Maps through the ages with Dr Bill Shannon

Dr. Bill Shannon gave a very interesting and informative talk to members on Friday 11 April on the development of maps from Roman times to the 18th century with the emphasis on the mediaeval and early modern period. It was subtitled Hic Abundant Leones ; Here be lions.

He explained how the world was understood in ancient times and that in the Greek and Roman world scientists believed the world was round and this can be proved from maps. He explained how maps were made for many purposes. Ptolemaic maps were used for astrological purposes. Maps were made for understanding the Classical world. These usually had the Mediterranean in the middle. An Anglo-Saxon map c. 1025-1060 was based on an Irish map of c. 800 which itself was based on Roman originals. There were other maps which were made for sailing directions. In the mediaeval period maps were often used for didactic purposes; mainly for teaching the Christian faith. They usually showed Jerusalem at the centre of the world with the earthly paradise of the Garden of Eden at the top of the world with Heaven above with Christ in Majesty at the top of that. e.g. Mappa Mundi in Hereford cathedral. Interestingly Jesus was often portrayed with the Earth as an orb in his hand thus confirming that in mediaeval times it was believed that the earth was round.There is a stained glass window in St. Andrew’s church Leyland which has a picture of Christ with the orb of the Earth in his hand.

In later times maps were made for the more modern purpose of allowing people to find their way about. One of the first was Gough’s map of 1350. During the sixteenth century maps were produced that provided the government’s view of England and Wales and were also produced for propaganda purposes e.g. the Armada maps. In 1675 Ogilby’s Brittanica map was published which was in strip form with routes printed that could be followed from one place to another. There were many kinds of maps produced for different purposes e.g estate maps for identifying property and dispute maps for resolving territorial disagreements. Dr Shannon then concluded his talk by bringing maps up to the present day.

Review submitted by Jeanette Dobson

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