People in the medieval world were remarkably well travelled and huge leaps were made in the extent and precision of cartography in the late Middle Ages. This article traces 500 years of development in maps of Britain from the first known map of the British Isles to Gerard Mercator’s 16th century atlas.
1. Canterbury Map – 1025-50
This Anglo-Saxon map is the earliest known representation of Britain on a map.
2. Map of Britain by Matthew Paris – 13th Century
Paris was a Benedictine monk who was well known in 13th century England for writing and illustrating several manuscripts including a number of maps. This particular image of Britain features around 250 named towns.
3. The Gough Map – 14th Century
Donated to the Bodlian Library in the 19th century, the Gough map is the earliest known map of Britain to give a detailed representation of the country’s roads.
4. Portolan Chart by Pietro Visconte – c. 1325
Portolan charts were key to maritime navigation in the medieval world. This representation of Britain comes from a larger navigational chart covering the whole of Western Europe.
5. Britannia Insula by George Lily – 1548
Lily’s map is believed to be the first printed map of the British Isles.
6. Anglia and Hibernia by Sebastian Munster – 1550
Munster was a Franciscan monk who took an interest in geography throughout his career. This map of Britain was one of a number of maps he produced, including maps of mainland Europe. He also translated Ptolemy’s ‘Geographica’ and published it with his own illustrations.
7. England with the Adjoining Kingdom, Scotland by Sebastian Munster – 1554
Produced in 1554 for his translation of Ptolomey’s Geographica, this map shows a significant improvement from Munster’s 1550 map of the island.
8. Anglia and Hibernia Nova by Girolamo Ruscelli – 1561
Ruscelli was an Italian cartographer who published extensively throughout the first part of the 16th century.
9. England and Scotland by Giovanni Camucio – 1575
10. Anglia Regnum by Gerard Mercator – 1595
Now probably the most famous cartographer of the late medieval period, Gerard Mercartor was the first person to use the term ‘atlas’ to describe a collection of maps. This map of Britain is taken from one of Mercator’s early Atlases.