Category: Maps

Pictures, Perspectives and Plans

By , 28 March 2014 9:39 am

Home to an exceptional density of features that can be mapped, all contained within a concentrated area, cartographers have long been drawn to towns and cities as a subject for their work. The theme of this year’s Cambridge Science Festival ‘structures and patterns’ provided an excellent opportunity to examine how the styles of cartography used in this genre of mapping have changed and developed using some fascinating original examples from the Library’s collections.

An extract from Braun & Hogenberg’s map of Cambridge (1575). Atlas.4.57.3

This post follows on from the Festival talk titled ‘Pictures, Perspectives and Plans’, given at the University Library on Tuesday 11 March, which focused on printed town mapping from the 15th century to the present day and takes a look at some of the styles of cartography that were explored during this event.

Early printed maps of towns and cities often took the form of a generalised pictorial view and in many cases were nothing more than an imaginary sketch, often reused with no alteration to represent multiple locations.

The Liber Chronicarum (or Nuremberg Chronicle as it is widely called) by Hartmann Schedel is a fine example of this. Printed in Nuremberg by Anton Koberger in 1493 the Chronicle is one of the most important German incunables and most extensively illustrated book of the 15th century. Inside are over 100 named views of places. The depiction of Venice, for example, provides a recognisable view of the city where as the plans of Naples, Verona, Siena and Damascus are all identical and bear no relation to reality – over half of the views depicted were made from just 14 woodcuts and less than a quarter are approximate to the actual scene. This pictorial style, which some may question whether it can truly be classed as a map, remained a popular method of portraying towns well into the sixteenth century. Detailed and accurate depictions of place were clearly not as important to the creators and audience of this work as they were to become to many in the following centuries. Continue reading 'Pictures, Perspectives and Plans'»

Special Collections at the Science Festival

By , 7 March 2014 10:49 am

The Cambridge Science Festival takes place from 10-23 March and is bigger than ever before. The University Library is hosting several talks and interactive events organised by staff from the departments of Rare Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Conservation. Here’s a preview: Continue reading 'Special Collections at the Science Festival'»

Festival of Ideas

By , 22 October 2013 5:02 pm

Detail of Burmese fabric map

Special Collections staff are once again taking part in the University’s Festival of Ideas, a public engagement initiative that celebrates the arts, humanities and social sciences by showcasing a diverse mix of inspirational talks, performances, films, exhibitions and other creative displays. The Festival runs from Wednesday 23 October–Sunday 3 November, and the Library’s events include:

Documenting a frontier

Come and view three spectacular hand-painted fabric maps of Burma, dating from c.1860—some of the largest maps in the library’s collection—together with more recent mapping, and an impressive and fascinating collection of late 19th century photographs from the Royal Commonwealth Society’s collection. What do these remarkable records tell us about this frontier region? Why were they created, and by whom?

Saturday 26 October: 1:30pm–2:15pm
Saturday 26 October: 2:30pm–3:15pm
Saturday 26 October: 3:30pm–4:15pm

Suitable for ages 15+: book online

Letterpress printing

Enjoy a tour of the Historical Printing Room. Discover how type is made and pages are composed, and view a demonstration of how a hand press works.

Thursday 24 October: 2:00pm–3:00pm FULLY BOOKED
Thursday 24 October: 3:30pm–4:30pm FULLY BOOKED
Monday 28 October: 2:00pm–3:00pm FULLY BOOKED

Old books crossing old borders

Developments in the digitisation of early printed books mean that today’s researchers are no longer limited by their local library’s stock, but can roam a virtually borderless digital world. At this session, view some of Cambridge University Library’s printed treasures and find out how new technologies have been used to explore their history, answering some questions, whilst raising others.

With Dr Emily Dourish, Rare Books Specialist, Rare Books Department, Cambridge University Library

Thursday 24 October: 5:00pm–6:00pm FULLY BOOKED

Travellers’ tales

From the birth of printing in the 15th century, tales of voyages and discovery, both real and imaginary, have been a staple output of the press. This session will be an opportunity to view and learn about some of the University Library’s most interesting and unusual travellers’ tales.

With William Hale, Rare Books Specialist, Rare Books Department, Cambridge University Library.

Tuesday 29 October: 5:00pm–6:00pm FULLY BOOKED

Typographic travels

Cambridge University Library’s early printed collections contain some of the most iconic books ever printed, books that have charted and broken geographical, historical, cultural and intellectual boundaries for nearly half a millennium. This event will showcase some of these treasures, opening portals to the past and charting Europe’s ever shifting physical, moral and intellectual borders.

With Dr Laura Nuvoloni, Research Associate, Incunabula Cataloguing Project, Cambridge University Library.

Wednesday 30 October: 5:00pm–6:00pm FULLY BOOKED

Spot the Difference!

By , 25 July 2012 12:15 pm

A ‘guest blog’ by David Langley

Dover 1947. Unaltered version of Ordnance Survey Air Photo Mosaic sheet 61/34SW (detail)

Dover, 'B' edition. Altered version of Ordnance Survey Air Photo Mosaic sheet 61/34SW, 1950 (detail)

In 2010 the Library staged a fascinating exhibition – Under Covers: Documenting Spies – from its own collections and other institutions, of documents that gave a glimpse of the world of espionage over the centuries. One exhibit was particularly interesting for me – a grainy pair of aerial photographs of my home town Dover, taken around the time I was born in the years immediately after the Second World War.

Keep reading …

An Ottoman cosmography

By , 28 September 2011 11:38 am

The brown leather binding looks unremarkable enough, but within the Library’s rare books collection there is a volume, which once opened up, demonstrates a key turning point in the development of printing in the Islamic world. The volume is the ‘Cihannüma’ of Katip Celebi from the printing house of Ibrahim Müteferrika. It was printed in Istanbul in 1732, an example of a printed book from the very first Islamic printing house.

The introduction of printing in moveable type was slow to develop in the Middle East. The very earliest examples of printing in Arabic script date from early 16th century Europe, where religious texts were printed, especially by Italian printers. Some early Arabic religious texts were also printed from presses in Christian communities in the Middle East, but it was not until the early 18th century that printing in Arabic script by Islamic printing houses in the Islamic world was officially authorized.

Keep reading …

‘Picture This #4′—John Speed map of Cambridgeshire

By , 5 September 2011 2:48 pm

Detail from John Speed's atlas

The map of Cambridgeshire from the Library’s copy of John Speed’s Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine is the fourth image in the University’s ‘Picture This’ series – short articles exploring images from around the University. Published 400 years ago in 1611/12, Speed’s atlas is one of the world’s great cartographic treasures and marked the first time that comprehensive plans of English and Welsh counties and towns were made available in print.

Read the full feature …

History of Cartography online

By , 5 August 2011 12:47 pm

Since the first volume appeared in 1987 the University of Chicago’s History of Cartography series of monographs has become a standard and authoritative reference work on matters relating to cartography and its history. The project is still ongoing – six volumes are planned in all, three have been published. Each volume comprises a series of essays by leading scholars with extensive notes, bibliography and index.

The first two volumes (four physical volumes) are now available on-line in a series of 104 pdfs. Individual chapters can be searched and downloaded and it is also possible to search across all four volumes.

Thus, the somewhat substantial volumes are now rather more portable and even more useful.

The first volume covers cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean, whilst the second volume looks at cartography in traditional Islamic, Asian, African, American Australian, Arctic and Pacific societies.

Want to know if European rock art contains any possible map elements then look at chapter 4, volume 1; looking to see who used sticks to draw or  make  maps, search across all the volumes; interested in celestial cartography, then search across all 4 volumes to see who might have created maps of the stars.

Mapping the origins of a masterpiece

By , 21 April 2011 5:42 pm

Detail from John Speed's atlas

Published 400 years ago, the first comprehensive atlas of Great Britain has been digitised by Cambridge University Library, home to one of only five surviving proof sets.

Read the full story on