Friday 27 November 2020

Some Arabic and Persian accounts of the export of tin from Cornwall to Egypt and Iran in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries

The aim of the following piece is simply to share some interesting accounts of the tin-trade in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, particularly one written in Arabic and another in Persian. Taken together, these two accounts suggest that tin from southwestern England (i.e. Cornwall and Devon) was exported via southern France to both Egypt and ultimately Iran in this period, with it being used by potters in the latter area to make tin-opacified ceramic glazes.

A tin-glazed vase made in 14th-century Persia, now in The Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro; click the image for a larger view (image: Caitlin Green).

The first account to be considered here is a short but intriguing section from the early fourteenth-century Taqwīm al-buldān, 'Survey of the countries' (1321), of Abū l-Fidāʾ, a Syrian prince of the Ayyūbid family, which offers both a general description of England and a short but intriguing section detailing the export of tin from England to Alexandria, Egypt, via southern France. The section that deals generally with England is explicitly derived from the earlier work of Ibn Saʿīd al-Maghribī, who was born born near Granada in 1213, lived for a time in Egypt, and died in 1286, and runs as follows: 
And the islands of Britain are eleven islands. Of the famous islands is the island of England (Inkiltarah). Ibn Saʿīd said: And the ruler of this island is called al-Inkitār in the History of Salāḥ ad-Dīn (Saladin) in the wars of ʿAkkā (Acre). His capital in this island is the city of Lundras (London). He continued: And the length of this island from south to north, with a slight inclination, is 430 miles. Its width in the middle is about 200 miles. He continued: And in this island are mines of gold, silver, copper, and tin. There are no vines because of the sharpness of the frost. Its inhabitants bring the precious metals of these mines to the land of France, and exchange them for wine. The ruler of France has plentiful gold and silver from that source. In their country (sc. England) is made the fine scarlet cloth from the wool of their sheep, which is fine like silk. They place coverings over the animals, to protect them from rain, sun, and dust. In spite of the wealth of al-Inkitār and the extent of his kingdom, he admits the sovereignty of al-Faransīs (the French king), and when there is an assembly, he performs his service by presenting before (the ruler of France) a vessel of food, by ancient custom.(1)

The mention here of mines that produce tin is noteworthy. The tenth-century Persian Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam, written for a prince of Gūzgan in northern Afghanistan in c. 982, intriguingly describes Britain as an 'emporium' (bārgāh) of Spain (Andalus) and also makes mention of 'numerous mountains, rivers, villages, and different mines' in Britain, but doesn't specify the nature of these mines, unlike Ibn Saʿīd and Abū l-Fidāʾ.(2) Interestingly, the above description of the specific characteristics of the mines of England seems to have been picked up fairly rapidly by other authors aside from Abū l-Fidāʾ. For example, its influence can be seen in the Jāmiʿ al-tawārīkh of Rashīd al-Dīn (completed in Īlkhānate-era Iran, c. 1307–16), and in Banākatī's derivative Rawżat ūli’l-albāb, written in 1317 at Banākaṯ, Transoxiana (in present-day Tajikistan, Central Asia), although their description is expanded slightly to say that in Anglater—England—there are 'many remarkable mountains, innumerable mines of gold, silver, copper, tin, and iron, and different kinds of fruit.'(3

After the above general description of England, Abū l-Fidāʾ offers brief discussions of Ireland and of another Atlantic island where gyrfalcons and polar bears are said to be found (the former reportedly being popular with the Sultan of Egypt and the latter being said to have skin that is soft to the touch). Later on, however, he returns to the question of the export of metals from England when discussing Toulouse, France, in another section that is explicitly derived from the work of Ibn Saʿīd al-Maghribī:

Ibn Said said: And to the east of Bordeaux is the city of Toulouse... The river (sc. Garonne) is south of it, and ships from the Encircling Ocean ascend it, with tin and copper, which they bring from the island of England and the island of Ireland. It is carried on pack-animals to Narbonne, and taken from there on the ships of the Franks to Alexandria.(4)

Needless to say, this statement is undoubtedly interesting, offering, as it does, good evidence for the long-distance export of tin from southwestern England during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The first half of the route described here is certainly an ancient one, bearing a striking similarity to the tin route described by Diodorus Siculus in the first century BC (probably drawing on the lost account of Pytheas, a fourth-century BC traveller from Marseille). He says that those who dwell in southwestern Britain 'work the tin into pieces' and sell it to merchants who 'carry it from there across the Straits of Galatia or Gaul; and finally, making their way on foot through Gaul for some thirty days, they bring their wares on horseback to the mouth of the river Rhone'. Although the route described by the above Arabic account is slightly more detailed than that recorded by Diodorus, and obviously has an additional stage from France to Egypt, the coincidence is notable, and a find of a sixth-century cruciform brooch from eastern England in south-eastern France near to Castelnaudary, Aude (about midway along the route from Toulouse to the Mediterranean), arguably offers some confirmation that the same overland route from England to the Mediterranean was indeed in use in the intervening period too.(5)

A fourteenth-century, tin-glazed jug decorated with lustre and cobalt, made at Ray, Iran, and now in the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro; click the image for a larger view (image: Caitlin Green).

The second, Persian account of the medieval tin trade is less specific about the source of the tin than this, but is nonetheless important. In particular, it offers us some idea of where a portion, at least, of the tin from southwestern England was transported to after it reached thirteenth-/fourteenth-century Egypt, as well as the purposes to which it might be put. The account itself is from a treatise on ceramics by Abū l-Qāsim Qāshānī of Kashan, Iran, that was written in c. 1300–01, based on the date of the earliest, autograph manuscript. This treatise mentions the importation of tin to Iran from Western Europe or Farangistān, a name strictly meaning the land of the Franks (the French) that was applied generally to Western Europe north of the Iberian Peninsula: 

The vessels, ingredients and materials which serve as raw materials for these people [manufacturers of tiles and other ceramic objects] are many... One of these is the form of tin called raṣāṣ. Its mines are known in many places. The first is that from Farangistān. In Farangistān it is cast in the form of pieces and stamped with a Farangī stamp as prevention against adulteration...(6)

The account then goes on to list two other sources of tin, one to the north of Iran (in the middle Volga area of modern Russia) and another to the east in 'China' (possibly Malaysia), before including details on how such tin could be used in the making of white and turquoise ceramic glazes.(7) Suffice to say, in the present context this account is of considerable interest. The tin from Farangistān mentioned here must have almost certainly originated in southwestern England, based on both what we know of tin production in this era and the above Arabic account of Abū l-Fidāʾ/Ibn Saʿīd al-Maghribī, with its reference to French merchants transporting English tin to Alexandria. Furthermore, it is worth noting that the tin from the middle Volga in Russia may also have ultimately come from England too, as there were no medieval native sources of tin in that region and tin does, in fact, seem to have been imported into Russia from England via Germany earlier in the medieval period.(8

Two fragments of mina'i bowls probably made in the city of Kashan in the early thirteenth century, both featuring a tin-opacified glaze, now in the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro; click the image for a larger view. The left bowl, TRURI 900.479, seems to show a young prince sitting cross-legged, whilst the right bowl, TRURI 900.478, shows a male equestrian figure (image: Caitlin Green).

In consequence, it can be said that the two main accounts under consideration here seem, when taken together, to suggest that tin from Cornwall and Devon was very probably making its way across to Iran in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, where it was used to create tin-opacified white and turquoise ceramic glazes by manufacturers of pottery and tiles. In this context, it is worth observing that Cornish or Devonshire tin was definitely used for a similar purpose in sixteenth-century Italy, and Anna McSweeney has recently argued that it was probably used for making opaque ceramic glazes in medieval Iberia too.(9) So, for example, in 1417 a potter named Hacen Muça was paid by a French merchant from Montpellier, Joan Lorenç, in lead, tin and cobalt to undertake work that he was to deliver to the port of Valencia in two months, presumably using tin obtained by this French merchant from southwestern England, and in 1325 another contract specifies that the potter Mahomet Bensuleyman and another saracen from Manises, eastern Spain, would be paid in advance with lead and tin for the kiln loads that they were to supply.(10

Whether earlier Islamic ceramics using tin-opacified glazes similarly depended on tin from southwestern England is a matter of speculation, but it is interesting to observe that the earliest such glazes seem to have their origins in Egypt in the eighth century AD, which is perhaps suggestive, given that tin seems to have been known as 'the Brittanic metal' in Egypt only a century earlier.(11) Finally, it should be noted that the tin imported into Iran from medieval England was almost certainly used for purposes other than the creation of ceramic glazes. Tin was, for example, a key ingredient in both the making of bronze vessels and the creation of tin opacifiers for glass; assuming, as seems reasonable, that Abū l-Qāsim's observations on the sources of tin hold for other uses of this metal as well, then tin from southwestern England/Farangistān is likely to have played a part in the creation of metal and glasswork as well as ceramics in thirteenth-/fourteenth-century Iran.

A mina'i ware jug with seated figures and sketches, made in Central Iran in the late 12th or early 13th century, earthenware with polychrome enamels and gold over a turquoise glaze; now in Cincinnati Art Museum (image: Wikimedia Commons).


1.     D. N. Dunlop, 'The British Isles according to medieval Arabic authors', Islamic Quarterly, 4 (1957), 11–28 at pp. 24–5 (my emphasis); M. Reinaud, Géographie d'Aboulféda, 2 vols (Paris: A L'Imprimerie Nationale, 1848), vol. 2, pp. 265–6. Note also the reference to 'fine scarlet wool... which is fine like silk'; the fame of English wool and the regard in which it was held in medieval Europe is well-known, but this reference and two further ones in the early fourteenth century from Rashīd al-Dīn and Banākatī to 'exceedingly fine scarlet cloth' from England imply that the fame of English wool products reached well beyond Europe and even so far as Central Asia in the early fourteenth century. 

2.     See further now C. Green, 'Britain, the Byzantine Empire, and the concept of an Anglo-Saxon ‘Heptarchy’: Harun ibn Yahya’s ninth-century Arabic description of Britain', in Global Perspectives on Early Medieval Britain, eds. K. L. Jolly & B. Brooks (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, forthcoming); Ḥudūd al-‘Ālam, ‘The Regions of the World’ – A Persian Geography 372 A.H. – 982 A.D., ed. and trans. V. V. Minorsky (London, 1970), chp 4 (p. 59) and chp 42 (p. 158).

3.     Dunlop, 'British Isles', p. 26.

4.     Dunlop, 'British Isles', p. 25; Reinaud, Géographie d'Aboulféda, p. 307. See D. G. König, Arabic-Islamic Views of the Latin West: Tracing the Emergence of Medieval Europe (Oxford, 2015), p. 279, for Ibn Saʿīd al-Maghribī's own text of this section; note, he says that the tin and copper is taken by ships from Narbonne to Alexandria, but isn't explicit as to the ships used. 

5.     R. Penhallurick, Tin in Antiquity (London: Institute of Metals, 1986), pp. 141–2; B. Cunliffe, The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek (London: Penguin, 2001), pp. 57, 76, 79–80; J. Hatcher, English Tin Production and Trade Before 1550 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), p. 24; C. R. Green, 'The Anglo-Saxons abroad? Some early Anglo-Saxon finds from France and East Africa', blog post, 7 May 2016, online at

6.     J. W. Allan, 'Abū'l-Qāsim's treatise on ceramics', Iran, 11 (1976), 111–20 at 111, 112 and 120. Note, underlined passages are found only in the later of two manuscripts of this treatise, dating from the sixteenth century, whilst those unmarked are found in the manuscript of 1300–01. On Farangistān/Firanja/Ifrand̲j̲a, see B. Lewis and J. F. P. Hopkins, 'Ifrand̲j', in Encyclopedia of Islam, Second Edition, ed. Bearman et al., consulted online on 25 November 2020,, and P. M. Cobb, The Race for Paradise: An Islamic History of the Crusades (Oxford, 2014), pp. 15–19; on the entire Iberian Peninsula being known to geographers as al-Andalus, see A. G. Sanjuán, 'Al-Andalus, etymology and name', in Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE, ed. K. Fleet, G. Krämer, D. Matringe, J. Nawas, and E. Rowson (Leiden, 2018), consulted online on 26 November 2020,

7.     See further on tin-opacified glazes in the Islamic world and their origins and spread, M. Matin, 'Tin-based opacifiers in archaeological glass and ceramic glazes: a review and new perspectives', Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 11 (2019), 1155–67, especially pp. 1161–2; M. Tite et al., 'Revisiting the beginnings of tin-opacified Islamic glazes', Journal of Archaeological Science, 57 (2015), 80–91; E. Salinas, 'From tin- to antimony-based yellow opacifiers in the early Islamic Egyptian glazes: Regional influences and ruling dynasties', Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 26 (2019), 101923; and E. Salinas et al., 'Polychrome glazed ware production in Tunisia during the Fatimid-Zirid period: New data on the question of the introduction of tin glazes in western Islamic lands', Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 34.A (2020), 102632.

8.     A. McSweeney, 'The tin trade and medieval ceramics: tracing the sources of tin and its influence on Mediterranean ceramics production', Al-Masāq: Journal of the Medieval Mediterranean, 23 (2011), 155–69 at pp. 165, 166; Allan, 'Abū'l-Qāsim's treatise on ceramics', pp. 112, 118.

9.     McSweeney, 'The tin trade', especially pp. 164–9.

10.     McSweeney, 'The tin trade', p. 168.

11.     Penhallurick, Tin in Antiquity, pp. 10, 237; Matin, 'Tin-based opacifiers'; Tite et al., 'Revisiting the beginnings'; Salinas, 'From tin- to antimony-based yellow opacifiers'; E. Salinas et al., 'Polychrome glazed ware'.

The content of this post and page, including any original illustrations, is Copyright © Caitlin R. Green, 2020, All Rights Reserved, and should not be used without permission.

Saturday 21 November 2020

More monstrous landscapes of medieval Lincolnshire

A previous post on here listed a number of field and other local minor names from Lindsey that made reference to folkloric and monstrous creatures inhabiting northern Lincolnshire; the aim of the following brief discussion is to offer some further names of the same type, based this time on the Place-Names of Lincolnshire, volumes 1–7. Once again, it should be noted that the majority of these names derive from medieval and early modern sources and suggest the existence of local folklore and tales, long since lost, focused on the pits, mires, fields, pools and mounds of the pre-Modern Lincolnshire landscape.

J. R. Skelton's 1908 illustration of Grendel, who is described as a þyrs/thyrs in Beowulf (image: Wikimedia Commons).

Old Norse þurs (thurs)/Old English þyrs (thyrs)—a giant, a monster/ogre/demon

A word indicating a giant or similar monster with a dangerous or destructive nature; most famously found in the Old Norse compound hrímþursar, the 'frost giants', and as a description of Grendel in line 426 of the Old English poem Beowulf. It seems to indicate a malevolent, fen-dwelling monster of the Grendel type, with the Old English Maxims II saying that þyrs sceal on fenne gewunian ana innan lande, 'the þyrs (giant, ogre) shall dwell in the fen, alone in his realm'; compare the Thrusmyre in Edlington parish, 'a mire, Old Norse myrr, inhabited by a þurs'. The names below imply a number of features thought to be either inhabited by—or made by—such creatures in the medieval/early modern Lincolnshire landscape; note, the dates indicate the year in which the name is first documented.

  • Thirsewell, Thorsey Nab, Glentham (1220)—'spring haunted by giants', sometimes with nabbi, 'hill/knoll'.
  • Thyrstpit, Usselby (1372)—'giant-pit' or 'demon-haunted pit'; note, the compound þyrspyt etc is first recorded in a ninth-century Old English charter.
  • Thurspits, Bottesford (1679)—'the pits, hollows haunted by giants, demons or goblins'.
  • Low Thrush pits/Upper thrushpit, Ashby near Scunthorpe (1750)—'the pit/hollow haunted by a demon or giant' or 'giant-pit'.
  • Trusdall, Nettleton (1577)—'the share of land haunted by a demon or giant'.
  • Tursfeild Crosse, Scawby (1669)—'the field haunted by demons, giants or goblins' + cros, 'cross'.
  • Threshole, Saxilby and Ingleby (1766)—'the hollow occupied by a giant or demon'. Note, Bishop White Kennett, in a glossary written in c. 1700, defines a 'Thurs-house or Thurs-hole' as 'a hollow vault... looked on as enchanted holes'.
  • Thirspitts, Waltham (1601)—'the pit occupied by a giant or demon'.
  • Thuswelle closes, Hemswell (1670)—'spring haunted by a giant or demon'.

Image from the title page of 'Robin Goodfellow: His Mad Pranks and Merry Jests' (1629); Robin Goodfellow is generally considered a type of hob or hobgoblin (image: Wikimedia Commons).

Middle English hob(be)—a mischievous spirit/hobgoblin

A word for a mischievous spirit or goblin; a hob in Northern and Midland English folklore was a rough, hairy, creature of the 'brownie' type, whose work could bring prosperity to farms but who could become mischievous or dangerous if annoyed. Household variants might be given new clothes to get them to leave forever, although other hobs lived outside in caves or holes. The normal form in Northern and North Midland counties was apparently Hobthrus or Hobthrust, which is a compound of Middle English hob(be), 'a hobgoblin', and thurs(e), 'a devil, evil spirit', from OE þyrs/ON þurs, 'a giant, monster'; note, Dickins considers hob to be in fact an abbreviation of hobthrus, with the latter being the original form and the hob as a creature thus being a less-malevolent development of the Old Norse þurs (thurs)/Old English þyrs (thyrs).

  • Hob Lane, East Halton (1804)—'a lane haunted by a hobgoblin'; see also the Hoblurke recorded at East Halton in the 1200s in the previous post. A tale of a hobthurst (hob + thurs) from East Halton was collected by Mabel Peacock around the turn of the nineteenth century, when it was apparently living in the cellar of Manor Farm in an iron pot and was described as 'a kind of devil' and 'a little fellow with a big head'. He would apparently help the farmer on occasion, for example driving sheep to the barn so that they could be sheared, although he was also mischievous and once left the wagon on top of the barn; the farmer was meant to leave the hobthrust a linen shirt for his help each year, but when he gave the creature a hempen shirt one year instead, the hobthrust set up an angry wail and refused to ever help on the farm again.
  • Hobbing hole, Lissingleys in Buslingthorpe parish (1846)—'hollow frequented by a hobgoblin', presumably somewhere on the ancient medieval common pasturage and meeting-place of Lissingleys, now in Buslingthorpe parish but before 1851 an extra-parochial area shared between the surrounding parishes.
  • Hobthrust Dale, Burton-upon-Stather (1698)—'the share of land haunted by a hob-thrust, a goblin', with hob-thrust as above.
  • Hobtrust Lane, Goxhill (1775)—another name involving the compound hobthrust < hob(be) + thurs(e). Note, Goxhill is a neighbouring village to East Halton, above.

Jane Eyre encountering Mr Rochester's horse, which she at first mistakes for a Gytrash, a Northern English variant of the 'shag foal' (image: Wikimedia Commons).

The 'Shag Foal'
—a rough-coated goblin horse

Also known as the Tatterfoal, he was goblin horse or donkey that was common across Lincolnshire and seems to have had a preference for hills; he is also said to have haunted Spittle Hill at Frieston, Ogarth Hill at Tathwell, Kirton-in-Lindsey, South Ferriby, and Boggart Lane at Roxby (below). According to Westwood and Simpson, something akin to the 'shag foal' was first mention by Gervase of Tilbury in c. 1211, when he termed it a 'grant'; Eli Twigg of Asgarthorpe in the nineteenth century described the shag foal as 'a shagg'd-looking hoss, and given to all manner of goings-on', including catching hold of anyone riding home drunk, pulling them from the saddle, and 'scaring a old woman three parts out of her skin, and making her drop her shop-things in the blatter and blash, and run for it'.
  • Shag Foal, Ulceby in North Lincolnshire (1826)—a piece of land haunted by a 'shag foal'.

The road from Roxby to Winterton Cliff House in 1898, showing the position of Roxby Mill; this was presumably known as Boggart Lane in the 1830s, where a 'shag foal' was seen by a young man as he passed Roxby Mill  (image: David Rumsey).


'Boggart' was a general northern term for a frightening creature that might be a ghost, malicious fairy or minor demon, with outdoor boggarts generally haunting pits, wells or lonely lanes.
  • Bogger Furlong, Caistor (1649)—a furlong in the old open field that was haunted by a boggart.
  • Boggart Lane, Roxby (1830s)—the boggart haunting this lane, also known as Goosey Lane, may be identical with the 'shag foal' met by a young man as he passed Roxby Mill, which was 'sum'ate as big as a watter-tub' and 'a gret shagg'd thing', with huge eyes; it 'shooved him roond wheniver he tried to slip past it'.

J. R. Skelton's 1908 illustration of the slave in Beowulf who stole the dragon's golden cup, thinking to redeem himself, and thus awoke the dragon (image: Wikimedia Commons).

Dragons, trolls, elves & other creatures

  • Drakehou, drackhole, Owmby by Spital (1330)—probably the hollow inhabited by a dragon, although the earliest form has the second element Old Norse haugr, 'mound, barrow', which would fit with other early-recorded dragons; as the Old English Maxims II puts it, Draca sceal on hlæw, frod, frætwum wlanc, 'A dragon belongs in a mound, old and proud of treasures', and compare Drakelow, Derbyshire, æt Dracan hlawen in 942, which is Old English dracan hlāw, 'the dragon's mound'.
  • Drakehord, Nettleham (1348–9)—Old English dracanhord, 'dragon's hoard'; see above.
  • Draykmoor, Tetney (1764)—Middle English drāke, 'a dragon', + mōr, 'a marsh'.
  • Poke Close, Willoughton (1554)—'the goblin infested enclosure', pūca, compare 'Puck of Pook's Hill'.
  • Trolleheudland, Goxhill (1309)—'the headland (place where the plough turned) haunted by a troll'.
  • Aluehou, Tetney (12th century)—a Scandinavian name meaning 'the mound, haugr, haunted by elves',
  • Scrittecroft, Scothern (1216–72)—'croft, small field' + scritta, probably with the sense 'devil, wizard', cf. ON skratti.
  • Grimesdic, Dunholme (1154–89)—'Grim's ditch', with reference to the Óðinn-name Grímr used as a synonym for the devil.
  • Grimeshow, Nettleham (1348–9)—'Grim's mound/barrow, ON haugr', with reference to the Óðinn-name Grímr used as a synonym for the devil.

The content of this post and page, including any original illustrations, is Copyright © Caitlin R. Green, 2020, All Rights Reserved, and should not be used without permission.

Saturday 7 November 2020

Some interesting early maps of Cornwall

This post is primarily intended to share images of some of the interesting early maps of Cornwall that still exist, dating from the medieval era through until the early seventeenth century, following on from a similar post on early maps of Lincolnshire. Details of each map and a brief discussion of the principal points of interest are provided in the captions to the following image gallery, which I aim to add to over time.

Detail from the Anglo-Saxon world map from Cotton MS Tiberius B V/1, dated c. 1025–50, probably drawn at Canterbury; click for a larger view. The map is in an unusual rectangular format and is believed to have been based on a model made during the Roman period. Many medieval mappa mundi don't offer any real indication of the Cornish peninsula, but this map clearly depicts it; the British Library notes that the size of the Cornish peninsula is exaggerated' and suggests that this is 'probably reflecting the importance of its copper and tin mines in the ancient world'. The image drawn on the Cornish peninsula is uncertain: it could be two figures fighting, possibly a reference to conflicts between the Britons of that area and the Anglo-Saxon kings of Wessex, as the BL suggests? (image: British Library).
Al-Idrīsī's mid-twelfth-century Arabic map of Britain, from a late sixteenth-century copy in the Bodleian Library, Oxford; the map is split across three different drawings which have been combined together here so that the whole island can be seen (Bodleian Library MS. Pococke 375 folios 281b-282a, 308b, 310b-311a)—click for a larger view. The map is orientated with south at the top, rather than north; the south coast of England runs right-to-left along the top of the map and then down to the bottom right corner. As with the Anglo-Saxon Cotton Map, which may be based on a lost Roman original, the Cornish peninsula is exaggerated and very obvious as the sharp-pointed finger of land on the right of the image, though no towns or rivers are named and the peninsula is noted only as 'the extremity of England'. For more on this map, see my note 'Al-Idrisi's twelfth-century map and description of eastern England', which includes Konrad Miller's redrawn and transliterated version of al-Idrīsī's map, and 'Islamic gold dinars in late eleventh- and twelfth-century England', which maps the towns al-Idrīsī depicts along the south coast, the most westerly of these being Dorchester, Dorset. (Image: Bodleian Library).
Map of Cornwall and the South-West, extracted from the map of England by Matthew Paris, c. 1250; click for a larger view. The names Cornwall, Devon, and Somerset are large labels written in blue and red ink, with Dorset written in red ink; Dorset is oddly placed north of Somerset and Devon is curiously to the north of both of these and slightly to the east of Dorset. The place-name on the far west of Cornwall is Bodmin, with Tintagel then to the north-east of this (above the label for Cornwall), whilst the next name to the east, on the south coast, is Dartmouth, with a river separating it from Totnes and the Scilly Isles then being depicted as an island immediately to the south of these names; the Corpus Christi College Library, Cambridge, version of this map (top half only) also mentions St Michael's Mount in Cornwall on its scale legend, but this is not depicted on this map. Note, the name next to the 'Cornwall' label and on the west of a bend of the river is Exeter, with Portsmouth written vertically below this to the east of Totnes. (Image: BL Cotton MS Claudius D VI, fol. 12v, via Wikimedia Commons).
A portolan chart of south-western England and southern Wales by Genoese cartographer Pietro Vesconte with north on the right, c. 1331, based on his earlier portolan sailing charts and mariners' reports; click for a larger view. The Cornish peninsula is clearly visible, as is the Bristol Channel, and various place-names are readable, including Mousehole, St Michael's Mount, Lizard, Falmouth, Fowey and Plymouth. Note, there is significantly more detail shown of the south coast of Cornwall than there is of the north (Image: British Library).
Close up of Cornwall and Devon on the fourteenth-century Gough Map (c. 1360), which has east at the top and north on the left, showing major roads, rivers and settlements. Cornwall and Devon are written in red on the map, along with a single routeway marked in red moving from the top of the map (east) and ultimately London through to the tip of Cornwall. Important places are marked by drawings of buildings/churches of varying sizes; the names are very difficult to decipher, but the road is believed to terminate at Iwes, St Ives, which is potentially a point of some interest with regard to St Ives's local import. Other places on the map have been identified as Bodmin, Boscastle, Camelford, Fowey, ?Launceton, Liskeard, Looe, Lostwithiel, Padstow, Penzance, Redruth, St Buryan, St Colomb, St Germans, St Michael's Mount, ?Stratton, ?Tintagel, Tregony, and Truro. (Image: Wikimedia Commons).
A redrawn version of the Gough Map showing more clearly the details of the Devon and Cornwall; note, only a few of the names are transcribed on this; click image for a larger view. (Image: Ordnance Survey, 1875).
A portolan sailing chart of Cornwall drawn by Grazioso Benincasa of Ancona, Italy, dated 1466, showing numerous places including Mousehole, Falmouth, Fowey and Portsmouth. It is worth comparing this to the c. 1331 chart by Pietro Vesconte, above, as there is slightly more detail of the north coast, with two bays shown, perhaps St Ives Bay and Padstow/the Camel Estuary. (Image: BnF).
Another, slightly later portolan sailing chart of Cornwall drawn by Visconte Maggiolo of Genoa, Italy, dated 1510; a comparison with the previous portolans of c. 1331 and 1466 shows that there had been further development of the north coast of Cornwall and Devon. (Image: British Library, Egerton MS. 2803 f. 6v).
Extract from the Angliae Figura showing Cornwall and Devon (click image for a larger view), a vellum map probably created in the 1530s and perhaps hanging at Hampton Court as the property of Henry VIII; both this map and the Gough Map are thought to derive from a common source map dating from around 1290. The coastline of Cornwall and Devon is included in this extract, with Devon, Cornwall and Exeter labelled in red. A significant number of place-names in Cornwall are also labelled, including St Just, St Buryan, St Ives, Lelant, St Michael's Mount, St Columb, Falmouth, Padstow, Bodmin, Tintagel, St Austell and Looe; there are also reasonable depictions of the Hayle Estuary, the Fal Estuary, and the Tamar river. (Image: British Library).
The Cornish section of a detailed, ten-foot-long map of south-west coast of England from Exeter to Lands End, dated 1539-40; click here for a zoomable version. According to the British Library, this map is the result of an order by Thomas Cromwell in 1539 for the coasts to be surveyed by local people, with these then being edited and compiled and then presented to King Henry VIII and displayed in Whitehall; the intent was to show where foreign invaders might land, with forts and intended-but-unmade forts marked. The following images consist of details taken from this map. (Image: British LibraryCotton Augustus I. i. 35).
St Ives Bay and the Hayle Estuary on the above 1539-40 map of Cornwall, showing St Ives' church, medieval harbour and the fortification built in 1490 known as 'The Castle' (perhaps modern Quay House on the harbour beach), Phillack Church in the Towans (sand-dunes) of St Ives Bay, and Lelant; click image for a larger view (Image: British Library, Cotton Augustus I. i. 35).
Mount's Bay in around 1540 under a hypothetical invasion scenario, showing Mousehole on the top right, Penzance on the bottom right, St Michael's Mount in the bay, and Chapel Rock between the Mount and Marazion still with its chapel upon it. (Image: British Library, Cotton MS Augustus I i 34)
The Cornish peninsula on the France page of Mercator's Atlas of Europe, which was based on his 1554 wall map of Europe (p. 10). (Image: British Library, Maps C.29.c.13)
Gerard Mercator's engraving of a map of Cornwall, originally produced in 1564 and put together into atlas form in the 1570s; north is on the right hand side for this map, which is thought to have been simply engraved by Mercator from an English original, possibly produced by John Elder to assist the French or Spanish in planning an invasion to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I. It is worth noting that the map offers more detail than many earlier maps, but also has a notable number of inaccuracies, such as the placement of St Michael's Mount as inland rather than in Mount's Bay and St Ives on the east of the Hayle Estuary. (Image: British Library, Maps C.29.c.13).
A section from the detailed Map of Cornwall by William Saxton, dated 1576, included in the atlas of Lord Burghley, first published 1579; click the image for a larger view of this section and here for zoomable version of the entire map. (Image: British Library, Royal MS. 18. D.III, f.8r).
A full view of a different copy of the Map of Cornwall by William Saxton, dated 1576; click the image for a larger view of this map. (Image: British Library).
A map of Falmouth Haven from the atlas of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, dated 1595. It takes the form of a bird's eye view of Falmouth Haven, with St Mawes and its larger sister castle, Pendennis at the mouth. (Image: British Library, Royal MS. 18. D.III, f.16).
Proof version of John Speed's 1611/12 map of Cornwall, which closely followed the Saxton map of 1576 in offering a much more accurate and detailed depiction of the county, but includes additional settlements, rivers and other details; a zoomable version of this map is available here. Speed's map also includes a plan of Launceston and drawings of some stones, including The Hurlers. (Image: Cambridge University).
A map of Cornwall and Devon with places and rivers represented anthropomorphically, drawn by William Hole and used to illustrate Michael Drayton's Poly-Olbionfrom a copy dated 1622; click the image for a closer view or here for a zoomable version. The maps from Poly-Olbion are particularly interested in the rivers of Cornwall and the other counties of England, and depict a nymph for each major river; these are shown 'disporting themselves in a variety of engaging poses', as the Society of Antiquaries puts it(Image: David Rumsey).

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