The British Library
homeHome  >   Online Gallery  >   Virtual books

The Mercator Atlas of Europe - Pages 15 and 16

Image of Mercator Atlas of Europe - Pages 15 and 16
Copyright © The British Library Board

The British Isles and Greenland, f.6

The British Isles map was composed using extracts from at least two copies of Mercator's 1554 map of Europe. One of Mercator's principle sources was almost certainly George Lily's map of the British Isles, printed in Rome in 1546. Although English and Scottish mapmakers had made considerable advances in mapping the British Isles in the 16th century, there were no printers in England to make their maps widely available. Most maps remained in manuscript form, and were often kept under lock and key by the government. Such sources of information could be very valuable to enemy powers.

Overall, Mercator's lack of direct experience of the British Isles is shown by a number of mistakes and omissions. Well-known features such as Manchester and Snowdon are not marked, several county names - Norfolk, Surrey, marked as "Soutshiry", and Sussex - are written as if they were villages. Major English royal castles, including Windsor, are missing while much less important castles such as Barnard's Castle are included.

The map of Greenland is made up from extracts from at least two copies of Mercator's 1569 world map. The details of the Scottish islands and Iceland are reasonably good, but Greenland itself is very sketchy. Mercator has also added an entirely imaginary island, Frisland, below Greenland. Although Greenland had been settled by Vikings, very little was known of the area in the 16th century.

  < Pages 13 and 14  

This version of Turning the Pages does not require the Shockwave plug-in. It foregoes the interactive animation that lets you 'virtually' turn pages and brings you the same high-quality images of our greatest books in standard web pages.

You can listen to the audio files on these pages with Windows Media Player

Accessibility Terms of use Site map
Copyright The British Library Board