The Earth and the Heavens in Ancient and Medieval Maps

Exploring how British Library maps chart the evolution of man’s understanding of the earth and cosmos. Introduction Perhaps the oldest intellectual challenge facing the human mind has been to discover the shape and extent of the earth and of the cosmos which contains it. This problem has been fundamental to man’s understanding of his place[…]

Imagine Nation: How Pocket Maps Helped Poets and Subjects Reenvision England

A GPS for sixteenth-century travelers. By Mary Alexandra Agner Like many other familiar objects, the road map has been transformed by digital technology. From unfoldable glove-compartment staple to robotically voiced GPS system, maps have become more portable, easier to hold, and just plain different. Whether or not we pause to reflect on it, these gadgets[…]

Itinerant View Takers: Topographic Artists in Early Modern England

Examining how topographical views were often the result of artists touring in Britain and beyond. The lawyer Sir William Burrell, planning a history of Sussex which he never completed, commissioned over the period 1780 to 1791 a series of illustrative drawings from James Lambert, a local watercolourist, and from Samuel Hieronymus Grimm, an immigrant from Switzerland.[…]

Topography and Prehistoric Britain

Britain’s prehistoric landscapes are depicted in prints and drawings across the British Library’s collections. The prehistoric monuments of Britain are strewn across the landscape but because their identity and purpose has been obscured, they have presented a challenge to topographers.  Of all of them, Stonehenge was too monumental to be ignored and its representation dominates[…]

The Southern Hemisphere, Australia, and Cartographers in the 16th Century

In the 16th century, most maps were published in Latin and cartographers were just starting to record European discoveries such as America. Matthew Flinders, who died just over 200 years ago, is widely credited with giving this country its name: Australia. Flinders preferred Australia to the more commonly used Terra Australis as he thought it[…]

Mapping the Oceans in the Age of Discovery

Johannes Gutenberg printed his first Bible in 1455, and the first published sailing directions appeared thirty-five years later. Print media encouraged the divergence of navigational information from material discussing the commercial prospects of trade at various ports. Printing promoted the widespread distribution of geographic and hydrographic information, including maps, to readers throughout Europe at a[…]