Something I missed when I posted about Alan Ereira’s biography of 17th-century cartographer John Ogilby: scans of all 100 plates of his 1675 atlas, Britannia—considered the first road atlas of Great Britain—are available online at this site. [Tom Harper]
The National Library of Australia’s fragile copy of Joan Blaeu’s Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus (1663) has now been restored. (I told you about the fundraising campaign for its conservation, and its trip to the University of Melbourne to begin conservation work, back in May 2016.)
It took over one thousand hours for the 11 person team at the Grimwade Centre to painstakingly restore the 354-year-old map.
“Normally we’d only dedicate one or two people to a conservation project, but this was a very special object, and it was significantly more difficult to conserve than most of our projects.
“The surface was very fragile and there were a lot of complications along the way.
“We thought we were just removing varnish, but we discovered a dirty layer underneath which meant we had four passes at each square on the gridded map—of which there were around 300.”
There’s a video of the conservation process:
And if you need a reminder of what the map looked like before restoration:
Joan Blaeu’s Archipelagus Orientalis is to Australia what Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 world map is to America: a case where a first appearance on a map is referred to as a country’s birth certificate. The 17th-century map included data from Tasman’s voyages and named New Holland (Australia) and New Zealand for the first time. The National Library of Australia is working on conserving its 1663 copy, but an earlier, unrestored version dating from around 1659 recently turned up in an Italian home; earlier this month it was auctioned at Sotheby’s and sold for nearly £250,000. [Tony Campbell]
Meanwhile, at a somewhat more modest scale, an 1884 hand-drawn map of what would later become the tony Vancouver neighbourhood of Kitsilano by colourful local Sam Greer went for C$24,200—five times its estimated price.
This week the British Library launched an online collection of digitized “topographical materials” (i.e., views of and writings about places) called Picturing Places. More than 500 items—paintings, prints, drawings, texts and yes, maps—so far, sorted by theme and with dozens of accompanying articles.
Picturing Places demonstrates that topography involves far more than straightforward ‘pictorial evidence’ of what a place looked like in the past. We showcase some of the Library’s most treasured topographical materials, including Tudor views collected by Robert Cotton and maps and views owned by George III. But much of this material remains uncharted, and is being brought to wider attention for the first time. The first phase of Picturing Places features over 500 collection items, most never published before, and over 100 articles providing fresh perspectives and new ideas.
One of these digitized items is one of the Library’s crown jewels: the gigantic Klencke Atlas presented to Charles II in 1660, all of the pages of which can now be viewed online. How do you digitize an atlas that is 1.76 by 2.31 metres wide when open? Not with a flatbed scanner, you don’t. Here’s how:
On Tuesday, Jean-François Palomino of the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec gave a talk on early French mapmaking efforts in the Great Lakes region at the University of Michigan. I missed being able to tell you about it in advance, but student newspaper The Michigan Daily has a writeup. [WMS]
(Palomino is one of the co-authors of Mapping a Continent: Historical Atlas of North America, 1492-1814, the French edition of which is La Mesure d’un continent.)
A 17th-century map by Gerald Valck found stuffed up a chimney has now, following painstaking restoration work (see previous entry), been put on display at the National Library of Scotland’s George VI Bridge building in Edinburgh until 17 April. News coverage: The Art Newspaper, The National. [John Overholt, Tony Campbell]
The Selden Map is a map of Chinese origin bequeathed by John Selden to the Bodleian Library in 1659. The precise origins of the map have hitherto been unknown, but scientists at Nottingham Trent University are trying to do something about that. Using a series of non-invasive techniques to examine the map’s material composition, they conclude that the map was created in stages, and probably comes from Aceh, Sumatra. Their findings were published last year in Heritage Science. [Caitlin Dempsey/WMS]
Previously: The Selden Map.
Last November art historian James Welu gave a talk at the Leventhal Map Center about Jan Vermeer’s use of maps in his paintings. The talk is now available on YouTube. I found it fascinating that Vermeer represented actual maps in his paintings — many of which are now very scarce or available only fragmentarily. [Leventhal Map Center]
John Ogilby, the Scottish cartographer who in 1675 published the Britannia atlas—essentially the first road atlas of Great Britain—is the subject of a new biography by Alan Ereira. The Nine Lives of John Ogilby: Britain’s Master Mapmaker and His Secrets came out last month from Duckworth Overlook. (Direct Amazon UK link, though it’s available from third-party sellers on other stores.) From the description I gather it will follow the argument made in the 2008 BBC series Terry Jones’ Great Map Mystery, which Ereira wrote and directed: that the Britannia was an invasion map designed to facilitate a Catholic takeover. (My understanding of this is third-hand: I haven’t seen the book or the series.) [WMS]
The big news in the map world this week is a 17th-century map that was found in Aberdeen, Scotland, stuffed up a chimney to stop drafts. Discovered during renovations, the map was handed over to the National Library of Scotland, which found it to be in very bad shape: the 2.2×1.6-metre map, identified as work by the Dutch engraver Gerald Valck, was disintegrating, with pieces falling off every time it was moved. The Library’s restoration process is featured in an article in the winter 2016 issue of their magazine, Discover (direct PDF link), and in two videos about the map: one I’ve posted above, plus another, shorter video. You should take a look at them all: they present a fascinating look inside the conservation process. More coverage at Atlas Obscura, BBC News and Smithsonian.com.
Two dark, torn illustrations found in the garage of a Palm Springs home and listed for sale as “two 19th century hand colored prints of the world” turned out to be something quite possibly a bit more significant. First identified as two panels (of six) from a 1708 Korean map, Kim Jin-yeo’s Gonyeomangukjeondo (곤여만국전도), which is a derivative of Matteo Ricci’s famous Kunyu Wanguo Quantu (aka the “Impossible Black Tulip”), the panels ended up selling earlier this month for $24,000; the buyer, map dealer Barry Ruderman, is restoring the map for sale and suspects that it may in fact be a 17th-century Chinese copy rather than a Korean map. Daily Mail, Fine Books Magazine. [WMS]
Previously: China at the Center.
October is a busy month: I’m aware of six new map books coming out. Two deal with the mapping of war, three with the rich cartographical history of Great Britain, while the sixth is a colouring book.
Maps of War: Mapping Conflict Through the Centuries by Jeremy Black (Conway, 11 October). “There is little documented mapping of conflict prior to the Renaissance period, but, from the 17th century onward, military commanders and strategists began to document the wars in which they were involved and, later, to use mapping to actually plan the progress of a conflict. Using contemporary maps, this sumptuous new volume covers the history of the mapping of land wars, and shows the way in which maps provide a guide to the history of war.”
War Map: Pictorial Conflict Maps, 1900-1950 by Philip Curtis and Jakob Sondergard Pedersen (The Map House, 6 October). This is a companion book to the Map House’s exhibition of pictorial conflict maps, which I told you about last week.
Scotland: Mapping the Islands by Christopher Fleet, Charles W.J. Withers and Margaret Wilkes (Birlinn, 20 October). A follow-up to Scotland: Mapping the Nation (Birlinn, 2012), this book explores the Scottish islands through maps from the National Library of Scotland’s collection.
Art and Optics in the Hereford Map: An English Mappa Mundi, c. 1300 by Marcia Kupfer (Yale University Press, 25 October). Reinterpretation of the Hereford Mappa Mundi from an art history perspective. “Features of the colored and gilded map that baffle modern expectations are typically dismissed as the product of careless execution. Kupfer argues that they should rightly be seen as part of the map’s encoded commentary on the nature of vision itself.”
I told you about the Ordnance Survey’s Great British Colouring Map (Laurence King, 10 October) last July; it’s available this week. “Based on the accurate maps of Ordnance Survey, the colouring pages explore the coasts, towns, forests and countryside of England, Scotland and Wales. Includes detailed maps of cities and other places of interest such as Britain’s most recognizable tourist and historical locations, plus a stunning gatefold of London.”
Britain’s Tudor Maps: County by County (Batsford, 13 October) reproduces the maps from John Speed’s 1611 Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. These apparently include the first individual county maps of Great Britain, so this is a work of some historical significance.
This Taipei Times article suggests that some copies of the Ricci map—Matteo Ricci’s 1602 map of the world produced for the Chinese emperor—have been altered, possibly to support (or at least not contradict) the present-day Chinese territorial claim to the Spratly Islands (and the nine-dash line). In particular, the article claims, the James Ford Bell Trust’s copy of the map has been altered:
Part of the legend reading “between the 15th and 42nd parallels” had been erased, with ocean patterns painted over the erasure. […] Whether this is a recent defacement done to obliterate evidence that China’s historical primacy in the South China Sea is a modern fiction, or an ancient one done to eliminate an error, is a subject for further research. […] Nonetheless, several other 16th century copies of the Ricci-Li map exist in Europe, South Korea and Japan, and all display the legend intact.
To be honest, the article isn’t so much making a case as it is casting some aspersions. It has an agenda: to shoot down the argument that China’s claims to the Spratly Islands are supported by the historical record. The Ricci map—like so many other maps caught up in territorial disputes and conspiracy theories—is simply a means to an end. [WMS/Leventhal Map Center]
What’s old is new again. Maps created by engraver William Hole to illustrate Michael Drayton’s 17th-century, 15,000-line poem Poly-Olbion are being reprinted—as an adult colouring book called Albion’s Glorious Ile, coming out next month from Unicorn Press (pre-order at Amazon).
As the Guardian article about the book points out, hand-colouring maps and illustrations was a common activity before full-colour printing was a thing, so the current mania for adult colouring books—Gretchen Peterson’s City Maps: A Coloring Book for Adults is The Map Room’s best-selling book this year by a large, large margin—can in some ways be seen as a reversion rather than a new thing.
Previously: City Maps: An Adult Colouring Book.
The National Library of Australia’s copy of Joan Blaeu’s Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus, a 1663 map that has one of the earliest depictions of New Holland and Tasmania, is in “an exceedingly fragile state”—and it’s only one of four copies left. After a successful appeal two years ago to raise funds for conservation work, the map is now heading to the University of Melbourne, where conservation experts will determine the best way to preserve it. [History of Cartography Project]