Scotland: Defending the Nation

In Scotland: Defending the Nation (Birlinn, 4 October), Carolyn Anderson and Christopher Fleet “explore the extraordinarily rich legacy of Scottish military mapping, including fortification plans, reconnaissance mapping, battle plans, plans of military roads and routeways, tactical maps, plans of mines, enemy maps showing targets, as well as plans showing the construction of defences. In addition to plans, elevations and views, they also discuss unrealised proposals and projected schemes. Most of the maps—some of them reproduced in book form for the first time—are visually striking and attractive, and all have been selected for the particular stories they tell about both attacking and defending the country.”

For more on the book, Chris Fleet has a post on the National Library of Scotland’s blog that focuses on maps made by military aggressors; and there’s a page on the NLS website with a sample chapter and images. [WMS]

Along with Manchester: Mapping the City (see previous entry), which came out at the same time, this is the latest in a series of map books from Birlinn, many of which focus on Scotland: see, for example, Scotland: Mapping the Nation (2012), Scotland: Mapping the Islands (2016), The Railway Atlas of Scotland (2015), and books about maps of Edinburgh (2014), Glasgow (2015) and the Clyde River (2017). There’s also a Scottish maps calendar for 2019.

Shetland Unboxed

Wikimedia Commons

I hadn’t realized that Tavish Scott’s amendment preventing Scottish maps from displaying Shetland in an inset map actually passed. Section 17 of the Scottish Parliament’s Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 requires maps of Scotland produced by Scottish public institutions to display Shetland “in a manner that accurately and proportionately represents their geographical location in relation to the rest of Scotland.” The Act passed the Scottish Parliament last May and received Royal Assent in July. Now that the provision in question has come into force, the media, which always likes a weird map story, is seized of the issue all over again: there were news stories last week from BBC News, CBC Radio’s As It Happens, and NPR.

Basically, Shetlanders are delighted and cartographers are horrified: maps of Scotland will perforce be less detailed to accomodate all the empty ocean. In practice I suspect little will change: a loophole in paragraph 17(2)(b) enables a public authority to sidestep the requirement if they can justify it. I imagine that justification will be coming up a lot in maps that people actually use, leaving only illustrative and symbolic maps affected by the law. And, of course, private mapmakers and mapmakers not under the purview of the Scottish government (which I imagine includes the Ordnance Survey) will not be affected by this law.

Meanwhile, Maps Mania’s Keir Clarke gives us Unboxing the Shetlands, a tool to place mainland Scotland in an inset map instead.

Previously: In Praise of Inset Maps; Bruce Gittings on the Shetland Controversy; Don’t Put Shetland in a Box.

The Least Popular Ordnance Survey Map

The Guardian reports on the worst-selling Ordnance Survey map, which I suspect will very quickly cease to be the worst-selling map thanks to the news coverage. It’s OS Explorer 440: Glen Cassley and Glen Oykel, a 1:25,000-scale map of a remote region of the Scottish Highlands. (Buy it at Amazon.) The area covered by the map is apparently spectacularly empty, at least as far as humans are concerned, with only “a few dozen houses,” most of which are used for vacation or hunting purposes. In a blog post today, the Ordnance Survey goes into more detail, listing the 10 least popular maps in the U.K.: they’re all in Scotland, so they also give the least popular maps for England and Wales.

If the purpose here is to point to the route less travelled, well and good, but I suspect the effect will be rather like what happens when a travel guide raves about an out-of-the-way, hidden gem of a restaurant.

The Great Polish Map of Scotland

The Great Polish Map of Scotland, a giant concrete relief map 50 metres by 40 metres in size, was the brainchild of Jan Tomasik, a hotelier and former Polish Army soldier who was stationed in Scotland during the Second World War. He envisioned the map as a monument to Scotland’s hospitality to the visiting Polish soldiers. The map, designed and built by visiting academics from Kraków’s Jagiellonian University, was completed in 1979; it stands on the grounds of Barony Castle Hotel in Eddleston, which Tomasik had bought in 1968.

The hotel closed in 1985 (for a while), and the map began to deteriorate. In 2010 a campaign began to restore the map, which proved successful: the restored version of the map, complete with water surrounding the Scottish land mass, was unveiled to the public last Thursday, in the presence of the Scottish culture secretary and Polish diplomats.

A 3D digital map of the castle has also been announced, but it does not seem to be online.

Regrettably, Shetland is not included on the map. Nobody tell Tavis Scott.

In Praise of Inset Maps

The kerfuffle about Shetland being relegated to inset maps (Ed Parsons has taken to calling this “Insetgate”) is not quite done. Kenneth Field shares his thoughts in a post titled “In Praise of Insets,” in which he calls Scottish politician Tavish Scott’s proposal to ban the use of inset maps to portray Shetland as “utter nonsense” and goes on to defend their use more generally.

Insets are not just used to move geographically awkward places. They are commonly used to create larger scale versions of the map for smaller, yet more densely populated places. Often they are positioned over sparsely populated land to use space wisely. I’m guessing Scott would have an objection to an inset that, to his mind, would exaggerate the geographical importance of Glasgow compared to Shetland. Yet … in population terms it’s a place of massively greater importance so one could argue it deserves greater relative visual prominence on the map. Many maps are about people, not geography.

Previously: Don’t Put Shetland in a BoxBruce Gittings on the Shetland Controversy.

Bruce Gittings on the Shetland Controversy

Writing on the Royal Scottish Geographic Society’s blog, Bruce Gittings challenges the notion that putting Shetland in an inset box is a map error:

It is plainly not: it is a cartographic compromise. And there are always implications to a compromise. To include the Northern Isles in their actual geographical location, separated from the mainland by almost 100 miles of water, would reduce the scale at which the country can be displayed by around 40%.

That means Scotland’s smaller Council Areas (e.g. Dundee) effectively disappear, reduced from any kind of area to an insignificant point, or major features such as the Firths of Tay and Forth lost under text-labels for Dundee and Edinburgh. We are left having to put the Central Belt in a zoom-box because of the loss of detail in areas where most people live, or having to use two sheets of paper rather than one for maps of Scotland. […]

The circumstance of Shetland-in-a-box (and indeed Orkney-in-a-box-too) is a feature of maps intended to display our entire country with a reasonable level of detail.

Previously: Don’t Put Shetland in a Box.

Don’t Put Shetland in a Box

Wikimedia Commons

Shetland’s representative to the Scottish Parliament has moved an amendment to proposed legislation that would require public authorities to portray Shetland “accurately and proportionately” in Scottish maps: BBC News, iNewsThe Scotsman. Because Shetland is so far to the northeast of the island of Great Britain, it’s usually shown in an inset map; this move would, it seems, prohibit this, and presumably require Scottish maps to show vast tracts of ocean (as above). [NLS Maps]

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]

Mapping Scottish and/or Nonexistent Islands

scotland-mapping-islandsThe Scotsman’s review of Scotland: Mapping the Islands  focuses on the Scottish islands that didn’t exist, particularly in a 1560 map by Italian mapmaker Giorgio Sideri (aka Callapoda). On the other hand: “In contrast to Callapoda’s chart, many genuine Scottish islands were omitted from maps of Scotland altogether until only 150 years ago.” [Tony Campbell]

undiscovered-islandsSpeaking of islands that didn’t exist, and maps thereof, there’s a new book about them. The Un-Discovered Islands by Malachy Tallack (Birlinn, October). “Gathered in the book are two dozen islands once believed to be real but no longer on the map. These are the products of imagination, deception and simple human error. They are phantoms and fakes: an archipelago of ex-isles and forgotten lands.” Available in the U.K. for now (or via third-party sellers); the Shetland News story about the book suggests that a U.S. edition is forthcoming. Official website. [WMS]

Previously: New Map Books for October 2016.

Every Person in Scotland

every-person-scotlandEvery Person in Scotland Mapped, a dot density map by Heikki Vesanto with a bit of a methodological twist. Rather than randomize the location of population dots within a given postcode, the map “creates a random point within a building shell inside of a postcode area, which is repeated for every person in a postcode. This is in contrast to a simpler process, which does not take into account buildings at all, working simply with postcode areas.” Zoom in and see. [via]

The Maps of James Robertson

robertson-aberdeen
Detail from James Robertson, Topographical and military map of the counties of Aberdeen, Banff and Kincardine, 1822. Map on six sheets, 173×206 cm. National Library of Scotland.

An exhibition of the maps of James Robertson (1753–1829)on display at the Arbuthnot Museum in Peterhead, Scotland, wraps up this Saturday. The maps, on loan from the National Library of Scotland, include four maps of Jamaica, where Robertson worked as a land surveyor, and a controversial map of Aberdeenshire that, according to The Press and Journal, “was riddled with ‘inaccuracies’ and spelling mistakes, and sparked a legal dispute which raged until his death in 1829.” [via]