For fun, and also because they look good framed, hanging on a wall, I collect old maps. And, I’ll admit it, I just love looking at the intricate detail and marveling at the cartographer’s ability to create these figures with, what is after all, some very primitive tools. Sometimes you can get some sense of the history of a region by looking at its maps.
As an example, here are several images of some of the maps I have of England, all zooming in on Yorkshire. I’ll go from the oldest to the newest.
This is dated 1721, in French, published by Covens & Mortier, who it seemed were based in “Amsteldam”. The map drew upon the works of several mapmakers of the time, including the great cartographer De L’isle. Despite its provenance and age, spelling is pretty modern: we have Richmond sitting on the Swale, Masham and Helmsley are there, ditto Barnard Castle and Darlington. But then we have Withby, Hartlepol, and most tellingly Yorck. For some reason the Ridings of Yorkshire are glommed together with Lancashire, Westmoreland, and Durham and called the Provinces du Nord. The map also shows the abbeys and cathedrals (also, of course, the abbeys by then had been destroyed by Henry VIII in the 1530s). The physical cartography is fairly good, at least for the coastline. The Pennines seem kind of added as an afterthought.
Advancing by some 50 years, this is Bonne’s England (again French) from 1772. The spelling is much more modern this time, as is the typography, including the dropping of the long S from the earlier map. However, we suddenly get Richemont for Richmond (when Richmond Castle was founded in 1071, it was called Richemont, for “rich hill”, after the town of the same name in Normandy), and Suale for the Swale. Depiction of the physical elements is much better: the coastline and the rivers are well drawn, and we have outlines of the counties.
A mere 15 years later on, this is John Cary’s map of the North Riding of Yorkshire from 1787. This is a weird map to me since every time I look at it, I think it’s an island because Cary chops off all detail from the East and West Ridings and Durham. The detail is fantastic though. You can easily see the main roads, and, if you know the area at all well, you can see the differences from the present day. For example Hawes seems to be sidelined on this map because the main road to Sedburgh (here spelled Sedberg) goes through Hardraw (spelled here Hardrow Chap) on the opposite side of the river. There is also no Buttertubs Pass here.
This is a small map of England, published in 1807 by Brightly and Kinnersly, out of Bungay in Suffolk. It’s so small, zooming in on Yorkshire doesn’t reveal much detail at all. The counties’ outlines are hand-drawn in color.
Finally another French map of England, this time by A-H Brué, published in 1827. Detail is good, modern spelling is pretty much all there (even Askrigg), and the main roads are all depicted. Counties are delineated in color again. Weirdly, if you look carefully, there is a small colored circle just outside Easingwold (spelled Easingwould). The circle surrounds the village of Crayke (spelled Craike), and has the annotation Du. What’s that all about? Well, according to this page:
[Crayke] was closely linked to Durham from the time of St Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne, for in AD 685 the village of Creca was given to him by King Ecgfrith and inherited by succeeding bishops of Durham. The village remained a part of Durham county, and it was not until 1844 that it was finally united to the North Riding of Yorkshire
In other words, Brué was meticulous enough to depict the small part of the County of Durham that existed inside the North Riding of Yorkshire in his map.
Since three of these are by French mapmakers, one day I’ll have to photograph my old maps of France, zooming in, say, to Normandy.