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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