Early Maps & Topographical Engravings

Maps of Scotland have existed since the early times; Ptolemy, the Greek astronomer who lived in the 2nd century AD, produced many maps, none of which survive, but his world map was reconstructed, including the British Isles - although the placing of Scotland was incorrect - using the descriptions in his Geography. This was the basis of British maps until 1546.

Place names on Ptolemy's map were rendered in the Classical equivalent, and although it is difficult to be completely certain, Leukopibia seems to equate to Luce in the south west and Trimontium appears to be the Eildon Hills of Lothian. As well as place names, it also showed the names of the Celtic tribes of Britain, including the Damnonii of south west Scotland. In the 16th century, one Paola Forlani reproduced a map by George Lily, but it is  Timothy Pont, born in the late 16th century, who provided us with most information until the inception of the Ordnance Survey. 

Pont was the first man to accurately chart the whole of Scotland. Today, seventy-seven Pont maps survive, drawn up between 1583 and 1596. He travelled extensively throughout Scotland, but especially in the south west, which has the most detailed coverage, especially  Kyle and  Cunninghame. They also recorded archaeological and historical features which no longer exist. They were, however, drawn up at a time when paper was fairly scarce and many parts were sketches on scraps of parchment, not always separate and some without scale or legend. 

In spite of the work needed to make them a coherent whole, his maps were published after his death by Johann Blaeu, a Dutch cartographer, in 1654 (reissued in 1662). This work was called the Atlas Novus and consisted of some eleven volumes. 

There was little effort to build on these maps for a while; anyone working on a new volume would just reproduce what they already had without trying to expand or verify details. Some maps miss the small island of Ailsa Craig in the Firth of Clyde - a good indication of the accuracy of a map from this period. 

The next major coincided with the end of the Jacobite Rebellion in 1746. The Government commissioned a military survey (1747-1755), intended to be as complete as possible. This is now known as the Roy map after General William Roy who was the chief surveyor. These events were the founding motions of the Ordnance Survey. 

This was followed by the surveys of John Wood, from Edinburgh. He commenced mapping Scottish towns in 1818, with his most intensive work in the early 1820s. A total of forty-eight town plans were drafted and in 1828 these were printed in the 'Town Atlas of Scotland' and its companion guide, the 'Descriptive Account of the Principal Towns in Scotland'. John Wood referred to Ayr as a 'Royal Burgh of Great Antiquity'. 

The 18th century also saw the development of estate plans, city maps, agricultural surveys, sea charts and historical maps - showing aspects such as battle sites and formations - for different markets. These carry agricultural details and in the case of the city maps, show architectural features and have been invaluable for historians. The trend for showing the front elevation of a house on a map, in an almost 3D sense, was popular at this time. 

Ortelius' map of 1750, as well as showing fairly accurately the general outline of Scotland, depicted the course of the river Clyde and Herman Moll's efforts to change previous errors went some way towards the quest for an accurate representation of Scotland. 

Aaron Arrowsmith, a geographer from London, received permission to make a map of Scotland by using the Military Survey. Previously, two others had produced maps but did not seem to have utilised the military sources. Arrowsmith's map was the most accurate and detailed until the next phase, when the Ordnance Survey expanded on their military expertise and began making maps for private and commercial use. The first OS maps were of England and work on the Scottish maps began in 1842; Arrowsmith's draftings were the basis for this area until then. They have been the main British gazetteers since then, producing maps for various consumers from ramblers and tourists to businesses. 

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