Mapping Bristol

A wide-ranging article at Bristol 24/7 explores at the different ways that Bristol has been mapped throughout history. It begins with a look at Jeff Bishop’s 2016 book, Bristol Through Maps (Redcliffe), which includes 24 maps of the city from 1480 to today. Then it goes on to Bristol City Council’s Know Your Place, which layers historic maps on top of a web mapping interface, and finishes with a roundup of the work of local artists and graphic designers. Quite the microcosm: so many kinds of mapping activity, all focused on one British city. [Tony Campbell]

Post-Brexit EU Map Shows Independent Scotland

XYZ Maps

A new post-Brexit map of the European Union shows Scotland as an EU member separate and independent from a rump “United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland,” which is coloured like other non-EU members. Commissioned by Interkart and produced by XYZ Maps, the 119 × 84 cm wall map costs £24/40€. Interkart, XYZ Maps. [WMS]

Soviet Spy Maps, Redux

soviet-map-dc
Shamelessly nicked from Architect of the Capital.

That Soviet spies created detailed topographic maps of the world, including their Cold War enemies, is not news. Wired had a feature on the maps last year, and I’ve been aware of the work of John Davies and Alex Kent on the subject for more than a decade.

But for some unexplained reason interest in Soviet maps has had a bit of a resurgence lately. Elliot Carter writes about the Soviet maps of Washington, D.C., and their myriad little errors at Architect of the Capital and Washingtonian magazine. No doubt they’ll come in handy with the new administration. And the deployment of the Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov through the English Channel in October gave rise to this short piece on Soviet maps of the U.K. The maps are also featured in the British Library’s current map exhibition: they’re the lede in this News.com.au article about the exhibition.

Finally, Davies and Kent have written a book, The Red Atlas: How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World, which, they say, will be coming from the University of Chicago Press in September 2017.

[Benjamin Hennig/MAPS-L/WMS]

New Biography of 17th-Century Cartographer John Ogilby

John Ogilby, The Road From London to the Lands End,, 1675.
John Ogilby, The Road From London to the Lands End, 1675.

nine-lives-ogilbyJohn 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]

Iwan Bala’s Controversial Brexit Exhibition

iwan-balaRunning until 30 November at the Penarth Pier Pavilion in Penarth, Wales, Dyma Gariad (fel y moroedd)/Here is a love (deep as oceans) is an exhibition by Welsh artist Iwan Bala. It’s an angry, provocative collection of caricatures and maps about Brexit, from a strongly Remain perspective, done in a style described by the Penarth Times as “the rapid often stumbled, crossed out, corrected, blotted, re-adjusted rush to put thoughts on paper and the attempt of a poet to capture a line before it ebbs in the memory.” As the Pavilion describes the exhibition:

Responding to the result of the electorate’s vote on the UK’s EU membership, Bala began to make (alongside politicized ‘maps’), satirical caricatures of the principle [sic] players in the lead up to and result of Brexit. An Artist has a duty to comment, protest and become an agent provocateur through the medium of visual communication. Cartoons have a long and illustrious history, and have always lurked somewhere in the background environs of his artwork.

They may have been anticipating some pushback—the exhibition also had a content warning—and indeed the exhibition has gotten some angry responses sufficient that the Pavilion had to issue a statement defending their decision to host it. That alone tells me it was a success: art provokes. [WMS]

The Map That Came to Life

the-map-that-came-to-life

As part of National Map Reading Week, the British Library’s map blog points to at least one example of how map reading used to be taught.

One of the most celebrated 20th century children’s map reading guides is showcased in our forthcoming exhibition Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line. Published in 1948, Ronald Lampitt and James Deverson’s The Map that Came to Life follows the story of John and Joanna who use an Ordnance Survey map to walk to town. As they pass over fields, past houses and along footpaths, their surroundings are compared with map adjacent on the same page. The fields turn into contoured blank spaces, houses become black cubes, footpaths dashed lines. Map literacy is acquired by the reader as they accompany the children on their virtual journey, matching map with reality.

In The Map that Came to Life the map is portrayed as an objective, precise and above all truthful mirror of nature. And this inherent trustworthiness enabled maps to become important features of the lives of successive generations of people.

The idea that maps are objective and truthful is not something that would fly today, I think, but in the context of entry-level map education, which in Britain always seems to be specifically in terms of how to read an Ordnance Survey map, rather than maps in general, it seems harmless enough.

A complete scan of the book is available on this website. Back in 2008, Philip Wilkinson talked about the book on the English Buildings blog.

Ordnance Survey Announces National Map Reading Week

nmrwThe Ordnance Survey is launching a National Map Reading Week, to be held 17-23 October 2016, aimed at improving people’s map-reading skills. The OS cites evidence that a surprising number of people in the U.K. do poorly at maps and geography:

People were asked to plot various locations, from cities to National Parks on an outline map of Britain and we were pretty surprised at the results. Some 40% of people struggled to pinpoint London and only 14% could accurately plot Edinburgh’s location. […]

Even more worrying to us, just 40% of those surveyed felt they could confidently read a map with 10% never having used a paper map.

Now, map literacy and geographical knowledge aren’t the same thing: you can know how to read a map without being any good at placing something on a blank map (at least in theory). Either way, the Ordnance Survey will be producing guides and hosting workshops during the week in question. (In the meantime, they point to these map reading guides.)

As a major publisher of maps, it’s in their interest to do this sort of thing—a map-reading public is a map-buying public, after all—but increasing map literacy is an unquestionably good thing.

An Online Map of Every British Rail Line Ever

rail-map-online

Rail Map Online is a web-based map showing every rail line that ever existed in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Base layers can be toggled between Google Maps, satellite, OpenStreetMap and old Ordnance Survey maps. It doesn’t distinguish between existing and removed rail lines, though that appears to be coming; it’s a work in progress. [Tim Dunn]

Previously: British Railways, Past and Present.

The Great British Colouring Map

great-british-colouring-mapAnother map colouring book has just been announced, this one from the Ordnance Survey: “The book will take you on an immersive colouring-in journey around Great Britain, from the coasts and forests to our towns and countryside. Expect to see iconic cities, recognisable tourist spots and historical locations across England, Scotland and Wales via the 55 illustrations. The Great British Colouring Map also includes a stunning gatefold of London. We can’t wait to share it with you—it will be on shelves in October.” Pre-order at Amazon.

Previously: A-Z Maps Colouring Book; Albion’s Glorious Ile: A 400-Year-Old Map Colouring BookCity Maps: An Adult Colouring Book.

A-Z at 80

Geographers' A-Z Map Company
Geographers’ A-Z Map Company

The Geographers’ A-Z Map Company, which produces the iconic A-Z Maps line, is marking its 80th anniversary this year by posting a series of photos of company memorabilia—they plan 80 photos over 80 days. So far I’m particularly fascinated by the mapmaking tools and processes, like this scribing tool, this type layer and these negatives—all from the time when maps were photo typeset (only three decades ago!). [WMS]