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’.
This post is also available in: Welsh