Maps and views blog

05 September 2013

Mapping a Lost City

I'm pleased to welcome as our latest guest blogger Mel Byrd from the British Library's higher education team. Mel has been heavily involved with the 'Made with the British Library' video series, and has an interesting map case-study to introduce. 

'The Library recently launched a new series of videos, Made with the British Library, which tell the stories of some of the researchers that have been inspired by the Library’s collections. One of the videos caught my eye; it’s a fascinating example of how modern and historical mapping can be used in research.

Dr Diana Newall is an Associate Lecturer at the University of Kent. She’s an art historian, focusing on 15th century travel and Mediterranean studies, and she has published several books, including Art History: The Basics (2008). Diana began using the British Library during her PhD, when she was researching the Venetian period on Crete (in the 13th – 17th centuries), and the Cretan school of art created during that time. She became interested in Candia: the former capital of Crete, on the site of modern Heraklion. Candia was destroyed in the early 20th century and there is very little evidence of the old city.


Diana used the Library’s map collections to start to recreate the city: socially and topographically. She looked at 15th century maps of the region, as well as topographical maps created by British soldiers stationed on Crete in WWII. To understand what it was like to live in Candia at that time, Diana used a wide range of sources, including a first edition of one of the earliest illustrated travel books: a 15th century account of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, by Bernhard von Breydenbach. She was able to compare this with other works featuring Candia, to track the changing city – and its destruction. Using the Library's collections in this way gave crucial context to Diana's research and enabled her to recreate this lost city.'

 We’d love to hear about how the Library has inspired you, or about your discoveries in our collections. Write a comment below, or send us an email