Introduction to the Map Notes, the descriptive essays written to supplement the Object Records made about maps. These notes have taken on the function of the old fashioned 'history file' kept for each object by some curators.
Where possible (the time available is not infinite) notes have been written about each map, or perhaps set of maps, as the 4 sheets for Cumbria from John Ogilby's atlas, or, more often, the pair of maps for Westmorland and Cumberland by a map maker.
The content of these notes follows a pattern, which has the danger of imposing a mindset on the subject of the notes which is at odds with the intentions of the map maker. But the regularity makes comparison and understanding easier; the occasional distortion must just be borne in mind. The methodogy does produce some repetition, the notes of one map may be much like another; each essay is intended to stand alone, so the redundancy must be accepted. After identifying the map and providing some basic data, which will repeat matter from the map's Object Record, there is a section on map features. A standardised sequence of features is explored in more detail than could be justified in the object's catalogue entry. The presence and treatment of each map feature is described, some examples cited, and illustrated by a snip from the map. An example:-
Lakes are drawn in outline, the shore shaded, interior
engraved with a water effect, tinted blue. Notice Broadwater
which is engraved over and round the mountains at its south
end (and anyway it's Haweswater). Some lakes are
For most features only a few exampes are quoted: but, all
lakes that are labelled, or can be recognised, are listed; a
note is made of a set of the 'important' towns shown on each
map in a subordinate file. The map features normally
title, table of symbols, orientation, scale, lat and long,
coat of arms, vignettes
sea area, coast line, rivers and bridges, lakes, relief, woods and forests, parks,
county, wards or hundreds, settlements, roads, canals, railways.
After the main features are dealt with there night be a miscellany other features, which have been spotted on the map. Inclusion of anything particular is not to be relied on. The sort of things that commonly occur are:-
antiquities, beacons, inns, mills, mines, monuments, stones, crosses, ...
Beware: the study of the map features is subjective and qualitative: no attempt is made to be rigourous and quantitative.
It would be nice to believe that each map maker attempts to be objective in the inclusion and description of the main features, it is clear that exactly what is and isn't marked and labelled, and how, sometimes depends on a whim or available knowledge, and what space happens to be available between other features already plotted. Maps are useful but not reliable gazetteers of places in an area. This is as true today as it ever was on earlier maps. A second point worth noting is that the less important features, things like my miscellany, are often included not just at a whim but because someone included them before, on a whim. Such features get copied from map to map until their inclusion appears to be significant. Don't be fooled.