Earliest medieval map of Great Britain digitally released

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The Bodleian Libraries, in colloboration with Queen’s University Belfast and King’s College London, have released this week a digital version of the earliest surviving map of Great Britain.

Known as the Gough Map, it depicts a recognisable coastline, geographically accurate locations of towns and the distances between them. The fifteen-month research project about this map discovered that it was made close to 1375, rather than in 1360 as had been thought. The project can also confirm that the map is the work of at least two scribes, although their identities are unknown. 

The researchers made such discoveries by exploring the map’s ‘linguistic geographies’: the writing used on the map by the scribes who created it. The digital image of the map works in the same way that a current digital map does, in that it is searchable by place name (current and medieval) and by geographical features. The website also contains scholarly essays about the map and news about the project.

Nick Millea, Bodleian Map Librarian, said, ‘the project team was keen to ensure that our research findings reach the widest possible audiences…To this end one of the main project outcomes is this web-resource through which the Gough Map is made more widely accessible.

‘We hope this will help others to develop other lines of enquiry on medieval maps and mapmaking, whether in academic or non-academic sectors, as well as provide greater levels of access to the Gough Map, enhancing it’s world-wide significance in the history of cartography.’

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