Maps and views blog

Cartographic perspectives from our Map Librarians


Our earliest map appears on a coin made in the Roman Empire and our latest appears as pixels on a computer screen. In between we have the most complete set of Ordnance Survey maps of Great Britain, the grand collection of an 18th-century king, secret maps made by the Soviet army as well as the British government, and a book that stands taller than the average person. Read more

29 October 2014

Off the Map Gothic: the finalists!

Add comment

The winners of this year's Off the Map competition, in collaboration with Gamecity and Crytek, will be announced tomorrow evening at an award ceremony in Nottingham, and we're all rather excited about it.

As you'll recall, this year's competition has a special Gothic theme to coincide with our major exhibition Terror and Wonder: the Gothic Imagination. Accordingly, we supplied three suitable sites for the competitors to chose to recreate in video-game form, and furnished them with British Library collection items to do it with. Our shortlist of three finalist teams have each produced unique versions of one of the chosen sites. Here are their video flythroughs.

Team Shady Agents from from the University of South Wales produced this game based on  Edgar Allen Poe's novella 'Masque of the Red Death'.


Team Nix, also from University of South Wales, produced a videogame based around the author William Beckford's gothic house Fonthill Abbey


And Team Flying Buttress of de Montfort University created this version of Dracula's Whitby


Which one is your favourite? We will discover the winners tomorrow

27 October 2014

Maps relating to the Middle East now available online

Add comment

 A new bilingual (English and Arabic) online resource has emerged giving access to digital copies of archival materials from the British Library collections relating to Persian Gulf history and Arabic science. Over 500 maps had been catalogued and contextualised with geospatial metadata produced. The descriptions and high resolution zoomable images are available at

Detail of A copy of a chart of the Persian Gulf produced in the second half of the 17th century by an anonymous Dutch chart maker. British Library shelfmark: IOR/X/414/220.

The core of the cartographic resources is formed of official maps associated with the records of the successive British administrations in the region and comes from the India Office Records (IOR) map collection.

The selection available on the portal comprises maps, plans and sections dating from the mid-18th to mid-20th century. The geographical scope covers the Persian Gulf region, including the general maps of the whole Arabian Peninsula, the coastal depiction of the Gulf, nautical charts with navigation features, and detailed maps of smaller areas within the region, revealing locations of tribes, various routes (travel, pilgrimage and sea routes etc.) as well as historical events and communication technologies (telegraph lines etc.). Moreover, as the IOR material was produced or copied for administrative purposes and regarded as a reference tool, a large number of items bare extensive annotations making them a unique research resource.

IOR_X_3210_f001 - detail
View of the town of Maskat, detail, from A revised map of Omân and the Persian Gulf, in which an attempt has been made to give a correct transliteration of the Arabic names. By the Rev. George Percy Badger, F.R.G.S. British Library shelfmark: IOR/X/3210.

The portal developed by the British Library Qatar Foundation Partnership was launched on 22 October and contains up to 500,000 digital objects over a wide range of formats including archives, manuscripts, maps, visual material and sound recordings, including oral histories and music.

Magdalena Peszko, Map Curator, British Library Qatar Foundation Partnership

20 October 2014

1971: A Football Heritage Map

Add comment

This weekend in the 1971 football season Leeds Utd won a thriller against Everton 3-2 at Elland Road. Brian Clough’s Derby County, who would go on to be league champions that year, beat Arsenal 2-1. Of those clubs only two are in today’s top league, and of today’s Premier League line-up, all but 7 of the clubs were there in 1971.


John Carvosso, Football History Map of England and Wales. Edinburgh: Bartholomew, 1971. British Library Maps 1190.(177.).

The 1971 football history map, published by Bartholomew and endorsed by the FA, is one of the maps included in a new book entitled ‘A History of the 20th Century in 100 Maps.’ The map is a fabulous celebration of football heritage, showing every English and Welsh Football League club ever to have existed, with their location, colours, crest and dates of foundation included. The vast majority of them are recognisable, though many have changed their badges and grounds. Sunderland, for example, would remove the ship from its crest after the closure of the last shipyard on the River Wear in the 1990s. Chelsea's and QPR's badges are just two of many to have been given fashionable makeovers since.

A number of other clubs featured on the map have since left the Football League, and some have sunk completely. John Carvosso, the map’s author, must have had a difficult job to trace, for example, Clapham Rovers and Bridlington Trinity.

In 1971 England could still look back to its world cup win 5 years earlier. Colour tv enlivened broadcasted games and publications like Shoot! fed the insatiable appetite for football. But the modern game was just around the corner. Crowd violence and hooliganism of the later 1970s was set against a backdrop of economic malaise and widespread unemployment. Football’s traditional supporting heartlands were working class, urban areas which were losing their industries (see Sunderland, above). These were the same areas on whose football terraces had stood the volunteers of the Pals battallions, decimated on the Western Front a half century earlier. 

In the wealthy modern game, heritage is celebrated and preserved provided it does not hinder profit. Famous football grounds such as Maine Road, Highbury, even Ayresome Park, centrally located sites, some even with listed status, have been demolished in favour of larger grounds capable of providing greater match day revenue to their clubs. Historical spaces of virtually sacred memories have disappeared under modern housing developments. You can just about make out the former locations of some of them on Google Earth, rectangular areas of housing with slightly newer looking roofs than those around them. 

A History of the 20th Century in 100 Maps is published by the British Library