Blog

Posted - 23-05-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections / Events / Research

Carto-Cymru The Wales Map Symposium 2018 Synopsis of “Charting the seas …” 18th May

The Welsh Assembly Government has designated 2018 the ‘Year of the Sea’ and consequently sea charts and other matters maritime were the topics of the day in the Carto-Cymru Symposium at the National Library on 18th May.

This year’s symposium was themed ‘Charting the seas and coasts of the World – how maps depict the sea and coastline and how such mapping is used to widen our understanding of these environments’.

 

The presentations comprised:

 

From the Air, on Land and Sea: 21st century mapping of the seas and coast of Wales and Ireland – The CHERISH Project

James Barry, Marine Geoscientist, Geological Survey of Ireland, Rob Shaw, Senior Geo-Surveyor, Discovery Programme, Centre for Archaeology and Innovation Ireland and Daniel Hunt, Investigator – Cherish Project, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales

 

How selected terrestrial and maritime heritage sites expected to be impacted by climate change are being surveyed and mapped within a number of study areas across both nations during the first year of the project and during the next four years.

 

Bureaucracy, Cartography and the Hydrographic Office of the British Admiralty: Marine Charts and Charting in the Nineteenth Century

Dr Megan Barford, Curator of Cartography, Royal Museums Greenwich

 

The production and use of Admiralty charts in the nineteenth century.

 

The collections, history and work of the Hydrographic Office

Dr Adrian Webb, Head of Archive, United Kingdom Hydrographic Office

 

How this vast collection came into being, how it was developed and why it has moved location from humble beginnings in the Admiralty to a purpose-built archive facility in Taunton.

 

 

Ffuglen a ffaith: mapio glannau ac aberoedd Cymru (Fact and Fiction: mapping the coasts and estuaries of Wales)

Dr Hywel Griffiths, Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University

 

An overview of the mapping of the geomorphological features of Wales’s coasts and the way in which Welsh coasts and seas have been mapped in the poetry and prose of Cardigan Bay poets and writers in particular.

 

Cist siartiau Cymreig: Casgliad siartiau morol yn Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru (A Welsh chart chest: The marine chart collection at the National Library of Wales)

Gwilym Tawy, Map Curator, The National Library of Wales

 

An overview of the Library’s collection focusing on historic charts of Welsh waters, whilst also including charts of Britain, Europe and beyond, naval charts, specialist charts, harbour development plans and the unusual. Tribute was also paid to Olwen Caradoc Evans, an authority on Welsh antiquarian maps and charts.

 

Charting the Welsh Seas

Deanna Groom, Senior Investigator (Maritime), The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales

 

Royal Commission research to record archaeology in Welsh coastal and offshore areas and archaeological sites where historic charts have been particularly instrumental in establishing the identity of shipwrecks and dates of loss. Consideration was also given to surveys undertaken as part of U-boat Project Wales.

 

Yet another fascinating, informative and successful Carto-Cymru Symposium!

 

Many thanks to all who attended and contributed, particularly the speakers and a special thank you, as ever, to principal organizer Huw Thomas and the Steering Committee chaired by Sally for your hard work and competent navigation over the preceding  months and on the day.

 

Gwilym Tawy

Map Curator

Posted - 17-05-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events

Ten Heroes of Welsh Cartography

Tomorrow The National Library of Wales and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales will be holding the third annual Carto-Cymru – Wales Map Symposium at the National Library in Aberystwyth. Our theme this year is Charting the Seas, but for this blog I decided to take a look at some of the great names in Welsh cartography and their achievements.

1) Humphrey Llwyd – Cambriae Typus, 1573
Humphrey Llwyd is the father of Welsh cartography and produced the first printed map specifically of Wales

2) Robert Johnson Survey of the manors of Crickhowell & Tretower, 1587
Robert Johnson’s survey of the manors of Crickhowell and Tretower is the earliest known example of an estate survey created with maps as an integral part of the survey

3) George Owen Penbrochiæ comitatus, 1602
George Owen’s map of Pembrokeshire includes a number of innovative features such as the depiction of roads and an alphanumeric grid with a place name index giving coordinates

4) Gabriel Thomas – Pennsylvania and West Jersey, 1698
Gabriel Thomas was a Welshman who settled in Pennsylvania and wrote a book about the colony, this book included an early map of the colony produced by the London mapseller Philip Lea.

5) Thomas Taylor – The Principality of Wales exactly described, 1718
Thomas Taylor produced the first published atlas specifically of Wales

6) Emanuel Bowen – A New and Accurate Map of South Wales, 1729
Emanuel Bowen’s map of South Wales was the most detailed map of South Wales available when it was published and remained so for a generation.

7) Lewis Morris Plans of harbours, bars, bays and roads in St. George’s Channel, 1748
Lewis Morris was a polymath originally from Anglesey, he produced a set of detailed charts of the Welsh coast in order to improve safety for ships sailing around the Welsh coast. His work was later expanded upon by his son William

8) Lewis Evans – A map of the middle British colonies in North America, 1755
Lewis Evans was another Welshman working in America, his map of the British colonies is one of the most important and influential maps of the period, and was still being reproduced at the time of the War of Independence.

9) John Evans – Map of North Wales, 1795
John Evans’s map of North Wales did for that part of the country what Bowen’s map had done for South Wales, i.e. provide a detailed standardised portrayal of the area.

10) Robert Roberts – Darluniad y Ddaear, 1805
Robert Roberts was a Geographer from Holyhead; he produced some of the first maps to be published in the Welsh language. This map of the world was originally published in the Rev. Thomas Charles’s Y Geiriadur Ysgrythyrol (The Scripture Dictionary) and was reissued a number of times in this and other publications

Huw Thomas
Map Curator

Posted - 10-05-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events

#LoveMaps – Bob Silvester

Dr Bob Silvester, FSA, Visiting Professor, University of Chester takes part in our #LoveMaps campaign.

A professional archaeologist for all of his working life, first in Devon and Somerset and later in Norfolk, he moved to Wales in 1989 when appointed deputy director of the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust. He retired from CPAT at the beginning of 2016, and for research purposes he is now affiliated to the Department of History and Archaeology at the University of Chester. His interest in all types of historic maps, but especially estate mapping, emerged during his time in the Norfolk fenlands where maps were a vital adjunct to the fieldwork that was unravelling the development of the historic landscape. Over the last twenty-five years his interest in mapping has grown, and now with retirement, he is able to spend more time immured in local record offices and, of course, the National Library, examining maps of east Wales and the adjacent border counties in England.

Mapblog 4 Tredegar Volume 1780 Map 1

Estate map coverage across the counties of Wales is distinctively uneven. Monmouthshire can boast some impressive and extensive surveys, now held in the National Library, from the second half of the eighteenth century by the likes of Robert Snell and John Aram. Radnorshire on the other hand is arguably the most impoverished of Welsh counties when it comes to estate surveys. Geographically between the two is Breconshire, a county that produced only two or three land surveyors during the course of eighteenth century, and whose estate map legacy is decidedly unremarkable.

One surveyor, though, whose work in the county is of particular interest was Edward Thomas who came from Margam in Glamorgan. The National Library has amongst the Tredegar archives, a fine volume of Thomas’s surveys of Charles Morgan’s holdings in Breconshire undertaken in 1780-1. A companion volume in the sense that it is very similar in its appearance and layout was prepared in 1780 for the Breconshire estates of Lord Camden, although direct comparison has to rely on digital images of the title pages, maps and schedules for this one is held in the Kent county archives in Maidstone. A third Thomas ‘atlas’ of estates in the county belonging to George Venables Vernon of Britton Ferry dates from 1776 and is now in the West Glamorgan archives in Swansea.

Collectively, these three surveys cover in excess of 14,000 acres and thus around 3% of the land surface of the historic county of Breconshire. This may not appear a particularly impressive figure but is rather more than many eighteenth-century surveyors will have achieved in any region of comparable size. And for the landscape historian Edward Thomas offers some unanticipated benefits. Many surveyors were content to map just the field layout, the watercourses and the roads and lanes passing through their patron’s estate, and the buildings within its bounds. Much less commonly, a surveyor incorporated incidental features that he came across in the landscape, features that add next to nothing to the agricultural picture that he was commissioned to depict and quantify, but which can be of considerable interest to us.

Take for instance the first map in the Tredegar atlas, reproduced here. A large and informative map, it was folded twice to allow its accommodation within Thomas’s volume. Close to the western edge is the town of Brecon. Charles Morgan’s holdings within the town were small although he did own the castle, and Thomas too depicted the priory church (now Brecon Cathedral) providing further context. Now if we were to combine this map with Thomas’ depiction of Lord Camden’s holdings in and around the town, we would achieve quite a useful representation of Brecon as it was in 1780. Further east, and almost central on the map, is Slough Tump. Interestingly, this had been surveyed twenty years earlier by the Brecon surveyor, Meredith Jones, whose map is also in the National Library. Jones portrayed Slough Tump as a simple field, albeit a curiously shaped one, and adjacent fields were shown in a similar manner, bereft of any detail. Thomas, however, chose to label it an ‘old fortification’ (quite correctly, as it’s an Iron Age hillfort) and also gave it the intriguing title of ‘Ginger Wall’, presumably courtesy of a local informant, but a name that I have not come across in any other source. North of the tump but not on Morgan’s land was St Eluned’s Chapel: there are no visible signs of the building today, but evidently at the end of the eighteenth century its ruins were visible. And to the north-west of the chapel were relict traces of the medieval open fields around the town, showing as narrow strips, again something that Meredith Jones failed to show. Edward Thomas’s attention to detail, just in this one small area, can be rounded off with depictions of an ‘old bank’ and the ‘remains of a hedge’, field boundaries that by his day had fallen out of use. Its regrettable that there are not more eighteenth-century surveyors in Wales who had a similar appreciation for the minutiae of the landscape.

 

Why not subscribe to our blog posts and learn more about our work and collections? Please enter your email address in the right column.

More #LoveMaps Blog Posts

NLW Map Collection

Posted - 07-05-2018

Events / News and Events / Reader Services

Family and Local History Fair

This Saturday 12th May the fifth Family and Local History Fair will be held here at the Library. It will be a great opportunity for anyone with an interest in starting their journey to discovery their ancestors or perhaps to research the history of a house or area of importance to them. There will be something for everyone, including two enthusiastic speakers in their field of excellence – Dr Reg Davies, who maintains the Welsh Mariners website and Richard Suggett, an expert in old buildings who work for the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments – remember to book your free tickets.

There will be an opportunity to talk to experienced genealogists from the Library and the county Family History Societies, who will be able to give you advice. We have all probably inherited collections of photographs over the years, there will be a photo restorer on hand to give advice on how to store and restore your photographs.

Many local history groups will be present as well as the History Forum of Wales and Ceredigion Local History Forum. To coincide with the 200th anniversary of emigration from Ceredigion to Ohio, the Cymru-Ohio Society will be sharing more information about their celebrations to be held at the end of June.

It is of course an opportunity for some to visit the Reading Rooms to extend their research and also to visit the Kyffin Williams exhibition in Gregynog Gallery. Plenty to do for the whole day here.

Posted - 03-05-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events

#LoveMaps – Bob Silvester

Dr Bob Silvester, FSA, Visiting Professor, University of Chester takes part in our #LoveMaps campaign.

A professional archaeologist for all of his working life, first in Devon and Somerset and later in Norfolk, he moved to Wales in 1989 when appointed deputy director of the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust. He retired from CPAT at the beginning of 2016, and for research purposes he is now affiliated to the Department of History and Archaeology at the University of Chester. His interest in all types of historic maps, but especially estate mapping, emerged during his time in the Norfolk fenlands where maps were a vital adjunct to the fieldwork that was unravelling the development of the historic landscape. Over the last twenty-five years his interest in mapping has grown, and now with retirement, he is able to spend more time immured in local record offices and, of course, the National Library, examining maps of east Wales and the adjacent border counties in England.

Thomas Badeslade

You’re perhaps wondering why this blog is accompanied not by a map but by a topographical drawing from 1740 of Hawarden castle in Flintshire. Simply put, it’s a surrogate image. The National Library as far as I’ve been able to establish holds no manuscript surveys by Thomas Badeslade – those that he prepared in Wales are to be found in the Flintshire, Cheshire and Bangor University archives, others remain in the muniments of the families that commissioned them nearly three hundred years ago.

Badeslade, probably from a Godalming (Surrey) family and subsequently relocated in London, was one of several gifted individuals who in the first half of the eighteenth century ventured into different projects to make a living. Initially a map copyist, he turned successively to architectural drawing (in Kent and then further afield), a land surveyor, a fen drainage specialist and a producer of county maps. William Williams, a slightly younger contemporary of Badeslade who I’ve already highlighted through his map of Denbighshire and Flintshire, also diversified his efforts into different fields, and more famous than either now is John Rocque, of Huguenot lineage and also established in London, the creator of some of the eighteenth-century’s most important and distinctive maps.

Why then select Badeslade for examination here? Firstly, I think, because we know a little more about him than many other surveyors of this time. Of William Williams the man and his career, we know virtually nothing other than any incidental details that can be deduced from his maps, an impediment that holds true for a significant number of land surveyors operating in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. But with Badeslade we have his testament, compiled a month before he died in 1744 (at Llandinam in Montgomeryshire) which amongst other things reveals that after a major altercation with his first patron Sir Robert Walpole at Houghton Hall, Norfolk – no surprise to those who are aware that our first prime minister was a notoriously difficult character – he had to seek patronage elsewhere, distancing himself in north Wales well away from Walpole’s influence.

Then there is the fact that Badeslade’s mapping style developed over the quarter of a century that he was active, yet remains distinctively recognisable throughout this period. His testament refers to a commission that he undertook at Newmarket (now Trelawnyd) in Flintshire and for which he had yet to be paid. A draft of this map has been tracked down in the Bangor University archives, attributable not because it was autographed but because of Badeslade’s distinctive style.

And finally there are the maps themselves. For the Grosvenor family of Eaton Hall near Chester, Badeslade mapped the upland commons of the various lordships they held in north-east Wales in the years 1738 to 1740. These are massive maps, one of them nearly three metres long. They are clearly delineated, the boundaries of the common closely defined, the settlements around their edges are shown and – a plus for the archaeologist and landscape historian – the remains of mining and other industrial activities on the commons themselves. These maps are outstanding representations of the extensive upland landscapes in north-east Wales, and so vital to the running of the Grosvenor estates that a century or so later, a Mold mapmaker was well paid to make precise copies of them.

Thomas Badeslade is not in the same league as John Rocque, but I’d like to believe that his considerable achievements place him above the general run of eighteenth-century land surveyors. For further information about Thomas Badeslade see:

R. Silvester.Thomas Badeslade: his life and career from eastern England to north Wales, in S. Ashley and A. Marsden (eds) Landscapes and Artefacts: studies in East Anglian Archaeology presented to Andrew Rogerson. Oxford: Archaeopress Archaeology, 2014, pp. 217-229.

Why not subscribe to our blog posts and learn more about our work and collections? Please enter your email address in the right column.

More #LoveMaps Blog Posts

NLW Map Collection

Posted - 30-04-2018

Collections / Digitisation / News / Research

Hidden Histories in the historical Welsh Print Collection: The case of Louisa Calderon

Amongst the treasures in the Historic Welsh Print Collection is a large collection of Welsh and Welsh interest biographies dating from 1800 up to 1914. This collection, soon to be digitised, encompasses over 2000 biographies of figures in Welsh and international public life.

 

This unique collection includes biographies of clergy, politicians, social reformers, poets, authors and musicians of Welsh descent, of international figures, as well as slave narratives, biographies of ordinary people, of infamous criminals, and of emigrants from Wales to the USA and other countries.

 

In its entirety the collection offers a comprehensive picture of Welsh public life from the nineteenth century through to the beginning of the First World War, of the people and the issues that of were of concern during this period and also of how the Welsh viewed the world and how the world viewed the Welsh. They also offer the opportunity to discover hidden or previously forgotten histories that shed new light on some of the leading figures of the day.

 

One of the hidden histories we recently discovered in the collection was that of Sir Thomas Picton and the torture of Louisa Calderon. Thomas Picton is now mainly remembered for his exploits during the Peninsular War and for being the highest ranking officer killed at Waterloo. Indeed, his statue is among the 12 statues of Welsh heroes on display in Cardiff City Hall. However, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, following his time as governor of Trinidad he had a much darker reputation.

 

Picton’s governorship of Trinidad was authoritarian and brutal and led to his trial at the King’s Bench in 1806 accused of ordering the judicial torture of Louisa Calderon. Calderon was a 14-year old mulatto girl, accused of being involved in the theft of money from a Port of Spain businessman, Pedro Ruiz,  whom Louisa’s mother had arranged for her to live with a as a ‘mistress’ at age 11. The trial was a cause celebre at the time and is recounted in detail in The Trial of Governor T. Picton for Inflicting the Torture of Louisa Calderon… published in 1806.

 

Unable to get a confession through interrogation, Picton had issued the order to ‘Inflict the torture on Louisa Calderon’, who was subsequently subjected to piqueting, which at trial William Garrow, the prosecutor dubbed ‘Pictoning’. Calderon did not confess and was imprisoned for a further 8 months before being released. Picton admitted ordering the torture, but claimed that it was legal under the Spanish law still being administered in Trinidad at the time, despite the island being under British rule. The jury found him guilty, but Picton was never sentenced and the decision was partially reversed by special verdict at a retrial in 1808.

 

As noted above, the case became a sensation at the time and shone a light on the brutal realities of the British colonial system and indirectly of colonial slavery. Indeed, Picton had originally been accused of a number of other charges, included the execution of over a dozen slaves, although tellingly these were not viewed as being serious enough by the Privy Council to be taken further. Picton had also been a supporter of the development of slave plantations in Trinidad and had made part of his fortune through speculating in slaves.

 

Despite Picton’s well-deserved reputation as a brutal and autocratic colonial governor, following Waterloo all was quickly forgotten. The Newgate Calendar, which in 1810 had protested that Picton, the perpetrator of these crimes, was still at large was by 1825 portraying Picton as the victim in the case.

 

Despite the focus placed on her at the time, Louisa Calderon, largely disappeared from the historical record, although she is believed to have returned to Trinidad in 1808 and according to one source died in poverty in June 1825.

 

Sources

 

The Trial of Governor T. Picton for Inflicting the Torture on Louisa Calderon a Free Mulatto and one of His Britannic Majesty’s Subjects in the Island of Trinidad, (London, 1806).

James Epstein – ‘Politics of Colonial Sensation: The Trial of Thomas Picton and the Cause of Louisa Calderon’, American Historical Review, 112 (3), 2007

James Epstein – Scandal of Colonial Rule: Power and Subversion in the British Atlantic during the Age of Revolution, (Cambridge, 2012)

Kit Candlin – The Last Caribbean Frontier, 1795-1815, (Basingstoke, 2012)

 

Dr Douglas Jones

Published Collections Projects Manager

Posted - 26-04-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events

#LoveMaps – Bob Silvester

Dr Bob Silvester, FSA, Visiting Professor, University of Chester takes part in our #LoveMaps campaign.

A professional archaeologist for all of his working life, first in Devon and Somerset and later in Norfolk, he moved to Wales in 1989 when appointed deputy director of the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust. He retired from CPAT at the beginning of 2016, and for research purposes he is now affiliated to the Department of History and Archaeology at the University of Chester. His interest in all types of historic maps, but especially estate mapping, emerged during his time in the Norfolk fenlands where maps were a vital adjunct to the fieldwork that was unravelling the development of the historic landscape. Over the last twenty-five years his interest in mapping has grown, and now with retirement, he is able to spend more time immured in local record offices and, of course, the National Library, examining maps of east Wales and the adjacent border counties in England.

Edward Matthews’ map of Llanarmon Mynydd Mawr

Thomas Slaughter and Richard Richardson will be familiar names only to those who have a deep interest in eighteenth-century mining activity in Wales. Slaughter is a fairly obscure individual, but Richardson was more obviously eminent, a goldsmith, an alderman in Chester for many years, and in 1757 the city’s mayor. As mining entrepreneurs they commissioned mapped surveys of areas likely to have unexploited mineral deposits prior to leasing the land from its owner. Edward Matthews, the first generation of a family of surveyors based in Mold in Flintshire, seems to have been their preferred choice and his name appears on a number of maps including two from the 1750s of the Chirk Castle estate holdings of Llanymynech Hill near Oswestry and the less well-known Voel Fawr as it is termed on the map shown here, the most prominent hill in the parish of Llanarmon Mynydd Mawr, historically in southern Denbighshire but now in Powys. Slaughter, Richardson and Richard Myddelton, lord of Chirk all signed the map, presumably confirming it to be an accurate representation of this upland landscape.

Edward Matthews’ map cannot by classed as an estate map in the strict sense of the term. It shows only a very small portion of the lands owned by Richard Myddelton and indeed depicts the lands of other freeholders; it is better termed a property map, and for me this is one of its strengths. Had it just been a depiction of Myddelton’s farmed estate, the unenclosed mountain land that was Voel Fawr would have received little attention because of its limited agricultural interest. Here though it is the mountain that was important for its potential mineral reserves. Matthews shows the terrain as a series of humps, in a traditional fashion that had been adopted by Saxton nearly two hundred years before. He depicts the various slate quarries that had been opened on what was almost certainly still functioning as common land in the eighteenth century, and also old mine workings, seen as groups of black dots, which would have attracted the specific attention of Slaughter and Richardson, as they do the archaeologist of today.

Yet it is not the olive green wash employed for the mountain that attracts the eye, but the bright colours – brick red, yellow, slate green etc – adopted for the different freeholders’ lands, lying mainly to the south of a lane that tracked eastwards along the contours towards the hamlet of Llanarmon Mynydd Mawr. In particular it is the surprisingly mixed pattern of land holdings with strangely shaped fields which is of interest. And in this we are moving outside the province of archaeology and into that of socio-economic history, for the pattern is best explained as a consequence of the Welsh system of partible inheritance, whereby each of the deceased’s male heirs acquired an equal portion of his land. This contrasted with the English system of primogeniture where the eldest son normally inherited the entire estate. Matthews’ map unfortunately can’t provide the information as to when the fragmentation of the holding took place, and the irregular fields that show so clearly on his map are today barely visible in the landscape, having been swept away in a rationalisation of the field layout in the later nineteenth century.

A question remains unanswered. Why did the surveyor show the land of various farmers? The answer probably lies in the fact that Richard Myddelton was the lord of the manor and claimed the mineral rights across (or more accurately below) other men’s land. There is though no archaeological evidence to suggest that Slaughter and Richardson exploited this option.

Why not subscribe to our blog posts and learn more about our work and collections? Please enter your email address in the right column.

More #LoveMaps Blog Posts

NLW Map Collection

Posted - 23-04-2018

Collections

Wot! No offside rule

The Llwyn estate in Llanfyllin, Montgomeryshire, was bought by the Dugdale family in 1852. Their business interests were in Lancashire, but they were soon playing a part in Montgomeryshire county politics and local causes.

In November 1900, John Marshall Dugdale set aside part of the field where “the Union boys play football” for the use of the boys of the Llanfyllin Board School, and provided a football. Union probably refers to Llanfyllin Workhouse, rather than rugby union. Even though, coincidentally, Dugdale,  had played in the first ever rugby union international, Scotland v. England, in 1871.

John Pentyrch Williams, the headmaster’s only stipulation was that the boys should write a letter of thanks, including a copy of the rules of the game. The boys, “poor innocents”, expected the headmaster to provide a copy for them to copy out, but were told “You must write in your own fashion.”

The headmaster sent Dugdale the boys’ letter and rules, “without any addition or alteration. The lads are young and get very few chances of writing what they call a real letter”. There are only two rules: the ball is not to be taken without three members present, and only school boys are to use the ball or the patch.

There would have been a third rule, but, in their words, “And glad to say Sir that our boys are not used to cursing or swearing or else that would be one of the rules no cursing or swearing allowed in the play.”

Where the girls were during all this is not explained. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Or not, as the case may be.

Llwyn mansion was sold to Montgomeryshire Education Authority in about 1947, and demolished in 1975 when Ysgol Uwchradd Llanfyllin was extended.

 

Stephen Benham
Assistant Archivist

Tags: , , ,

Posted - 20-04-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections / Digitisation / Research

Old Periodicals, a New Datatype and Spiderfied Query Results in Wikidata

Several years ago the National Library of Wales appointed the Worlds first Wikidata Visiting Scholar. The volunteer, Simon Cobb, has worked with the library ever since to share, enrich and explore the library’s data using Wikidata – a massive open access linked data repository which contains tens of millions of pieces of data on just about every subject imaginable. In this guest blog, Simon presents his recent work, using open library data on periodicals, publishers and printers in conjunction with the latest Wikidata visualization tools. Jason Evans, National Wikimedian.

Recent developments in Wikidata have made it possible to display more items from the National Library of Wales’ collections on a map. A cluster feature in the Wikidata Query Service map view has enhanced geolocation data visualisation and the new geoshape datatype provides access points for content discovery.

Previously, the display of geolocated images was hampered by only one item per coordinate location being shown on the map. Since a SPARQL query can return multiple results with an identical location this was never an ideal situation. The problem is, in fact, inherent to linked data because every item with a specific relationship to a place will appear at exactly the same point on the map. This is due to the coordinates being attached to the place rather than each individual item.

If the item is an image of Aberystwyth Castle, it depicts the castle and, conversely, the castle is depicted by the image. This is a semantic relationship between the subject (image) and object (castle). The location of the castle is recorded as latitude and longitude coordinates, and thus a query to show on a map the location that the image depicts will use these coordinates. Other images that depicts Aberystwyth Castle will also have these exact coordinates.

 

The marker cluster plugin was implemented to address this problem and it is now possible to view two or more items with the same coordinates. Nearby map markers are grouped using an animated clustering functionality to display an increasing number of clusters, with fewer markers in each, as one zooms in closer. The real gamechanger, however, is the spiderfied markers. Rather than having a solitary marker at a shared location, multiple markers now spiral outwards from a central point, with legs being used to retain their attachment to the precise location and thus show all items in situ.

 

Spiderfied markers of periodicals published in Carmarthen. Unexpanded clusters and single markers are also shown. Each marker contains the periodical’s title, place of publication and cover image (if available). This map is available at: http://tinyurl.com/ycnjsylv.

 

Carmarthen is an important town in the early history of printing in Wales. Some twenty-eight titles in the Welsh Journals and Welsh Newspapers Online digital collections were printed in the town, with twenty-six being first issued before 1900. These periodicals have the same place of publication (i.e. Carmarthen), and thus appear on the map at their shared coordinates. The markers are spiderfied, colour coded according to decade of publication and arranged in a chronologically ordered spiral, starting in the centre with the earliest publication.

In late 2017, a new geoshape datatype was implemented in Wikidata. As the name suggests, it is for storing geographic information in a manner that will produce shapes on a map. Geoshape data can be a single marker at a specific point, a line between two or more points, or a shape, known as a polygon, which is the area enclosed by a point-to-point line, traversing at least four points, with the first and last point being identical. A line or shape is created by structuring geocoordinates to represent the relationship between a series of points; somewhat like a dot-to-dot puzzle. Additional data about a place, such as the address, postcode, website or Wikipedia article, can be attached to a geoshape.

 

The National Library of Wales was the UK’s first Wikidata geoshape. The popup information box includes an image, link to the NLW Wikipedia article and SPARQL queries of the Library’s collections. Markers indicate features of interest and provide images from different vantage points.

 

Since a geoshape can contain multiple points, lines and polygons, it is possible to store data about a group of related locations like, for example, buildings with a similar use. This is a great way to visualise the booktrade locations in Wales that have been added to Wikidata.

Multipolygon geoshape data showing book trade locations in Carmarthen, past and present. These locations and those in other parts of Wales are stored as a single geoshape in Wikimedia Commons (see https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Data:Book_trade_in_Wales.map).

Whilst the book trade locations geoshapes are relatively simple and, therefore, not burdensome to create manually, others, like, for instance, those of castles depicted in the Welsh Landscape Collection, are much more complex. The intricate geoshapes that are formed by sections of perimeter wall between towers or bastions and surrounding the bailey and keep of a castle can be slow and fiddly to make but, luckily, we can draw on linked data instead. A link is forged when an OpenStreetMap feature is tagged with a Wikidata ID and this enables a SPARQL query to retrieve OpenStreetMap data about Wikidata items in the results. Such linking can make a large amount of existing geoshape data accessible.

 

Geoshapes of buildings shown in the Welsh Landscape Collection prints shown in the historic counties of Wales. The buildings are OpenStreetMap features, tagged with the qid of a Wikidata item returned by a SPARQL query, imported as geoshape data and combined with historic county geoshapes from Wikimedia Commons.

 

Geoshapes of buildings shown in the Welsh Landscape Collection prints shown in the historic counties of Wales. The buildings are OpenStreetMap features, tagged with the qid of a Wikidata item returned by a SPARQL query, imported as geoshape data and combined with historic county geoshapes from Wikimedia Commons.

The results of a SPARQL query to retrieve images from the Welsh Landscape Collection can be visualised on a map with geoshapes to represent the building depicted. Shown above, the results for Tintern Abbey are spiderfied to expand a cluster of images with an identical geocoordinates from a single point within the geoshape. Previously, it was only possible to display one of these images on the map view results.

 

Simon Cobb, Wikidata Visiting Scholar at the National Library of Wales

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Posted - 19-04-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events

#LoveMaps – Bob Silvester

Dr Bob Silvester, FSA, Visiting Professor, University of Chester takes part in our #LoveMaps campaign.

A professional archaeologist for all of his working life, first in Devon and Somerset and later in Norfolk, he moved to Wales in 1989 when appointed deputy director of the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust. He retired from CPAT at the beginning of 2016, and for research purposes he is now affiliated to the Department of History and Archaeology at the University of Chester. His interest in all types of historic maps, but especially estate mapping, emerged during his time in the Norfolk fenlands where maps were a vital adjunct to the fieldwork that was unravelling the development of the historic landscape. Over the last twenty-five years his interest in mapping has grown, and now with retirement, he is able to spend more time immured in local record offices and, of course, the National Library, examining maps of east Wales and the adjacent border counties in England.

William Williams’ Denbigh and Flint


As an archaeologist I have found little of interest in county maps. Almost invariably they were drawn at a scale too small to show details of the landscape changes that are significant for us in our studies. Over years of working in north-east Wales, however, I’d periodically come across references to William Williams’ New map of Denbigh and Flint, generally attributed to 1720 or 1721, in books and articles without encountering the map itself. What such references shared in common was the claimed connection with a handful of others from the early eighteenth century, together exemplifying a ‘new wave’ of county maps that succeeded those of Saxton, Norden and Speed from the end the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth centuries, with William Williams’ map the sole Welsh representative in a distinguished line-up .

William Williams himself had an interesting if relatively brief career, producing some elegant estate surveys in the mid-1730s for big landowners in north-east Wales and Cheshire, before succumbing to a ‘gout in his stomach’ in 1739. He is though better known outside Wales for his volume of architectural drawings entitled Oxonia Depicta published in 1732-33. It was inevitable that in studying his estate surveys, I’d look at Williams’ earlier cartographic work, and two perhaps not unrelated facts soon emerged. One was that little had been written about the surveyor, a recent writer on Oxford’s historic architecture terming him obscure, which is probably in the context of middle England a fair comment. And of his county map, the only comments of substance are in a paper compiled by the National Library’s Glyn Walters in 1968. More intriguingly, it was apparent in 1968 and even more so today that despite the fact that this purports to be a printed map, only one original copy is known – that housed in the National Library – which might go some way to explaining why so little has been written about it.

At first sight Williams’ map is rather different from its county predecessors. It is in modern parlance ‘very busy’. There is hardly a square inch of spare space because the compiler has packed in around the perimeter of the map a large number of armorial shields, each seemingly crossed referenced by number or letter to the houses of the aristocracy and gentry that are marked on the map itself. For the most prominent families – the Grosvenors, the Mostyns, the Wynns – the heraldry is accompanied by drawn elevations of their principal country residences. As if this were not enough blank areas around the mapped counties are filled in with prospects of Chester and Denbigh, two of the counties’ great churches – Wrexham and Gresford – though not we might note the cathedral at St Asaph, and the lead works or ‘workhouse’ at Gadlis near Flint. Yet evidence is accumulating, though it’s something I’m still working on, that Williams adopted elements of Saxton’s late sixteenth-century map or perhaps more likely one of its later derivatives for his own plan, rather than surveying the two counties anew. He then corrected or updated place-names, perhaps removed one or two buildings that had disappeared during the previous century and a half, but compensated by adding large numbers of mansions as well some major roads.

There aren’t as far as I have been able to establish many published maps which displayed the characteristic of a map encompassed by the arms of the region’s leading landowners, though perhaps a reader of this blog may be better informed than I am. One that has just been fully published by the Cambridgeshire Records Society is Jonas Moore’s Mapp of the Great Levell of the Fenns from 1658, another is John Senex’s A New General Atlas… published in London where the numerous subscribers to his world atlas are represented across numerous introductory pages by their coats-of-arms. The date of the General Atlas – 1721 – is significant in the context of William Williams’ work, not least because at the end of the title band on the county map is inscribed L Senex sculp.t

Digital version of this map

← Older Posts

Categories

Search

Archives

About this blog

A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.

Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.

About the blog