British town maps, 1470-1895: a catalogue and cartographical analysis

Project start date: 1998-10 Project end date: 2008-02
The aim was to produce for England, Wales and Scotland a catalogue of the cartographic characteristics and topographic content of every manuscript and printed town map produced from 1470 (the first British town map) to 1895 (by which time publication of Ordnance Survey large-scale town maps was completed). The catalogue will constitute a definitive, permanent research tool for a wide range of historical research users. This last will contribute to the long-term conservation of these, often fragile, artefacts. The findings for England Wales and Scotland will enhance knowledge of, and access to, the town maps of the whole of Britain. Dissemination is envisaged by composite electronic and printed media on the model of our Enclosure Maps of England and Wales. The printed book will also contain a summary gazetteer of cartobibliographic information for each map discovered by the project. The remainder of the cartographical and topographical information for each map will be disseminated as a detailed, descriptive catalogue, accompanied by index diagrams indicating the area of a particular town that each map portrays mounted on a searchable website from which components can be downloaded.
Methods usedCategory
2d Scanning and photographyData capture
CollatingData analysis
OverlayingData analysis
Searching and queryingData analysis
VisualisationData analysis
Statistical analysisData analysis
Manual input and transcriptionData capture
Funding sources: 
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Content types created: 
Still Image/Graphics, Text
Software tools used: 
Microsoft Access, Adobe Illustrator
Source material used:  
Town maps are extremely heterogeneous artefacts. They occur in both manuscript and printed forms, while printed maps may appear as a page in a book, as part of an atlas, as a single sheet, or in multiple sheets. They are preserved in a wide variety and a great number of public-access archives, repositories, and libraries – national, regional, and local – (at least 262 in England, 31 in Wales and 47 in Scotland). Notwithstanding the number of town maps that are extant, their wide dispersal, and their utility to a broad spectrum of historians and others, researchers have few descriptive and analytical finding aids to help identify and locate maps. The printed maps of London have been listed (but not fully described) by Ida Darlington and James Howgego (1978) and by Ralph Hyde (1975). The map collections of a few libraries are definitively listed, most notably those of the British Library Map Library (1998), although the topographical content and detailed cartographical characteristics of individual maps are not described in these library catalogues which, by definition, also list only those maps held by the particular institution. Investigation of sample English counties reveals that the British Library Map Library probably contains only between one in three and one in seven extant town maps. For Scotland, the National Library has mounted some excellent quality, but very selective, examples of Scottish town maps on a website: at present there are only six for Glasgow, while our preliminary investigations suggest that some ten times that number of Glasgow maps are extant. D.G. Moir (1983) provides a summary list of 407 Scottish town maps (somewhat less than 50% of those we believe to be extant) and for 104 Scottish towns only (we intend to cover all towns – a minimum of about 245 – see Section 10). In short, for England, Wales and Scotland there is no definitive, descriptive, analytical listing of all the maps of a particular town. Our project aims to provide this much-needed research tool.
Digital resource created:  
The forthcoming catalogue will constitute a definitive, permanent research tool for a wide range of historical research users and help avoid wasted private and public expenditure in the future caused by unnecessary inspection of original maps. This last will contribute to the long-term conservation of these, often fragile, artefacts.
Data Formats created: 
Adobe Illustrator Artwork (AI), Text file (TXT)

Institutions affiliated with this project: 

UK HE institutions involved:
University of Exeter

Project staff and expertise: 

Principal staff member:Professor Roger James Peter Kain
Other staff:Postdoctoral researcher(s) / Research assistant(s)
External expertise:


Metadata on this arts-humanities.net record
Author(s) of recordRoger Kain
TitleBritish town maps, 1470-1895: a catalogue and cartographical analysis
Record created2005-11-07
Record updated2011-05-11 15:31
URL of recordhttp://www.arts-humanities.net/node/2099
Citation of recordRoger Kain: British town maps, 1470-1895: a catalogue and cartographical analysis.
<http://www.arts-humanities.net/node/2099>
created: 2005-11-07, last updated 2011-05-11 15:31