Transforming topography

Changing ideas about the nature and purpose of views and records of place.


ummary: View across parkland with people fishing on the banks of the river to right, a woman and child on the path, pointing back at Windsor, which is seen among trees in the background and looking to left at a man who carries a placard inscribed 'Windsor from Datchet Lane Drawn 1769 Etch'd 1780'. Bears title inscribed in black ink below image on washline mount. Inscribed '11 tab fol 6' in blue crayon on verso.

Looking at topographical images

Article by:
Felicity Myrone

Suggestions from Felicity Myrone about how to approach and define topographical images.

Read More
[THE DISTRIBUTION OF HIS MAJESTY'S MAUNDY, BY THE SUB-ALMONER in the Chapel Royal, at WHITEHALL] / S.H. Grimm ad nat del.

What is K.Top?

Article by:
Felicity Myrone

George III's extensive collection of maps and views is known as the King's Topographical Collection or 'K.Top' for short. Felicity Myrone explores the history and extent of this rich collection, encompassing up to 40,000 items.

Read More
View of a Stone Bridge across the Valley and River at Risca in Monmouthshire after Edward Pugh

Landscape and Place

Article by:
John Barrell

Emeritus Professor John Barrell explores the 18th-century meanings of ‘landscape’ and ‘topography’ to reassess traditional definitions and distinctions.

Read More
Jullieberry Downs - The Absence of the Past, by Bob Chaplin and Stephen Bann.

Topography Now

Article by:
Stephen Bann

Emeritus Professor of History of Art at Bristol University, Stephen Bann, offers his thoughts on the concept of topography in contemporary art.

Read More
Johan Fredrik Martin (1755-1816) after Elias Martin (1739-1818), Stockholm sedt från Mose-Backe på Södermalm, 1805, etching and aquatint, 465 x 720 mm, Maps 35690.(15.).

Topography, iron-making and national identity in the 18th century – A British–Swedish comparison

Article by:
Mikael Ahlund

Mikael Ahlund explores the role British topography played in Scandinavia, paying particular attention to two Swedish artists, brothers Elias (1739-1818) and Johan Fredrik Martin (1755-1816). Having studied and worked in London, when they returned to Sweden in 1780 the brothers emerged as the country’s leading topographical artists, their paintings and drawings addressing contemporary debates about national identity, economics, and social order.

Read More
M. J. Starling after T. Allom, The Lion Brewery, Lambeth, for ‘A Topographical History of Surrey’ (Dorking: Robert Best Ede; & London: Tilt & Bogue, 1841-8), etching and engraving  British Library 1572/279]

Lambeth’s topographical image

Article by:
Amy Concannon

With important antiquarian sites like Lambeth Palace and places of popular entertainment like Vauxhall Gardens, the London parish of Lambeth was a rich resource for topographical artists and writers at the turn of the 19th century. It was also a landscape in flux: a traditional ‘rural retreat’ on the Surrey side of the Thames undergoing rapid urbanisation. With a particular focus on the work of Lambeth-born topographer Edward Wedlake Brayley (1773–1854), Amy Concannon explores how contemporary producers of topographical material – both visual and textual – negotiated the changing landscape of Lambeth.

Read More
A map of the roads through England, Wales and part of Scotland from Daniel Paterson's British Itinerary (1785)

The natural world through early modern strip maps: a narrow view of nature

Article by:
Daniel Maudlin

Drawing on the British Library’s collection of 18th-century road maps, travel guides and atlases, Daniel Maudlin considers how the road-building boom of Georgian Britain and British America transformed actual and imaginative experiences of travel.

Read More
View of Étretat in Normandy by Louis Garneray

Louis Garneray and topographical painting as border control

Article by:
Kelly Presutti

Kelly Presutti explores how topography was deployed as an instrument of state formation in Louis Garneray's Vues des Côtes de France.

Read More
Richard Reeve, after Samuel Rawle, Vauxhall on a Gala Night, from Modern London (London, Richard Phillips, 1804), etching, 10349.h.13 (plate opp.p.456)

Accumulating London

Article by:
Matthew Sangster

Advances in print technologies, a growing consumer base and the interventions of clever entrepreneurs led to a burgeoning of prints of London in the 18th and 19th century. Matthew Sangster considers the ways in which these prints represented and organised the city, placing them onto a digital map of London to reveal the geographical and cultural patterns they trace.

Read More
A view of a picnic on Staple Island by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm.

Topographical drawings at the British Library

Article by:
Ann Payne

Former Curator of Manuscripts at the British Library Ann Payne provides an introduction to the scope and content of the extensive collections of topographical drawings at the British Library.

Read More
Asia in its Principal Divisions (in box), by John Spilsbury.

Curious maps

Article by:
Ashley Baynton-Williams

Accuracy is generally prized over creativity, yet cartographers of all periods have had a sense of humour. Ashley Baynton-Williams explains how mapmakers often use their artistic talents to create maps not only for geographical purposes but for the pleasure and entertainment of others, or simply to explore the possibilities of the map as an art form.

Read More
Iwan Bala (1956–), Cymru Ewropa, 2005, mixed media, Indian Khadi paper, 75 x 56 cm, private collection.

(Dis)trusting maps

Article by:
Damian Walford Davies

Maps are often perceived as objective or ‘truthful’ representations of geographical data. In this article, Damian Walford Davies shows how they can also be vehicles for artistic or imaginative content, symbols, political agendas and cultural messages.

Read More
The entry of a Viceroy into Naples

The collection of Cassiano dal Pozzo at the British Library

Article by:
Mark McDonald

Cassiano dal Pozzo's collection of prints and drawings is one of the most important collections of the early modern period. It was an attempt to embrace the entirety of human knowledge through visual media. Mark McDonald reviews some of the prints acquired by George III and now held at the British Library.

Read More
A view of Irnham Mill from the Luttrell Psalter.

Early topographical drawings

Article by:
Ann Payne

When does topography begin? Ann Payne, former Curator of Manuscripts at the British Library, describes early examples of topographical views from the British Library’s collections.

Read More
The feast of the gods, by Claes Jansz Visscher after David Vinckboons.

Terra incognita: the Beudeker Collection

Article by:
Anna Simoni

An introduction to the Beudeker Collection of maps and views of the Netherlands and Belgium in the British Library by the late Anna E. C. Simoni.

Read More
The Holy Bible ... Carefully printed from the first edition - compared with others - of the present translation. With notes by ... Thomas Wilson, D.D., Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man: and various renderings collected from other translations by the Reverend Clement Cruttwell, the editor. Bath : R. Cruttwell, 1785.

Fore-edge landscapes

Article by:
Alice Rylance-Watson

Alice Rylance-Watson explores the practice of fore-edge painting – the painting of an image on the edge of a book.

Read More
Pieter de Jode (1570-1634), El Juego Real de Cupido, Otramente Llamado el Passa Tiempo de Amor, published by Pieter de Jode, Antwerp, around 1620, etching, 38 x 50 cm, Maps * 999.(1.)

The Royal Game of Cupid: a 17th-century board game

Article by:
Marjolein Leesberg

An engraved game, the Game of Cupid, was printed in the Spanish Netherlands in about 1620 and is a unique treasure in the British Library’s map collections. Marjolein Leesberg explores its origins and development.

Read More
The Reading Room, 1857, medium, dimensions, published in The Illustrated London News, vol.30, 8 May 1857 (London: Illustrated London News & Sketch Ltd., 1842

Quart into a pint pot: the accommodation problems of the British Museum Library

Article by:
Phil Harris

The King’s Topographical Collection joined an ever-expanding collection at the British Museum. Phil Harris looks at the changes made to the British Museum and British Library to cope with the volume of material they contain.

Read More
A view of Fountains Abbey by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm.

British topography: ‘Our real national art form’?

Article by:
Felicity Myrone

Felicity Myrone explores how topographical art has been defined and categorised since the 18th century – by artists, critics, art historians and collectors.

Read More
View of the back of Whitehall with figures sitting in the foreground; ruins in the middle ground; a horse and cart on the right. Paper bears a Whatman watermark.

Putting topography in its place

Article by:
Felicity Myrone

Felicity Myrone explores how the ‘placing’ of topography and the collections’ perceived status and current accessibility at the British Library is the result of complex and often unintentional sequences of events.

Read More

Prints and drawings at the British Museum and British Library

Article by:
Felicity Myrone

Felicity Myrone explores how prints and drawings are generally encountered in museum and library collections, and how this affects their meaning and status.

Read More
Lithograph of Castel Gandolfo by William Gauci

Topography and the historic shelving schemes at the British Library

Article by:
Adrian Edwards

Throughout the last 400 years librarians and curators have taken different approaches to classify topographical collections. Adrian Edwards, Head of Printed Heritage Collections at the British Library, explores the historic shelving schemes and traces the development of their organisation.

Read More

Topography ‘being in no respect like it’: illustrations of Carlisle Cathedral

Article by:
Grant Lewis

Grant Lewis traces the use and re-use of a highly inaccurate image of Carlisle Cathedral, and asks what this problematic case-study tells us about the workings of the London print trade.

Read More
A view of Fountains Abbey by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm.

British topography: ‘Our real national art form’?

Article by:
Felicity Myrone

Felicity Myrone explores how topographical art has been defined and categorised since the 18th century – by artists, critics, art historians and collectors.

Read More
View of the back of Whitehall with figures sitting in the foreground; ruins in the middle ground; a horse and cart on the right. Paper bears a Whatman watermark.

Putting topography in its place

Article by:
Felicity Myrone

Felicity Myrone explores how the ‘placing’ of topography and the collections’ perceived status and current accessibility at the British Library is the result of complex and often unintentional sequences of events.

Read More

Prints and drawings at the British Museum and British Library

Article by:
Felicity Myrone

Felicity Myrone explores how prints and drawings are generally encountered in museum and library collections, and how this affects their meaning and status.

Read More

18th-century country house guidebooks: tools for interpretation and souvenirs

Article by:
Jocelyn Anderson

Jocelyn Anderson discusses the emergence of 18th-century country house tourism, focusing on the publication of visitor guidebooks.

Read More
Titlepage of Johan Fischerström's Utkast til beskrifning om Mälaren (Draft for a Description of Lake Mälaren) published in 1785.

The first published picturesque description of Sweden – Johan Fischerström

Article by:
Mikael Ahlund

Mikael Ahlund explores Johan Fischerström's 1785 description of Lake Mälaren in Sweden, which includes one of the first recorded uses of the term 'picturesque' in Sweden.

Read More
An etching of Andra Fallet vid Husqvarna, published in Jonas Carl Linnerhielm's 'Bref under resor i Sverige'.

The travel journals of “the first Swedish tourist” – Jonas Carl Linnerhielm

Article by:
Mikael Ahlund

The traveller and writer Jonas Carl Linnerhielm celebrated the natural beauty of the Swedish landscape within the picturesque tradition through his writings and etchings. Mikael Ahlund examines Linnerhielm’s three publications and reflects on the impact of the writer known as “the first Swedish tourist”.

Read More
A pencil and watercolour drawing of Landwade Hall, Cambridgeshire by John Chessell Buckler.

The Buckler topographical collection: a dynastical reading

Article by:
Joshua Mardell

Joshua Mardell examines the architectural and topographical works of the Buckler family.

Read More
A woodcut map of Peking from c.1900.

Industry and Empire: the town plans of the 19th century

Article by:
James Elliot

James Elliot explores the development of town plans through technical and social change during the 19th century.

Read More
A Fire Insurance Plan of the City of Leeds.

Fire and the sword

Article by:
James Elliot

James Elliot discusses town and city maps from the 17th to the 19th century, and the ways in which they reflect the issues of urban growth.

Read More
A hand-coloured impression of a print of Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire, after J.M.W. Turner, published in 1832.

Literature and the transformation of topography: the case of Kenilworth Castle, 1700–1850

Article by:
Dale Townshend

Dale Townshend examines the cultural transformation of the ruined Tudor palace at Kenilworth following the publication of Sir Walter Scott's tragic romance in 1821.

Read More
A watercolour of the Keep of Goodrich Castle about 1800-1810

Goodrich Castle: antiquity and nature versus thingummies

Article by:
Julian Mitchell

Renowned scriptwriter and playwright Julian Mitchell offers a fascinating case study of how history could be appreciated and invented through the experience of landscape.

Read More
‘Abbatia Divi Andrae’, engraving, from Antonius Sanderus, Flandria Illustrata (Ghent, 1641)

Chorography and natural philosophy in late 17th century England

Article by:
Nick Grindle

Nick Grindle explores the relationship between text and pictorial topographical representations in the genre of chorography during the 17th century.

Read More
A linear map showing the route from London to Beauvais from Matthew Paris's Itinerary from London to the Holy Land.

Introducing medieval maps

Article by:
P.D.A. Harvey

P.D.A. Harvey provides an overview of the origins and form of maps in the middle ages.

Read More
Map of Scotland by John Harding

Medieval maps of regions

Article by:
P.D.A. Harvey

P.D.A. Harvey explores medieval maps of regions.

Read More
Map of Palestine by Matthew Paris

Medieval local maps

Article by:
P.D.A. Harvey

Very few local medieval maps survive. P.D.A. Harvey explores how medieval local maps were created and used.

Read More
Wolrd map by Ranulph Higden, dated 1400

World maps before 1400

Article by:
P.D.A. Harvey

How did mappae mundi develop before 1400? P.D.A Harvey investigates.

Read More
Portolan chart by Pietro Vesconte.

Portolan charts before 1400

Article by:
P.D.A. Harvey

What is a portolan chart? P.D.A. Harvey explores 14th century navigational maps.

Read More
1489 chart of the Aegean from the Cornaro atlas.

Maps of the 15th century

Article by:
P.D.A. Harvey

P.D.A. Harvey explores the development of world maps and portolan charts in the 15th century.

Read More

Further themes

Antiquarianism

How did amateurs, collectors and enthusiasts record the past before the development of history as a modern discipline?

Country

Idyllic views, working landscapes and natural wonders: explore the allure of picturing the countryside.

Military and maritime

Before photography, what role did handmade images play in military and maritime enterprise?

Science and nature

Discover images of the natural world treated as objects of fascination.

Town and city

Pictures of the built environment: how do they reveal religious, political and social history?

Transforming topography

Changing ideas about the nature and purpose of views and records of place.