Map of Britain by Matthew Paris, Royal MS 14 C. VII


This map 13th century map by Matthew Paris from the Royal manuscripts collection, is one of four early maps of Britain created to accompany his chronicles. This map of the British Isles is the least detailed of the four, and bears little resemblance to his more highly finished version. Despite the lack of detail and distorted shape of the isles, significant geographical landmarks such as Snowdonia and the Thames are identifiable, and significant settlements are clearly annotated. The inscription ‘Britain, now called England' (‘Britannia nunc dicta Anglia’) may be a hint of the derivation of the map's outline from a world map of Roman origin.

Matthew Paris produced the most important historical writings of the 13th century. His chief work, the ‘Chronica Major’, chronicled events from the creation of the world until 1259, the year he died. For its greater part, the ‘Chronica Major’ is a revision and expansion of an existing chronicle by an earlier St Alban’s monk, called Roger of Wendover. From 1235 onwards, however, it’s the first-hand record of events the author heard about or witnessed for himself.

Paris is one of the most engaging of medieval chroniclers. His accounts are detailed and well informed, with lively descriptions of people involved and analysis of the causes and significance of the events recorded. Matthew’s connections made him a well-placed observer of contemporary affairs. He was on personal terms both with the king, Henry III, and his influential brother, Richard, Earl of Cornwall. At their courts he must have gained many insights into domestic and foreign politics.

Full title:
Map of Britain by Matthew Paris, Royal MS 14 C. VII
mid-13th century
Matthew Paris
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
British Library, Royal MS 14 C. VII, f.5v

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