THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Maps and views blog

Cartographic perspectives from our Map Librarians

Introduction

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

07 August 2014

Success - maps 100% georeferenced

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In just 28 days from release, 3,220 maps have been geo-located online by participants in the BL Georeferencer project.  For this quantity of maps to be completed at such a speed is truly impressive, and testifies to much scrutiny of maps and online research by many people.

Flickr - Charleston2

On behalf of the British Library, I'd like to thank the volunteers that contributed their time and energy over the last four weeks to make this happen (the top 25 are recognised here).  Our two star participants, Maurice Nicholson and Susan Major, have once again shone; both assigned approximately 12,500 control points. Their commitment to this project, for this release and those before, has been remarkable, as has the work of many, many other contributors!

The maps have started to be added to Wikimedia Commons in their own British Library Georeferencer subset, thanks to the efforts of Wikipedia's user Jheald and others, providing another point of access in addition to the original Flickr British Library maps subset. Both contain links to the overlays in BL Georeferencer; the geospatial metadata (world files) are available from within the application. Together, this enables full and free download and use of these public domain images and metadata.

We have come a long way since our very first release of maps via BL Georeferencer in February 2012. One year ago, we could boast "only" 2,236 maps georeferenced maps online; since then 6,000 more have been added. As soon as the public can identify and tag another substantial chunk of maps from amongst the images in Flickr (here) or Wikimedia (here), we'll follow this up with more!

In the meantime, check out the placed maps here, where they can be accessed geographically, until they are reviewed by our expert panel for quality, and then added to the Old Maps Online portal with other collections of online historic maps. 

29 July 2014

Tricky maps

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We are in the last quarter of maps of this BL Georeferencer release.  I always like to review at this stage what has been accomplished and what remains. The maps left can be the most difficult ones, so those who like a challenge and want to undertake some tricky online research, this is your time!

Some of my picks for greatest challenges:

Hand drawn! Transliterated from a non-Roman alphabet! On its side!

Drawn map of China explorations
This map is from W.J. Reid's account of his exploration of western China and eastern Tibet, Through Unexplored Asia. It depicts a mountainous and relatively remote area in central China. There are not a great number of placenames for this area in online maps, and even these may not be spelled the same as the handwritten map labels. Thanks to the volunteer ("digger"), who solved it by using the lat-long references on the map.

I should add that no-one likes a map on its side - one participant said "Help me please, before I need to visit my chiropractor"! Unfortunately, because these maps were semi-automatically extracted from the texts and posted online, this is not an option for now.

Early mapping! Medieval script! Book in Hungarian!

Flickr - Hungarian medievalThis map is a reproduction of a medieval map within an 1895 book in Hungarian, A magyar nemzet tortenete. 

Unless the map is already familiar to them, the participant will need to read the Hungarian text and decipher the map's medieval handwriting to place it - not a straightforward demand. (This one is still available, so Hungarian-speaking medievalist georeferencers, come forward!)

For every difficult map, however, there may be numerous more familiar ones.

Flickr - Essex coast
This map of Essex is one of 46 from the 1813 Topographical Dictionary of the United Kingdom.

If you've a talent for geography and curiosity about historic places and spaces, your input to BL Georeferencer will be valuable indeed. There are 762 maps remaining, waiting to be placed! 

 

14 July 2014

Maps in 19th-century books - what has been georeferenced

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We are pleased with the amazing progress georeferencing the maps released last week in BL Georeferencer. In just five days, 30 percent - nearly 1,000 - of the maps were placed. 

This set of mainly 19th-century maps from books is a fine representation of publishing activity and reader interests at the time. The publishing industry had grown and diversified to what we recognise today, and popular topics included: travel; geography textbooks and school atlases; histories; and contemporary exploration and military accounts. The maps are familiar, but eminently of their time.

Flickr - South Africa(The Competitive Geography Fourth ed. London: Longmans, Green and Co, 1874.  British Library Shelfmark HMNTS 10005.bb.3. Download pdf of atlas online)

A surge of school atlases were published in Britain during the 1800s to educate the young, and it is no surprise that the British Empire figures largely. The above detail of "Sketch map of South Africa" is from page 419 of The Competitive Geography. The British Territories are named in the text as Cape Colony, Griqaaland West, Natal, and the Transvaal. Note “New Scotland”.

Contemporary accounts of military actions and histories, which usually featured maps and diagrams of troop movements and positions, also feature.   

Manassas battlefield - blog

From the uniquely-titled History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850 to the final restoration of Home Rule at the South in 1877.

The overlay above indicates the locations of infantry and artillery during the first battle of Manassas (1861), a determinate early conflict in the US Civil War. The area is now a National Park, and those boundaries, along with the crossroads, make the present-day area appear releatively unchanged.

Flickr - Bilbao detail

Part of the Carlist Wars in the Basque region of Spain, this “Plan of the town and vicinity of Bilbao, showing the positions occupied by the besiegers, during the siege of Oct 23rd – Dec 25th 1836" also derives from a published personal account, Six Years in Biscay: comprising a personal narrative of the sieges of Bilbao in June 1835... during the years 1830 to 1837.

While the city and course of the river have changed hugely since the 1830s, the contours indicating mountains on the original map match to the shaded ridge visible in the Google Terrain base layer of BL Georeferencer below, making the location apparent.

Flickr-Blilbao terrain

To explore what maps from 19th-century books are available to georeference, and search for yourself, visit the British Library maps subset in Flickr. There are links to georeference from below each image included in this release. See what you can discover and place!

To see the maps already placed, go to BL Georeferencer.