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Description of the Isle of Wight

Description of the Isle of Wight

Cartographer: White, William

Medium: Ink and tempera on parchment

Date: 1600

Shelfmark: Cotton Augustus I.i f.28

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Map

This map of the Isle of Wight dates from around 1600. It is titled on the reverse "Description of the Isle of Wight". A scale bar is included with the motif of dividers, stating ‘Scala Miliaria’, revealing that the map is drawn on a scale of half an inch to one mile. We can not be certain of the identity of the cartographer of this map but it may be one which is thought to have been produced by William White, which was then augmented and published by John Speed in his Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Both this map and the Speed map exaggerate the width of waterways, the depth of bays and prominence of headlands, in a similar way. Such exaggerations suggest that this map was not the result of survey and was drawn by eye. The beacon network on the island is shown by pictorial representations of individual beacons. The Needles are represented by three squat triangles and labelled ‘The nedles’. The period during which this map was produced saw England at war with Spain. The emphasis on the beacon network suggests that the map is concerned with defence in this climate of unease. Since the accession of the Protestant Elizabeth I to the English throne in 1558 Anglo-Spanish relationship had deteriorated. The continued English raids on Spanish colonial interests and England’s support of the Protestant rebellion in the Spanish ruled Netherlands had induced the Catholic Philip II to plan an invasion of England. Although the Spanish were dramatically defeated by the English in 1588, England remained at war with Spain for many years and further attempts to invade were made by Philip of Spain with the dispersal of the ‘second Armada’ in October 1596 and the assembly of the ‘third Armada’ in the following spring.

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