#LoveMaps – Linda Tomos

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events - Posted 24-08-2017

Chief Executive and Librarian, Linda Tomos tells us about her love for maps as part of our #LoveMaps campaign.

It’s the year 1675 – how do I get home?

Although today we take road atlases for granted, until John Ogilby published Britannia, his survey of 70 major roads in England and Wales in 1675, travellers had very little help in the practical problems of getting from A to B. The maps were arranged in scroll like strip form with each strip containing useful information such as hills and rivers, churches and estates, and whether the road was open or enclosed by hedges. Local landmarks, inns, bridges & fords helped to keep the traveller literally on the right track. Ogilby also led a revolution in his use of the statute mile of 1,760 yards to establish a uniform scale of 1 inch to 1 mile across county boundaries. Previously, different counties recognised different lengths for one mile – which would have resulted in a very misleading road atlas!


This is a map from Welshpool to Caernarfon, a road I know well, and it would be good enough for me to get home if I was transported back to 1675 although the gallows by the castle in Harlech would no longer be an obvious waymarker! I admire Ogilby’s inventiveness and his determination to get the job done. His life was not an easy one. He twice found himself in a debtors’ prison, and twice lost everything: once in a shipwreck and then in the Great Fire of London in 1666. This latter tragedy provided him with some work as a surveyor and in 1674 he was appointed as ‘His Majesty’s Cosmographer and Geographic Printer’. It was almost fifty years before publishers copied Ogilby’s design which was mainly to try and produce a more portable version of his atlas.




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