“It would hardly be too much to say that in April of 1895 one was considered eccentric for riding a bicycle, whilst by the end of June eccentricity rested with those who did not ride.” Constance Everett-Green, 1898
The boom in cycling in the 1890s transformed the way tourist maps were produced. Mapmakers increasingly produced maps targeted at cyclists, which included road conditions and dangerous hills, which until then had been absent on maps that mainly catered for railway travellers. This information was retained on later maps branded ‘cycling and motoring’ maps, but even though motor cars became more prevalent in the early 20th century, the mapping conventions developed for cycling maps are still discernible on road maps today.
Most modern cyclists focus on uphill sections of a route, but it was accepted that Victorian riders would get off and walk up any steep inclines. Bikes of the period were usually single speed, ideal for cruising along flat roads. Even in races gears were not always used — Henri Desgrange, who set up the Tour de France in 1903, considered that riding a bike with gears was cheating, fit for only ‘women and old men’! However, indicating steepness downhill was seen as essential on any good cycling map, as cyclists needed to know when to expect ‘danger hills’ — hills too steep to descend safely with unreliable or non-existent brakes.
Cycling organisations themselves produced maps indicating the quality of a road for cycling, and these were often used to petition local authorities to improve the situation, as well as inform other cyclists.
Some mapmakers produced ‘road books’ to complement their maps, like this example from around 1899, produced by Gall & Inglis. These included profiles of hundreds of routes, and descriptions of the route and road surface. Cyclists riding between Lampeter and Aberystwyth would have faced ‘a very trying road… [with] a constant succession of dangerous hills’, and might have been tempted to ride to Llandovery instead, on ‘a splendid piece of road’. It also notes which route to a particular town is the most scenic, to serve the cyclist looking to take in some beautiful views along the way.
Road books like this one are still produced today for professional races. Competitors use them to prepare for rides, and fans often collect them as souvenirs of races they have seen. Noting road surface is still vital. The Paris-Roubaix race, held in northern France each spring, is famous for its cobblestones, or pavé, and the winner is ceremonially presented with a cobblestone as part of their prize.
The ‘safety’ bicycle
While bicycles had been available in various forms since the early 1800s, it was not until the 1880s and the introduction of the ‘safety’ bicycle (the familiar shape very similar to modern bikes today) that its role expanded beyond that of a rich gentleman’s plaything.
The safety bicycle, combined with the newly invented pneumatic tyre, was comfortable, easy to ride and maintain, and relatively inexpensive. It was also enthusiastically embraced by both men and women, though not without raised eyebrows over the morality of women cycling. One columnist in the women’s magazine Queen in 1896 suggested women who cycled were also disobedient, likely to smoke and read ‘risky novels’. Such criticisms notwithstanding, one estimate suggests that in 1896 a third of bike orders were for women’s models, and in 1880, Mrs W.D. Welford became the first woman to join the Bicycle Touring Club (later the CTC and now Cycling UK), just two years after its establishment.
“Where shall we go for our week’s freedom from the town’s oppression?”
“King of the Road”, writing in TheClarion magazine, June 1897
In a period of rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, cycling was celebrated as a way for town-dwellers to escape to the countryside, in a way that was both affordable and included the benefits of gentle exercise. Cycling opened up rural areas, allowing tourists to explore the landscape at their own pace and under their own steam, rather than being dependent on railway timetables or organised excursions.
In H.G. Wells’s 1896 comic novel The Wheels of Chance, a poorly paid draper’s assistant escapes Putney for the freedom of country lanes on his bike: ‘‘Here was quiet and greenery, and one mucked about as the desire took one… [S]omething wonderful, a little, low, red beast with a yellowish tail… went rushing across the road before him. It was the first weasel he had ever seen in his cockney life.’ (The Wheels of Chance, p.48).
Cycling outings were particularly popular among the growing middle class, who had the money and time, but the bicycle was also embraced by the socialist movement. Both the playwright George Bernard Shaw and docker’s union leader Ben Tillett cycled to the Trades Union Congress in Cardiff in September 1896, the former riding 40 miles from a friend’s home in Monmouthshire for the occasion.
Inevitably, many companies wanted to take advantage of the craze for cycling, producing advertising cycling maps like this pocket-sized map of North Wales, published in 1897 by Scotch whisky producers Pattisons. While the map conveniently folds into a cover less than 9 cm tall, making it perfect to slip in your pocket on a bike ride, we certainly do not recommend taking its advice and indulging in ‘Pattisons when cycling’!
This is a bit of a detective story. In 1979 the Library received a photocopy of a small map of Breconshire; the owner knew nothing about the map and asked if the Library could identify it. Despite the best efforts of the Library staff who even enlisted the help of the British Library’s map curators the item could not be identified. The photocopy was added to the collection with a note to the effect that should the map ever be identified the owner was to be informed.
Fast forward to spring 2019 and a Pembrokeshire map dealer called Berian Williams contacted me sending a scan of a small map of Breconshire and asking if I could identify it for him. At first I was stumped, it didn’t match any of the county maps I’d seen before. According to Mr Williams the previous owner had suggested that it might come from “The Pocket Tourist & English Atlas” by Orlando Hodgson published in 1820; however, that atlas did not contain county maps of Wales, though the style of the maps did look similar. Mr Williams also mentioned an article about a pack of playing cards by John Allen upon which Hodgson’s maps were based, but again this had no Welsh counties.
It was at this point that I came across the photocopy from 1979, it appeared to be the same map and on closer examination it turned out to be exactly the same copy (several stains and marks on the scanned image matched the photocopy). Having looked through all my printed references I was stuck and wrote back to Mr Williams saying so and telling him that it might take some time to track it down, if indeed that were possible.
And there this story might have ended; but I started thinking about the similarity with the Allen playing cards, was there a connection between the Breconshire map and the maps in Allen’s pack of cards? I decided to check the literature to see if Allen might have produced another set of cards with the Welsh counties, however there was no record of such a set. The article about the Allen cards also mentioned an imprint by Robert Rowe the engraver so I decided to look into him also. One of my reference works told me that Rowe had engraved another set of playing cards for a John Fairburn in 1798, could this be the source of the card?
I decided to see if there were any references to this set of cards online as they were not recorded in any of the reference works I checked. Eventually I came across a reference to Fairburn’s playing cards of 1798, this stated that the set included Welsh counties and more importantly had images of some of the cards – which matched the map we had. Finally the mystery was solved.
But this detective story ends with a surprise twist. After informing Mr Williams about my discovery I decided to enquire whether the map was going to be put on sale, with a view to purchasing it for the collection. To my complete astonishment Mr Williams replied that he had decided to donate it to the Library. This is an incredibly generous donation and we are most grateful to Mr Williams for his kind gift. This map has now joined the 1.5 million maps which form the National Map Collection here at the Library as part of Wales’s cartographic cultural history.
January 19th sees the opening of the Library’s latest exhibition: Inventor of Britain – The Life and Legacy of Humphrey Llwyd. This exhibition is the latest in a series of events to mark the 450th anniversary of the death of Humphrey Llwyd, the author of the first published map of Wales. Last August to coincide with the actual anniversary a smaller exhibition was held for two weeks, but this larger exhibition will be on for the next six months.
While Llwyd is probably most famous for his map of Wales, in addition to being the father of Welsh cartography he is also considered to be the father of Welsh history as a result of his Cronica Walliae the first history of Wales in English based on the ancient Welsh chronicle the Brut y Tywysogion.
This would be enough of a contribution in itself to ensure the legacy of most people, however in addition to this Llwyd was also responsible for helping to steer the Bill for the Translation of the Bible into Welsh through Parliament, thus leading to the Welsh Bible which was a major factor in helping Welsh to survive as a language.
But Llwyd’s influence goes beyond the borders of Wales; his works were also used to help justify the British Empire (a phrase he is credited with coining) and the English reformation. Part of his extensive library was purchased by the Crown and now forms part of the collections of the British Library.
This new exhibition is being held in association with the AHRC funded project Inventor of Britain: the complete works of Humphrey Llwyd. A number of lectures will be given over the coming months by members of the project team and this year’s Carto-Cymru – the Wales Map Symposium will also be on the theme of Humphrey Llwyd.
The exhibition runs until the 29th June and further details of the associated events can be found on the Library’s website.
In this, the final ‘Year of the Sea’ Blog, we overview the Library’s collection of marine charts dating from 1800.
Charts are primarily intended for navigation and should provide clear, correct and up to date information to help plan, plot and navigate a safe course. Charts also provide researchers with information on the natural and man-made marine and coastal environment, past and present.
From the late seventeenth century the British became the foremost of chart makers. Over time, technological advances produced better charts which revealed earlier oversights and errors, for instance the Pembrokeshire chart of 1812 shown here mentions corrections to Lewis Morris’s earlier survey whilst the 1857-1859 chart records both sea and coast in intricate detail.
British private enterprises gradually gave way to the work of the Hydrographic Office of the Admiralty, now the UKHO, which was established in 1795, primarily to furnish Royal Navy requirements. The UKHO remains one of the world’s principal hydrographic organizations, its charts being widely supplied to navies, merchant shipping and the public.
Over 15,750 UKHO electronic charts are currently available, although the Library only receives copies of their 3,500 sheet editions through legal deposit. The Library’s 12,000 modern charts encompass locations worldwide and are mainly received from the UKHO, together with their associated publications including Notices to Mariners and Pilot Books.
Supplementary collections include Admiralty Fleet charts originally only available to the Royal Navy and some recent publications from Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada, Argentina and the Philippines.
A smaller number of charts derive from British commercial publishers whose home waters and overseas charts are aimed at leisure users and fishermen. The collections can be accessed through the Library’s online catalogue and UKHO catalogue.
Map collectors habitually proclaim that modern charts are not as aesthetically appealing as their antiquarian forerunners in which errant sea monsters and mermaids recurrently appear. Contemporary charts do however contain the most pertinent, accurate and unequivocal information on the marine environment. Crucially they protect lives at sea and need to be heeded when sailing. Use this hard-won information wisely and never forget the naval adage ‘A collision at sea can ruin your entire day’.
In the wake of the Armistice Day Centenary commemorations, it is perhaps timely to draw attention to the Library’s maps relating to the conflicts of the First World War, a cataclysm in which 20 million lives were lost, some 40,000 being Welsh.
The Library’s many war maps and atlases display frontlines, trenches and other military paraphernalia, the war’s geopolitical impact in changing political boundaries, post-war redevelopment schemes and even include recreational map-based war games. The maps are of both military and civilian origin, the latter published to inform the public and boost morale.
Some two hundred maps have been digitised as part of the Library’s War Centennial programme. Included are these two examples of maps from the unsuccessful Gallipoli Campaign – which was associated with inaccurate maps that regularly included outdated information gathered during the Crimean War.
The Gallipoli collection comprises contemporary War Office maps such as the two illustrated examples showing Ottoman defences on the campaign’s opening day and a later map of ANZAC positions, together with commercially published sheets.
The Allied attack on Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula, popularly known as the Gallipoli or the Dardanelles Campaign, lasted from April 1915 to January 1916. Here, British Empire and French forces engaged the Ottoman Empire in an unsuccessful attempt to aid Russia and break the impasse on the fighting fronts by opening a shipping route with Russia unimpeded by excessive winter sea ice and extreme distance.
A failed naval attack in the Dardanelles Strait in early 1915 progressed to a major land invasion on 25th April by British and French troops together with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps or ANZAC forces. A later landing occurred at Suvla Bay on 6th August.
Allied intelligence deficiencies, indecision and delay, combined with fierce Ottoman resistance thwarted headway and success and mired the belligerents in an entrenched battle of attrition and consequential heavy casualties. The British authorized evacuation began in December 1915, and ended the following January.
An architectural drawing of Dylan Thomas’s Majoda bungalow in New Quay, Ceredigion has recently been purchased by the Library. The poet lived at Majoda from 1944 to 1945 where he found creative inspiration and started to write Under Milk Wood. Here he also succeeded in furthering his reputation both near and far -and what better fillip for any all-too-quiet, war-weary community than a resident Dylan Thomas perking things up?
The plan is associated with a notorious incident at Majoda on the night of 6th March 1945 when Captain William Killick, a Special Operations Executive (SOE) Commando and also Dylan’s neighbour and erstwhile watering hole chum appeared with a Sten gun and hand grenade and fired into the bungalow in which Dylan and his family were residing. Three friends were also present at the time. The grenade (which had no detonator) was not deployed and luckily there were no casualties. The ferment led to a court case in Lampeter which was covered by the major newspapers and portrayed in the semi-biographical film The Edge of Love in 2008.
Captain Killick, who had recently returned from active service in Greece, was venting his spleen following tensions with Dylan which included the relationship between Dylan and the Captain’s wife, Vera, with whom Dylan had grown up in Swansea.
The plan was commissioned from an Aberystwyth architect specifically for the court case. PC Islwyn Williams was the village ‘Bobby’ who investigated the incident and whose pencil notes appear on the reverse of the plan. These notes describe his observations at the scene – primarily the location of bullet holes.
Captain Killick was fortunate in being acquitted of all charges, including attempted murder. In both court and local community there had been some sympathy for the soldier who had survived several highly dangerous war missions behind enemy lines and indeed had been described by the SOE as having ‘an excellent operational record’.
Murdoch Mackenzie (Senior) contributed more enduringly to British theoretical and practical hydrography than any other individual. Born in Orkney in 1712, this grandson of the Bishop of Orkney had a mathematical aptitude which brought him into contact with mathematician Professor Colin Maclaurin who successfully advocated Mackenzie’s suitability to undertake a hydrographic survey in the Orkney Isles from 1742. Here, Mackenzie had valuable contacts to aid his work which resulted in the most precise and comprehensive marine survey yet undertaken in the British Isles. In 1750 his charts were published as Orcades, or a geographic and hydrographic survey of the Orkney and Lewis Islands.
With Admiralty patronage, Mackenzie then embarked on a much grander project. He was commissioned in 1751 to survey the west coast of Britain and the entire coast of Ireland, a twenty-two year task which culminated in the publication of two chart volumes in 1774 and 1776.
By 1757 Scotland’s west coast mainland and islands had been surveyed. There followed a ten year survey of Ireland before his return to Great Britain’s western shores. In 1770 the survey ended in Pembrokeshire, the Menai Strait being omitted, having been regarded by Mackenzie as unnavigable for larger vessels.
Mackenzie’s tried and tested surveying methods were acceptably accurate. They were also relatively swift, as is apparent from the prodigious length of coast surveyed in twenty years. This achievement was also particularly commendable bearing in mind the limitations of his surveying and monetary resources.
On Mackenzie’s retirement in 1770, he was succeeded as Admiralty Maritime Surveyor by his nephew, Lieutenant Murdoch Mackenzie (Junior). In 1771 Lieutenant Mackenzie continued where his uncle had ended by surveying the Bristol Channel.
This ‘Year of the Sea’ blog highlights the initial bourgeoning of English hydrography, focusing on the work of Captain Collins, who also surveyed the Welsh coast.
In 1657 hydrographer and printer Joseph Moxon ventured into what had traditionally been the Dutch preserve of marine chart production with A Book of Sea Plats. These charts of European waters were nevertheless of Dutch origin.
John Seller envisaged an atlas containing charts surveyed, drawn, engraved, and printed at home. He was appointed Royal Hydrographer and remarkably secured a successful thirty-year order forbidding the import of Dutch ‘Waggoner’ charts (see Waghenaer’s ‘Spieghel’, our preceding maritime blog). Alas, Seller’s ambitions were beyond the means of an individual bookseller and instrument maker. Samuel Pepys later wrote that private individuals were incapable of such huge undertakings, and yet from 1671 Seller’s The English Pilot with its defects and partially refreshed old Dutch plates, progressively ousted ‘Waggoners’ from England.
In 1680 Captain Greenvile Collins began lobbying for a British survey. Collins, an experienced Royal Navy captain and skilled hydrographer was commissioned by King Charles II in 1676 to survey home waters and was promised significant assistance. Collins’s seven year survey began in 1681 and in 1693 his charts were published in Great Britain’s Coasting Pilot.
The survey demanded rigorous coastal measurements and the precise coordinates of headlands. Progress was bedevilled by financial shortages and the waning interest of supporting bodies. Collins’s proposal to survey Ireland in its entirety was not realized.
Collins’s Pilot was the first systematic survey and first maritime atlas of British waters to be engraved and printed in London from original surveys and included forty-eight charts together with sailing directions, tide tables and coastal profiles. Despite inaccuracies and shortcomings the work was an immense advance for British navigation and validated Collins as one of history’s foremost hydrographers.
The Pilot, little altered, was issued between 1693 and 1792 and on at least twelve other occasions. Inevitably, by 1792, it was regarded as requiring considerable improvement.
The Library holds a 1779 copy of this atlas and several individual charts variously dated. Our illustrated charts of the western coasts of Wales and Milford Haven are dated 1693.
In Wales, 2018 has been designated the ‘Year of the Sea’ and this, our third maritime themed blog of the year, concerns the earliest chart of the Welsh coast in the Library’s collection. It dates from 1590 and displays the Bristol Channel compiled by Dutch hydrographer Lucas Janszoon Waghenaer (1534-1606). The Dutch were foremost European hydrographers and cartographers, with Leiden, Antwerp and later Amsterdam becoming centres of chart as well as map production.
Waghenaer was a navigating officer and later a collector of marine dues. His practical seafaring experiences and his contacts with seamen and harbour officials proved advantageous in compiling his pilot guide to European coastal waters. Waghenaer’s text was based on traditional 16th-century navigation publications, but his charts added an innovative component, making this the world’s first published pilot guide.
The success of the Teerste Deel vande Spieghel der Zeevaerdt (The First Part of the Sea Mirror) of 1584 emanated from Waghenaer’s pioneering chart compilations, their fine engraving and their practical, bound presentation in a single volume. The charts show coastal panoramas and illustrate cliffs and land profiles viewed from the sea signifying that the charts were initially prepared at sea, compass intersections being used to plot prominent coastal features.
Accuracy of coastal configuration was however often lamentable, there being a tendency to exaggerate significant features whilst extensive tracts of topography appear to have been imprecisely drawn from sight. It has been argued that these distortions were excusable since such charts were primarily intended for pilotage at the approaches to important harbours and not for general navigation. In this respect Waghenaer was simply continuing a long-standing chart making tradition.
The success of this first volume encouraged Waghenaer to publish a second part in 1586 with Latin text. Other translations ensued. When the atlas was shown to Queen Elizabeth and her Privy Council, such was its impact that it was decided to translate the 1586 edition into English, a task allotted to Anthony Ashley (1551-1628), Clerk to the Privy Council. In 1588 The Mariner’s Mirrour first appeared in its anglicized manifestation and this too proved instantly popular. The guides became known to the British as ‘Waggoners’, a generic moniker for sea atlases and charts which persisted long after the obsolescence of The Mariner’s Mirrour and its replacement by new Dutch charts. Waghenaer subsequently issued smaller and more practical formats.
The 21st of August 2018 marks the 450th anniversary of the death of one of the most important figures of the Welsh renaissance, Humphrey Llwyd of Denbigh. To commemorate this event the National Library of Wales will be holding an exhibition about Llwyd and his work.
Humphrey Llwyd was born in about 1527 in Denbigh. He studied at Oxford obtaining his M.A. in 1551. In 1553 he entered the service of the Earl of Arundel and remained in his retinue for the rest of his life.
One of Llwyd’s functions seems to have been to collect books for Arundel’s library as well as for the Library of Arundel’s son-in-law Lord Lumley, whose sister Llwyd married. These combined Libraries including some of Llwyd’s own books, eventually became part of the Royal Collection now at the British Library.
Returning to Denbigh, Llwyd was elected M.P. for the Denbigh Boroughs in 1563 and subsequently helped to steer the Bill for translating the Bible into Welsh through the Commons.
In 1566 he accompanied Arundel on a trip to the Continent where he was introduced to Abraham Ortelius and a firm friendship blossomed between the two. After returning home Llwyd wrote to Ortelius on at least two occasions providing information relating to Wales which were published after his death by Ortelius in his atlas Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, including the map of Wales Cambriae Typus, the work for which he is now best known. In addition to his maps Llwyd produced a number of works about Welsh history which were also not published until after his death.
The letter shown here is his final letter to Ortelius, written from his deathbed sending one of his texts along with the maps he had made. He apologises that is works are not in better order and regrets that his impending death did not leave him time to improve them, he died 18 days later. The letter is a poignant testimony to the esteem in which this great Welsh polymath was held, kept by Ortelius, who became one of his greatest proponents.
During his life he was described as “the most famous antiquarius of all our country” and his biographer Anthony Wood described him as “a person of great eloquence, an excellent rhetorician, a sound philosopher, and a most noted antiquary, and a person of great skill and knowledge in British affairs.”
Llwyd’s reputation as one of the leading lights of the Welsh renaissance and indeed as one of the creators of modern Welsh national identity has been neglected in the years since his death. Saunders Lewis described him as “one of the most important of Welsh humanists and a key figure in the history of the Renaissance in Wales”.
In recent years, however, there has been a new appreciation of Llwyd’s contribution, there is an ongoing AHRC funded project based around his work “Humphrey Llwyd – Inventor of Britain”, and next year the results of this project will be shown alongside a major exhibition about Llwyd here at the National Library.
The current exhibition runs from the 20th to the 31st August in the Summers Room, come along and find out more about the man who put Wales on the map.
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.