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Medieval Maps of Britain

How did people depict England, Scotland and Wales in the Middle Ages? Here are 15 images of maps created between the 11th and 16th centuries, which shows how maps developed over history.

Anglo-Saxon Mappa Mundi

Medieval Maps of Britain1

Created in Canterbury between 1025 and 1050, this is the oldest surviving map of Britain. This is actually a depiction of the entire, and northwest Europe can be found in the bottom right hand corner of the map.

Tabula Rogeriana

Medieval Maps of Britain2

This is the view of Britain reconstructed from the Tabula Rogeriana, a description of the world set of maps created by the Arab geographer, Muhammad al-Idrisi, in 1154 for King Roger II of Sicily. The map shows the southern end of Britain at the top.

Matthew Paris’ Map of Britain

Medieval Maps of Britain3

Matthew Paris is one of the most famous chronicler’s of medieval England. He also included many illustrations for his works, and this is one of the maps he created in the 1250s. The map includes many details, such as rivers, towns and even both Hadrian’s and the Antonine Wall.

Maximos Planudes’ Ptolemaic Map of the British Isles

Medieval Maps of Britain4

Around the year 1300, the Byzantine scholar Maximos Planudes rediscovered a copy of Geographia, written in the second century AD by Ptolemy. Maximos was able to recreate some of the maps created by the ancient cartographer, including this one showing the British Isles.

Portolan Chart by Pietro Vesconte

Medieval Maps of Britain5

Part of a Portolan chart of Western Europe, this map was created by the Genoese cartographer Pietro Vesconte around the year 1325. Portolan charts are navigational maps to be used by ship captains. The straight lines shown criss-crossing many portolan charts represent the thirty-two directions of the mariner’s compass from a given point, with its principal lines oriented to the magnetic north pole.

Gough Map

Medieval Maps of Britain6

This map is named after Richard Gough, who donated it to the Bodleian Library in the 19th century. It was created between 1355 and 1366. It was drawn with pen and ink on two skins of vellum. The map gives a very strong outline of England, but Scotland and Wales is somewhat distorted.

Gough Map, Part 2

Medieval Maps of Britain7

The Gough map is called the oldest “road map” of Britain, and in this close-up of London you can see many places, rivers and roads. You can find over 600 settlements and 200 rivers on the entire map.

Totius Britanniae Tabula Chorographica

Medieval Maps of Britain8

This map, known as Totius Britanniae Tabula Chorographica, was found with an early 15th century chronicle. Britain is again shown with England at the top and Scotland at the bottom.

15th century Ptolemy Map of Britain

Medieval Maps of Britain9

This is another version of a Ptolemy map of the Britain, this one created by Emanuel Chrysoloras and Jacobus Angelus in Venice in the first half of the 15th century.

John Hardyng’s Map of Scotland

Medieval Maps of Britain10

John Hardyng included this map of Scotland in his Chronicle of Britain to Henry VI, which was created between 1440 and 1450.

Scotia, Regno di Scotia

Medieval Maps of Britain11

This is the first surviving printed map of Scotland portrayed on its own. Watermarks in the paper indicate Venetian origin, and it may have been engraved by Paolo Forlani, who was active in Venice during the 1560s and 1570s. Although the outline of the east coast is recognisable, the depiction of the west coast and islands was less accurate.

Civitas Londinium

Medieval Maps of Britain12

This is one of the earliest maps of London, having been created sometime between 1570 and 1605.

Cambriae Typus

Medieval Maps of Britain13

The Cambriae Typus is the earliest published map of Wales as a separate region from the rest of Great Britain. It was made by Humphrey Llwyd in 1573.

Cornwall in 1579

Medieval Maps of Britain14

This image is part of the Atlas of the Counties of England and Wales, published by Christopher Saxton in 1579. This work is the first set of county maps of England and Wales, and contains 35 maps.

Typus Angliae

Medieval Maps of Britain15

Made by Jodocus Hondilus in 1590, this map shows Queen Elizabeth I and her domain, the British Isles. Its many decorations include biblical texts praising the Queen and her realm, and depictions of English nobles and citizens in the corners.

You can learn more about medieval maps:

Earliest medieval map of Britain put online

“Queen of All Islands”: The Imagined Cartography of Matthew Paris’s Britain

Saxton’s Atlas of the Counties of England and Wales

The Map of Early Modern London

Ten Beautiful Medieval Maps

Quiz: Medieval Maps

…and more on Maps in the Middle Ages

 



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