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16th Century
17th Century
18th Century
19th Century

Maps for a Small Country

An exhibition of historical maps and atlases of Scotland,
held in Glasgow University Library

16th Century

Detail of map showing Scotland separated from England by a narrow strait.
Click on image to enlarge.

AGNESE, Baptista. Northwest Europe.
Venice, Italy: c.1542.
Manuscript. Vellum.
MS Hunter 492 (V.7.19)

This chart of Northwest Europe comes from a collection of nine navigation maps, the eighth of which is signed and dated "baptista agnese ianuesis fecit venetijs anno dni 1542 die 25 septembris''. Agnese was one of the most prolific mapmakers of the sixteenth century with more than seventy atlases attributed to him in a career based in Venice and extending from about 1536 to 1564. His work is largely of portolan style regional maps, bearing characteristic direction lines, elegantly drawn on vellum with fine linework and delicate illumination in gold, silver and other rich colours. Such care and beauty in production has given rise to much discussion on the maps' purpose. In truth, Agnese was a copyist, producing maps of wide areas in a traditional style, but which incorporate
contemporary geographical knowledge.
  His earliest depictions of Northwest Europe show Scotland separated from England by a narrow strait, a common feature of sixteenth century portolan charts and thought to be the result of unintelligent copying of earlier examples rather than of any real belief in Scotland's insularity. This is particularly true when the positioning of the strait is considered. In this example, the undulating line lies to the south of 'bambarch' (Bamburgh), based on the River Tyne. However, Agnese has taken care to place "scotia'', in red, between this and "tueda" (Tweed). Elsewhere, "domfres" (Dumfries) is marked and the whole country is given an almost square form broken only in the south-west by the projection of the Mull of Galloway.

Bibliography: ANDREWS, Michael C. "The boundary between Scotland and England in the portolan charts" Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 60, 1925-26, pp36-66. ANDREWS, Michael C. "Scotland In the portolan charts" Scottish Geographical Magazine, vol.42, 1926, pp129-153, 193-213. WAGNER. Henry R. "The manuscript atlases of Battista Agnese" Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, vol.25, 1931, pp1-110.

NICOLAY, Nicolas de,
Seigneur d'Arfeuille. Vraye & exacte descriptio Hydrographique des costes Maritimes d'Escoss, Isles Hebrides & Orchades servat a la Navigation, Par Nicolay d'Arfeuille Daulphinois, premier Cosmographe du Roy. Paris: 1583.
385 x 290 mm. Scale c1'':21 mls.
Hunterian K.6.16

This map accompanies La Navigation Du Roy D'Escosse Jacques Cinquiesme du nom, autour de son Royaume, published in Paris in 1583 as a French translation of a Scottish rutter, or book of sailing directions, written by Alexander Lindsay, pilot to James V. In 1540, James commanded a fleet which sailed round the north and west coasts of Scotland to subdue the troublesome Western lords but it is obvious that this chart is the result of a wider and more detailed knowledge than that gained from a single expedition, particularly as it shows a complete picture of Scotland. It is most likely that it was drawn after the rutter but, certainly, it concentrates on coastal features and ports, with some 300 places named. Nicolay obtained his copy in 1546 and it was used by the French fleet which besieged St. Andrews castle in the following year.

Detail of map showing the
Orkney Islands.
Click on image to enlarge.

  It is not certain that Lindsay was the original cartographer of this chart but the outline was a vast improvement on any previous depiction - in fact it was more accurate than later seventeenth century maps and may have been the base for the Mercator outline. Over one hundred years later, John Adair had a new plate of the map engraved by James Moxon for inclusion in his sea atlas, Description of the Sea Coast and Islands of Scotland, on the grounds of its accuracy.

Bibliography: ADAMS, I.H. and FORTUNE, G.(eds.) Alexander Lindsay: a rutter of the Scottish seas circa 1540. 1980. pp36-41. ROYAL SCOTTISH GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY The Early Maps of Scotland to 1850. Vol. 1 . 1973. (henceforth R.S.G.S.) pp19-23. TAYLOR, A.B. ''Name studies in sixteenthcentury Scottish maps'' Imago Mundi vol.19, 1965, pp81-99.