastern Coast of Australia, the first sighting by Europeans. After carrying out a running survey of the East Coast, Cook returned to England. The voyage was received by the British public as a great success. However Cook had not given up on the idea of finding a Great Southern Continent and proposed a second voyage circumnavigating the globe from west to east as far south as possible.

Captain Cook sailed in the Resolution in company with Tobias Furneaux in the Adventure. Whilst attempting to locate the fabled Southern continent Cook and his officers accurately charted the islands in the Pacific they came across including Vanuatu as shown below. This chart is attributed to Midshipman John Elliott.

A plan of Vanuatu with 4 viewsPublic Domain Creative Commons Licence

A plan of Vanuatu with 4 views, Add MS 15500 f.17

Cook was appointed to the Resolution again early in 1776 to locate the North West passage, accompanied by Captain Charles Clerke in the Discovery.  Having failed to discover the passage, Cook was forced to return to the Hawaiian Islands with a damaged ship. Relations with the local people were hostile and took a turn for the worse when the one of the Discovery’s cutters was stolen and Cook planned to take an Hawaiian Chief hostage. When he went ashore on 14 February 1779 he was met by a volatile crowd. In the ensuing altercation Cook and four of the marines were killed.

View at Waimea in the Hawaiian Islands Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

View at Waimea in the Hawaiian Islands by John Webber, Add MS 15513 f.29

The British Library holds a world renowned collection of the charts, artwork (ethnographic and landscapes) and logbooks from Cook's three voyages. We are pleased to announce that we are curating an exhibition based on these collections which will be held in summer 2018.

Laura Walker
Lead Curator Modern Archives & Manuscripts 1850-1950

Further reading:
More information on James Cook can be found at: Andrew C.F. David, 'James Cook', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
An account of the second voyage by John Elliott is held at the British Library Add MS 42714 ff.7-45.


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