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Plan of Portsmouth from 1545

Plan of Portsmouth from 1545

Cartographer: Unknown

Medium: Ink and tempera on parchment

Date: 1545

Shelfmark: Cotton Augustus I.i f.81

Length: 793

Width: 641

Scale: Millimetres

Genre: Plan

Although unremarkable in appearance this map of Portsmouth is of great significance in the context of the history of cartography. Dating from 1545 this plan is in fact the earliest map of any town in Britain to be drawn entirely to scale.

Unlike many maps or plans of the period no attempts to show features of the town pictorially have been made, making this plan closer to what we now perceive as a plan than many of its contemporaries. Few parallel examples of plans of this date, drawn entirely to scale, exist anywhere else in Europe. The plan sets out proposals for improving the defences of the town after the events of July 19th when the French and English fleets met in Spithead, the Mary Rose was sunk and the French landed on the nearby Isle of Wight.
The plan shows a transverse rampart and ditch which cuts off the north east section of the walled area cut off from the rest of the town. The idea of adding an angle-bastion of contemporary Italian type to the south east rampart is indicated in pencil. The alterations shown here were not carried out but the proposals are of importance none the less as they show the earliest scheme for fortifying an English town with a fully flanked bastion system in the Italian style.

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