Restoring a 150-Foot Map of Australia in the English Countryside

During World War I, Australian troops staying at nearby Hurdcott Camp carved a gigantic map of Australia into a Wiltshire hillside. Chalk gravel was used to fill shallow trenches to create an outline map some 150 feet wide with 18-foot-tall letters. Since then, despite a restoration in the 1950s and its designation as a Scheduled Ancient Monument, the map has faded, but for the past four years the Map of Australia Trust has been working on restoring the map. It was finished in time for Armistice Day. More from BBC News (video) and Historic England. [Jonathan Potter]

A 1947 Diagrammatic Map of London’s Trolley Routes

Trolleybus & Tram Routes (1947)

Maps of bus, tram and trolley networks are, I think, more likely to use geographical maps of the city’s road network as their base layer than subway and rail maps. That’s not always the case—nor has it always been the case. Take this 1947 map of London’s trolleybus and tram routes, executed by Fred J. H. Elston. Cameron Booth finds that it has “more in common with modern best practices for transit diagrams than with something that’s now 70 years old.” On the other hand, Ollie O’Brien, writing at Mapping London, thinks that this map proves that “the simplicity of the tube map doesn’t translate very well to London’s complex road network. So perhaps this is why the idea almost didn’t survive for above-ground networks, and London’s more modern bus maps (now discontinued) have always used the actual geographical network.” Christopher Wyatt, sharing the map on Twitter, notes a big, Westminster-shaped hole in the trolley network that matches London’s speed limit map: “It does seem as though there is a historical pattern of aversion to transportation equity from Westminster.”

The First Ordnance Survey Map

The first map produced by the Ordnance Survey, their blog reminds us, was this map of Kent. Published in 1801 at the scale of two inches to one mile (1:31,680), it took three years to complete; the OS started in Kent over fears of a French invasion. As such, the map “focused on communication routes and included hill shading to ensure men at arms could interpret the landscape with precision. Over time, this map design became less focused on these elements and was developed to appeal to a much wider audience.”

The definitive history of the early years of the Ordnance Survey is Rachel Hewitt’s Map of a Nation, which I reviewed in 2012.

Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War

Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War is an interactive map of more than 1,000 wartime wrecks along England’s south coast. Like much of the material and personal history of that war, the wreck sites—”which include merchant and naval ships, passenger, troop and hospital ships, ports, wharfs, buildings and foreshore hulks”—are degrading; this is a project designed both to raise awareness and preserve information. Selecting a wreck site brings up a wealth of detail about the ship, its current state, and the circumstances of its loss. More at the project page and from BBC News. The map itself is a basic Mapbox affair, with a layer that only looks vintage (there are motorways). [Kenneth Field]

Manchester: Mapping the City

Manchester: Mapping the City (Birlinn, 4 October), the latest in Birlinn’s line of cartographic histories, is the result of years of research and collecting by authors Terry Wyke, Brian Robson and Martin Dodge. “This book uses historic maps and unpublished and original plans to chart the dramatic growth and transformation of Manchester as it grew rich on its cotton trade from the late 18th century, experienced periods of boom and bust through the Victorian period, and began its post-industrial transformation in the 20th century.” The book’s home page has sample chapters and links to Mancunian maps online. More from the University of Manchester. [Tony Campbell]

New Books for May 2018

Art

Helen Cann’s How to Make Hand Drawn Maps: A Creative Guide With Tips, Tricks, and Projects (Chronicle, 1 May paperback, 22 May ebook). “With wonderful examples and easy-to-follow instructions, this beautifully illustrated how-to book makes it simple and fun to create one-of-a-kind hand-drawn maps. Helpful templates, grids, and guidelines complement a detailed breakdown of essential cartographic elements and profiles of talented international map artists.” Amazon, iBooks

Academic Monographs

I trained as a historian of the French Third Republic, so Kory Olson’s The Cartographic Capital: Mapping Third Republic Paris, 1889-1934 (Liverpool University Press, 4 May), which “looks at how government presentations of Paris and environs change over the course of the Third Republic (1889-1934),” would have very much been up my alley twenty years ago. “The government initially seemed to privilege an exclusively positive view of the capital city and limited its presentation of it to land inside the walled fortifications. However, as the Republic progressed and Paris grew, technology altered how Parisians used and understood their urban space.” Amazon

Chris Barrett’s Early Modern English Literature and the Poetics of Cartographic Anxiety (Oxford University Press, 22 May) is about “the many anxieties provoked by early modern maps and mapping in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A product of a military arms race, often deployed for security and surveillance purposes, and fundamentally distortive of their subjects, maps provoked suspicion, unease, and even hostility in early modern Britain. […]  This volume explores three major poems of the period—Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (1590, 1596), Michael Drayton’s Poly-Olbion (1612, 1622), and John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667, 1674)—in terms of their vexed and vexing relationships with cartographic materials.” Amazon, iBooks

Related: Map Books of 2018.

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]

Ogilby’s Britannia

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

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]

Previously: New Biography of 17th-Century Cartographer John Ogilby.

Dan Bell’s ‘Tolkien-Style’ Maps of the Lake District

Dan Bell, “The Lake District National Park.” Giclée print.

Maps of real places done up in the style of fantasy maps are a thing, as those who have been following along will know by now. I’m planning a dedicated page on the subject in the Fantasy Maps section. That page will have to include Dan Bell’s maps of the Lake District—maps, he says, “that resemble the iconic style of J. R. R. Tolkien.” His maps have suddenly got a bit of media attention, which is atypical for this sort of project: BBC News, The Westmoreland Gazette. They resemble more the maps done for the Lord of the Rings movies than the maps created by Christopher Tolkien or Pauline Baynes: one tell is the triple-dot diacritic above the a, which is used in the movie maps and comes from Tolkien’s Elvish script. Bell, a 25-year-old “ordinary guy” from the Lake District, is selling prints of the maps online. [Kenneth Field]

Geological Mosaic Map

York Museum Gardens

The York Museum Gardens’ Geological Mosaic Map is a four-metre-square pebble mosaic that depicts the Yorkshire part of William Smith’s 1815 geological map of Great Britain—a copy of which is held at the adjacent Yorkshire Museum. The mosaic was commissioned in 2015 and created by mosaic artist Janette Ireland, who “used many imaginative devices—including fossils, both real and formed from pebbles, discarded stone from the minster and tiny millstones made of millstone grit—to represent the ideas which Smith was demonstrating in his map. […] The pebbles in the mosaic reflect the colours Smith used in his map, but genuine Yorkshire rocks are displayed in the flower beds on either side of the mosaic, alongside strips of the pebbles used to represent them.” Photo gallery. [WMS]

Fast Food vs. Schools in London

One of the proposals in the new draft London Plan is to prohibit new fast food establishments within 400 metres of an existing school as a means of combatting childhood obesity.1 This is going over about as well as you’d think. Dan Cookson has mapped the locations of London’s fast food establishments and the 400-metre exclusion zones around each school; his map suggests a problem: there would be few places in the city able to host a new fast food joint.

Related, via Maps Mania: the Guardian’s interactive map of fast food shops in England.