Carto-Cymru – The Wales Map Symposium 2023

#LoveMaps / Collections - Posted 28-04-2023

Once again this May sees another Carto-Cymru – The Wales Map Symposium. This time we will be meeting face to face, for the first time since 2019. This is the seventh annual symposium and our theme this year is the work of the Ordnance Survey (OS). We will be looking at how approaches to mapping the landscape have changed over time and how historical OS maps can help us to understand our physical environment both past and present. 

As usual the event is being held jointly between the National Library and the Royal Commission who are based here in the Library’s building. This year’s event is also being held in association with the Charles Close Society and ties in with their AGM which is also being held at the Library the next day. 

We have a very exciting line-up of speakers this year, we will be welcoming back some old hands, but also seeing some new faces. 

Our first speaker will be Keith Lilley, Professor of Historical Geography at Queen’s University, Belfast. Keith is one of our regular speakers, this will be his fourth appearance at the event and this time his topic will be ‘Excavating’ the map: Landscapes of the Early Ordnance Survey in Great Britain and Ireland.  

Keith will be examining the relationship between ‘map’ and ‘field’ looking at sites of survey and survey practices that not only shaped the making of the finished map but also materially shaped those landscapes the map represents. He will then go on to look to the OS maps themselves, to reveal insights into the field-operations of those OS personnel on the ground. 

Our next speaker, Dr Rob Wheeler, is honorary secretary to the Charles Close Society and he will be discussing the ‘blue & black’ OS drawings. Rob will explain how the Ordnance Survey produced new editions of its 1:2,500 scale plans by printing a version of the old edition in light blue and using this as a drawing key. Since the blue would not photograph, only the lines overdrawn or added by the draughtsman would appear on the finished map. Many of these MS drawings for England are held here at the National Library, those for Wales are held by the Royal Commission. 

These maps are not simply a manuscript version of the new edition superimposed on a blue of the previous one. The blues are normally not the printed version of the previous edition, but manuscript documents associated with its survey and drawing. The source varies according to whether the previous edition was a 1st or 2nd edition. These drawings can provide topographical information additional to that on the printed maps. 

Our final speaker of the morning session is Jess Baker of the Ordnance Survey who will talk to us about how the way that OS works has changed over time and provide us with a detailed view of OS’s history and highlight notable moments that have affected that change. 

Jess will tell us about why certain features have been added and taken off maps over time, the rationale behind differing styles and symbologies used, and even how the artwork on map covers has evolved. 

After lunch Scott Lloyd of the Royal Commission will talk to us about the Meresmen and the Parish Boundaries of Wales. He will examine the processes behind the creation of the parish boundaries on the first edition 25-inch mapping for a small number of parishes in North-east Wales. 

Scott will discuss the surveyors sketch books with notes by the meresmen appointed to represent each parish, the subsequent Boundary Report books dealing with issues on the line of the boundary, the printed ‘sketch maps’ and the Journals of Inspection which record the comments of concerned landowners. All of which preceded the printed map and allow an insight into the establishment of the boundaries. 

The next talk will be a tour of some of the Ordnance Survey publications held here at the National Library. In this talk I will endeavour to show some of the less well known and perhaps surprising maps produced by the OS. 

Since the National Library of Wales was founded in 1907, it has acquired thousands of Ordnance Survey maps, many directly from the Ordnance Survey through Legal Deposit, but also through donation and purchase. This is especially true of those maps published prior to the Library receiving copyright status in 1911. As a result, the Library has a wide range of Ordnance Survey publications, mainly maps, but also textual works. While we tend to concentrate on maps of Wales, I hope to show that our collection of OS maps contains much more. 

Our final talk sees Mike Parker, kindly taking time out from promoting his new book, taking us on a journey through nearly half a century of studying and writing about Wales and maps. 

Mike’s talk will mix some of the history of Welsh cartography, with thoughts about Welsh representation in the wider map world, together with an exploration of some of its quirkier corners. 

We are looking forward to a really great day and to learning lots of fascinating things about OS maps. It is really great to be meeting again face-to-face. There are tickets still available and it would be wonderful to see as many of you as possible on the day. For those that cannot make it the event is also being made available online. 

Carto-Cymru 2023 will be held on 12 May with registration from 9.30. For further information and tickets please visit 

Huw Thomas 

Map Curator 


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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.

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