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]
Running 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]
Today’s xkcd is a British map labelled by an American. It’s another one of those where the longer you stare at it, the more it hurts. Randall’s messing with us again.
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.
Oliver O’Brien’s map of proposed electoral constituency district changes in the United Kingdom uses a slider to shift between current and proposed boundaries, which I think is a neat way of going about it.
The 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.
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.
Another 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.
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]
The Ordnance Survey has created a series of data visualizations showing the most popular walking and cycling routes, based on OS Maps usage. “The 500,000 plus routes were illustrated in a series of beautiful data visualisations by [cartographic designer] Charley [Glynn], who found it amazing that the people who created routes for their outdoors adventures had logged almost every bit of British coastline. It neatly frames the rest of the data and gives the illusion you are looking at a map of Great Britain. The darker, thicker areas illustrate the higher concentration of routes and reveal popularity.” Flickr gallery. [Mountain Bike Rider]
Boris Johnson is Britain’s new foreign secretary. The Independent’s indy100 news site has put together a map of all the countries BoJo has offended. It’s interactive: at the link, hover over the country to get the oh-god-what-did-he-say-and-did-he-really-use-that-word story.
Related: a map of countries with a buffoon for a foreign secretary.
Maps of the results of the United Kingdom’s referendum on remaining in the European Union show several different ways of presenting the results.
The BBC’s election night map is bare-bones, showing which side won which local authority, but not by how much. Appropriate for the moment, and for finding your locality, but not necessarily very revealing.
The New York Times’s map, another example of the fine work done by their graphics department, is a choropleth map that indicates the margin of victory in each local authority. It shows the intensity of the win by each side. (The Times does something similar with a hexagon grid map.)
But the EU referendum isn’t like a general election, where each electoral district has roughly the same population, and counts the the same in parliament. In this case it’s the raw vote numbers that count, and local districts can vary in size by as much as a couple of orders of magnitude. So the Guardian’s approach (at right), a hexagon grid that combines a choropleth map with a cartogram to show both the margin of victory and the size of the electorate, is probably most fit for purpose in this case.
I’m actively looking for other maps of the EU referendum results. Send me links, and I’ll update this post below.
- Scottish newspaper The Courier has a somewhat belated piece on the 80th anniversary of the Ordnance Survey’s trig pillars.