The Language of Maps

The Language of Maps: Communicating through cartography during the middle ages and renaissance: A colloquium and exhibition at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

Thursday June 23 to Saturday June 25 2011

Introduction and synopsis: Historic maps have broad appeal in contemporary cultures around the world. One reason for this – it might be thought – is because the ‘language of maps’ is universal and straightforward, but is it? How do maps communicate to us? How do they work?


This Colloquium seeks to explore these important questions by bringing together scholars whose interest lies in the visual and textual ‘languages’ of manuscript and printed maps from the medieval and Renaissance periods of European history. With the theme of ‘communicating through cartography’, the Colloquium will further our understanding and appreciation of the complexity of medieval and Renaissance maps and map-making, examining theoretical, empirical and methodological issues. The Colloquium is intentionally multidisciplinary, so contributions represent perspectives from art, linguistic and literary history, historical geography and archaeology, as well as cartography and the history of cartography. Our papers cover artistic, linguistic and palaeographical aspects of historic maps, and examine processes of cartographic production and consumption in medieval and Renaissance Europe. Through them, we shall be able to draw connections between cartographic representations of all kinds, whether manuscript or printed maps, including those of regions, countries or local landscapes. The technologies of map-production – including surveying and draughting – will be under scrutiny too, for the scientific and artistic expertise involved in making maps in the past was integral to communicating through cartography, as indeed it still is today.

The Colloquium marks the ending of the AHRC-funded “Linguistic Geographies” research project on the Bodleian’s world-renowned ‘Gough Map of Great Britain’. To celebrate the project’s conclusion, the Bodleian Library will be holding an exhibition displaying the Gough Map at the same time as the Colloquium presents the findings of the research and sees the launch of the project’s online resource, a searchable digital version of the Gough Map. There will also be two evening keynote lectures, one given by Jeremy Smith, Professor of English Philology at the University of Glasgow, and a second by Peter Barber, curator of the British Library map collection.


As places at the Colloquium are limited, advanced registration and enrollment is essential. To book a place and to pay for registration (and the optional dinner and field-trip) please use our dedicated online booking service “Historic Venues” at – see below for further details.


Please note, all the colloquium lectures will take place in Convocation House at the Bodleian Library.

Drinks receptions will be held in the Divinity School adjacent.

Thursday June 23, 12:00-20:00
12:00-13:45 Registration and orientation (Convocation House foyer)
13:45-14:00 Welcome and introduction: Keith Lilley and Nick Millea

Session 1 – Dialogues (Chair: Keith Lilley)
14:00-14:40 Rose Mitchell and Bill Shannon (The National Archives, London), Maps, dialogue and truth
14:40-15:20 Paul Fermon (E.P.H.E. Paris), Making maps for lawyers: Nicolas Dipre, a painter at work circa 1500.
15:20-15:40 Tea
15:40-16:20 Richard Unger (University of British Columbia), The rhetoric of sea power and the decoration of Renaissance maps
16:20-17:00 Mark Rosen (University of Texas at Dallas), Interpretive projections: sixteenth-century Italian painted maps and their printed sources
17:00-17:40 Paul Harvey (Durham), Medieval maps of the Holy Land: aims, communication and impact
17:40-18:00 Discussion
18:00-18:45 Reception


18:45-20:00 Keynote Lecture I: Jeremy Smith (Glasgow), The Gough map and the history of English

20:00 Colloquium Dinner (optional, to be booked in advance)

Friday June 24, 09:00-20:00
Session 2 – Narratives (Chair: Nick Millea)
09:00-09:40 Pnina Arad (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Narrative and meta-narrative in the map of the Holy Land (Oxford, Bodl. Ms. Douce 389)
09:40-10:20 Meagan Loftin (University of Washington), “Prepare also the mappa mundi”: mapping on the stage in the Chester Mystery Cycle
10:20-10:40 Coffee
10:40-11:20 Elizabeth Solopova (Oxford) Linguistic geographies: three centuries of language, script and cartography in the Gough map of Great Britain

11:20-12:00 Meg Roland (Marylhurst University), The Behaim Globe: a literary map of late medieval and early modern geographic thought


12:00-12:40 Camille Serchuk (Southern Connecticut State University), The polyglot map: a sixteenth-century French forest map and its graphic language(s

12:40-13:00 Discussion

13:00-14:00 Lunch (not provided)

Session 3 – Readings (Chair: Elizabeth Solopova)
14:00-14:40 Galia Halpern (New York University), Mapping surface and structure beyond the sea
14:40-15:20 Margaret Small (Birmingham), A Catholic concordance? Olaus Magnus and the Biblical citations on the Carta Marina
15:20-15:40 Tea
15:40-16:20 Angelo Cattaneo (Universidade Nova de Lisboa), Fra Mauro’s Mappa mundi within the fifteenth-century ‘Question of Language’ in Venice. The role of the Camaldolese Order
16:20-17:00 Dan Terkla (Illinois Wesleyan University), Furnishing the soul: mappaemundi and church tabulae
17:00-17:40 Asa Mittman (California State University, Chico), The Jewish-Muslim-Polytheistic idol on the altar: the Hereford Map and the construction of the Other
17:40-18:00 Discussion

18:00-18:45 Reception
18:45-20:00 Keynote Lecture II: Peter Barber (The British Library, London), Manipulating Gough in the service of Henry VIII: Maurice Griffith and the Angliae Figura

20:00 Speakers’ Colloquium Dinner

Saturday June 25, 09:00-13:00
Session 4 – Scripting (Chair: Paul Vetch)
09:00-09:40 Catherine Delano Smith (IHR, London), Medieval map-mindedness—Renaissance ‘map consciousness’
09:40-10:20 Jesse Simon (University College, Oxford), Abstract shapes, physical spaces: the use of theoretical geometry in Byzantine surveyor’s maps
10:20-10:40 Coffee
10:40-11:20 Martin Foys (Drew University), Rectifying the real: digital bias and early historical maps
11:20-12:00 Keith Lilley, Chris Lloyd and Catherine Porter (Queen’s University Belfast), Quantifying revolution: mapping lineages in British cartography
12:00-12:40 “Linguistic Geographies” web-resource launch
12:40-13:00 Discussion and Conclusion


13:00-13:30 Lunch (not provided)

Optional Field-Trip to Hereford Cathedral Library Mappa Mundi Exhibition: Saturday June 24 (pm)

As part of the Colloquium we are pleased to offer participants the opportunity to see another of Britain’s truly great medieval maps, the celebrated mappamundi at Hereford cathedral. To make this possible a road coach has been booked to take us from Oxford to Hereford, but please note that places are limited and so it is essential that bookings are made in advance, and that the payment is received at the same time as you enrol – see payment instructions below for details.

Itinerary (times subject to change):
13:30 Depart Oxford, Broad Street entrance to Bodleian Library
15.30 Arrive Hereford cathedral
15:30-17:30 Visit to Hereford Cathedral “Mappa mundi” exhibition
18:00-20:00 Dinner (not provided)
20:00 Depart Hereford cathedral
22:00 Arrive Oxford, Broad Street entrance to Bodleian Library


All participants will need to make their own arrangements for local accommodation and also meals for the duration of the Colloquium. For all delegates, there is an optional Colloquium Dinner on the evening of Thursday June 23 – details below.

Details on accommodation options are to be found at

For particular deals on accommodation, try also and


Linguistic geographies: Three centuries of language, script and cartography in the Gough map of Great Britain

14 May – 26 June 2011

A public exhibition in the Proscholium, Bodleian Library, Oxford

One of Britain’s truly outstanding medieval maps is on public display in the Proscholium, Bodleian Library. The ‘Gough map’ is a remarkable English depiction of Great Britain, created sometime during the later fourteenth century and subsequently amended during the fifteenth century.

The precise origins of the Gough map have long been uncertain despite much scholarly interest. Only recently has the map received careful palaeographical study, and this has yielded a great deal more insight into the map’s making and its use. The map was donated to the Bodleian Library in 1809 by the great antiquarian, Richard Gough, in whose volume on British Topography the map gained its first modern study. This exhibition includes both the Gough map – a unique manuscript – as well as Gough’s Topography, as two key documents of English cartographic history, providing viewers with a rare opportunity to see close-up the fine details of the map, and in particular the writing that appears on it. The map’s script is a key to understanding its making and use, and the exhibition offers new interpretations based upon an on-going research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The exhibition is organised by the Linguistic Geographies project team, with particular inputs from Nick Millea and Elizabeth Solopova. The team wish to thank the Bodleian Library for its support of this exhibition, as well as the Arts and Humanities Research Council. For more information on the project please visit

Further details on the exhibition at:
Opening Hours
Mon-Fri 9am – 10pm (Vacation 9am-7pm)
Sat 9am – 4.30pm (Vacation 9am-5pm)
Sun: 11am – 5pm
Admission Free


Registration for attending the colloquium is £50. For speakers on the programme and for students there is a reduced fee of £25.

Please note that enrolment will close on Friday June 10 (or earlier if our maximum capacity is reached sooner and no more places are available).

The facility to make an online payment by credit card is available now using the service of ‘Historic Venues’ at:

Alternatively, if you prefer to pay by cheque (sterling only, payable to “Bodleian Library”), please send this completed form to:

Nick Millea,
The Language of Maps,
Bodleian Library, Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3BG. UK
The Language of Maps colloquium registration form


Phone number/email address:

– FULL registration fee: £50.00

– SPEAKER’S registration fee: £25.00

– STUDENT registration fee (full or part time): £25.00

– Optional Colloquium dinner (circle if required): £25.00

– Optional Hereford tour (circle if required): £25.00

Total: £____

I enclose a cheque, payable to ‘Bodleian Library’, for £______

I require a receipt (Yes/No).