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ANGLIAE, SCOTIAE & Hiberniae Nova Descriptio - Plate 5

ANGLIAE, SCOTIAE & Hiberniae Nova Descriptio - Plate 5

Cartographer: Mercator, Gerard

Medium: Engraving

Date: 1564

Shelfmark: Maps.183.r.2 (facsimile)

Item number: Plate 5

Length: 443

Width: 323

Scale: Millimetres

Genre: Map

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This map of the British Isles is by Gerard Mercator. It dates from 1564 and was produced in Duisburg. It was a major new depiction of the British Isles at the time. It is a giant map, measuring approximately 3ft by 4ft and was engraved on 8 copper plates by Mercator himself. It is drawn on a scale of 14 miles to 1 inch.
Gerard Mercator was one of the greatest map makers ever known. He started his career as a professional instrument maker after finishing a masters degree at Louvain University and studying advanced mathematics. By the 1560s he was developing a new form of navigational projection.
It is likely that the draft from which Mercator developed this image of the British Isles was made by either Laurence Nowell or John Rudd, to whom Christopher Saxton was apprenticed. A few years before Mercator's map was published Laurence Nowell had produced pen-and-ink drawings of the British isles and by 1563 had compiled a manuscript atlas of 19 sheets which was never printed. It is possible that this unpublished atlas could have been used by Mercator as a source.
The significant developments made by Mercator's depiction is that the outline of Wales is considerably improved with the Bay of Cardigan shown for the very first time and Scotland is more accurately represented than previously, so much so that it remained unchanged on subsequent maps for the next 100 years. There are still inaccuracies though, notably that the representation of Ireland is incorrect, and the south coast of England is exaggerated in length by 15%, although it features more place names than before.

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