Maps and views blog

7 posts categorized "London"

21 February 2014

Historic maps in the public domain

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Maps contained within the pages of 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century books are still being unearthed. Of the one million images that the Library extracted from scanned volumes and explosed on Flickr Commons, over 2,100 have already been tagged as maps by the public!

As these map images are in the public domain and so open for reuse, we've seen new interpretations, further exposure, and interesting geospatial applications. For instance, John Leighton's 1895 diagrammatic map of London Indexed in Two-Mile Hexagons has been brought up to date and into space in this dynamic visualisation created for International Open Data Day tomorrow in Osaka City, Japan. Though I've been warned that this is a work-in-progress, it is impressive already; the newly geo-aware index is interactively linked to its 18 component hexagonal maps, with the current location in OpenStreetMap appearing alongside. Ollie described the purpose of Leighton's mapping scheme in his Mapping London blog post in December. The results of making these maps available just keep getting better.

 Hexagon map images - web

Work-in-progress at
Hexagon map images - web2

Leighton's index map, the 18 component maps, and other images from the book

Here at the Library we're anticipating opening up the 2,100+ maps for public georeferencing. Once all of the one million images get tagged with keywords in Flickr, those identified as maps will be consolidated and released via BL Georeferencer. Please lend a hand by finding and tagging any maps among the remaining images! 

10 January 2014

Done! 2,700 maps georeferenced by volunteers

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Earlier this week, georeferencing of the Library's collection of first-edition Goad mapping of British and Irish towns was completed!

In just seven weeks, the work of a great many people brought order and place to what was previously simply 2,700 digital image files. The precise location of each scanned map - for the over 50 cities and towns mapped by the Chas. E Goad firm 1886-1930 - is now known. Places small (Goole, covered in just three maps) and  large were included, with the giant of London making up more than 1,000 maps, as shown in below graphic. All maps may be accessed here. Goad - London- blog

"Thank you" to all the BL Georeferencer participants, and in particular to two volunteers who, since the release of 20 November, have contributed an outstanding amount of time and effort. Dr Susan Major added over 10,000 control points to the Goad maps, and in addition played an active role in offering feedback and suggestions. Maurice Nicholson, a past Top Contributor, submitted the most points for the military maps, and his contributions to Goad were second only to Susan.

What's next? We have a team of volunteer reviewers - dedicated participants invited to review for their skill and expertise - to quality-check submitted metadata. Maps requiring further work will be released back to the crowd, so expect to see maps become available over the next few weeks and months. Check back at

14 February 2012

Georeferencing maps online - will it work?

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We're asking the online public to undertake a task beyond our own means: to georeference some of our treasures of British mapping.

The maps included represent a very small sample, to be sure. But the the Ordnance Survey Drawings are some of the most enquired-after maps we have, being unique manuscript documents that portray the lanscape of England and Wales before the onslaught of industrialisation made its mark.

  GE - Exeter4
This is a detail of OSD 40, pt. 3. In 1801, Exeter was a small and compact town!

The other collection we've included in this effort is a selection of the Crace Collection of Maps of London. I've found these maps to be more difficult to georeference, and am eager to see how others fare with them.

The project web page is - there is a short video there and detailed instructions. Access is also available from within the map pages in the Online Gallery. Please try this new tool out, as it will be a great help towards improving access to and visibility of these collections!


07 May 2010

Magnificent Map of King’s Cross

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The Magnificent Map of King’s Cross now hangs in the Entrance Hall.


This map of the local area was produced as part of the community programme to support the exhibition and as part of the Reveal Festival – a festival of visual arts in King’s Cross.


It is made of 16 separate canvases each depicting a separate part of the area. A number of groups and some individuals were given a canvas to create their unique interpretation of the neighbourhood.


The map includes work by The London Canal Museum, Camley Street Natural Park, University College Hospital School and Somers Town Youth Club.

21 April 2010

The Beauty of Maps #2

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Part two of The Beauty of Maps, aired on BBC4 last night, tackled the history of London through its most notable post-1666 maps. The three featured - William Morgan's map of 1682, John Rocque's of 1746 and Stephen Walter's 2008 effort - will all be included in the Magnificent Maps exhibition, so if you want to gaze at them for hours, be my (and the British Library's) guest!

What the programme did so skilfully was to weave the sub-plots of each map into their appearance, adding voiceovers to some really quite beautiful close-ups of details. Maps can, admittedly, be quite difficult to decipher, but if the programme taught anything, it was that to trust one's eyes and to ask 'why' a map is so elegantly drawn, 'why' a map shows a cathedral that had not yet been built, can allow for a clearer understanding of the minds and mentalities of people .

As with Monday night's programme, we had an array of speakers including Laurence Worms and Tim Bryars, two of the most knowledgeable people I know.

Incidentally, you may have noticed the footage of myself and Peter arranging Rocque's multi-sheet map of London on a table. (The whole process was speeded up on film, in fact a bit of Benny Hill-esque music wouldn't have been out of place). The assembling of the sheets wasn't as straightforward as we would have liked - I found out later that the director had rearranged the sheets in the wrong order, so that it would take us more time to complete. Watch again and, at one point, we look rather confused.

Great stuff - world domination by maps is proceeding according to plan. Look out tonight for part three on the golden age of cartography, Dutch 17th-century maps. Watch especially as we take the BIGGEST atlas in the world out of its case, and then put it back again.

05 April 2010

So you love maps do you?

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The most common statement to greet my ears is 'I love maps'. Now, I do not mean that people accost me in the street and declare their love for all things cartographic. That would be odd. The declaration usually comes from people who have just been told what I do for a living. And as curator of antiquarian mapping at the British Library, my response of late has been to bid them 'prove their love is true' by coming to our exhibition Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art, which opens on 30 April.

For those of you of the 'I dislike maps but I don't quite know why' variety, the exhibition offers the following explanation: maps are all around us, so much so that we scarcely notice that they are there. They are an integral part of our visual culture, on walls, on rooftops, as statues, in palaces, schools, homes and offices. They appeal to our pride, our sense of belonging, and our aspirations. And to do this, they employ artistic motifs, devices and meanings. In short, maps are not about geography, and nor is this exhibition. Prepare to be surprised. 

As the title suggests, Magnificent Maps will be a map blockbuster, the like of which has not been seen in Britain since our enormously popular London: A Life in Maps exhibition in 2006. Around 90 of the largest, rarest, most beautiful maps ever created will be on display, many for the first time. Ranging in date from 300AD to 2008, these are display maps, intended to be placed upon walls, not in books or folded and stuffed in one's pocket. We will be showing maps on paper, vellum, parchment, silk, marble maps, tapestry maps, maps on coins and medals, art and propaganda posters. A visual delight, accompanied by a deeper exploration of our histories, societies, and visual language.

Over the coming weeks I'll be keeping you up-to-date with the preparations for the exhibition, providing interesting anecdotes about the maps and their makers, maps in interesting locations, and any other map and exhibition related gossip that lurches across my radar. I hope you'll join me in witnessing the moving of the world's largest atlas, and keep tabs on coverage of the exhibition in the national press, of which there has already been a great deal. I'll also be providing updates on the wide range of related events. Get involved!