Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Oldest Map of Britain

Perhaps the very first reasonably geographically accurate depiction of the British Isles can be found in the Anglo-Saxon Mappa Mundi from the Cotton manuscript collection. The map was created sometime between 1025 and 1050, probably in Canterbury England.

You can explore interactive digitized views of the Anglo Saxon Mappa Mundi on the Virtual Mappa Project or on the British Library website. To view the map on Virtual Mappa select 'Cotton World and Zonal Maps' and then 'Cotton World Map.

The British Library argues that the Anglo-Saxon Mappa Mundi contains "the earliest known, relatively realistic depiction of the British Isles". The British Isles had obviously been depicted in maps before - however the Anglo-Saxon Mappa Mundi depicts the British Isles more accurately than other contemporaneous maps. In fact there is a gap of about 200 years until a more accurate map of Britain appears in Matthew Paris' 13th Century Map of Britain.

The map, like most medieval maps, is orientated with East at the top. Europe, Asia, and Africa all feature on the map. The world view depicted in the map appears to derive from a number of different sources, including Roman maps, the Bible and Isidore of Seville.

The British Isles appear on the bottom left hand corner of the map. The Orkneys, Scillies, Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the Isle of Wight are all shown on the map. To the north-west of the British Isles is the Island of Tylen - this is Thule - the most northern location mentioned in ancient Greek and Roman literature and cartography. Thule has been identified by modern historians and cartographers as being just about every northern country from Norway to Iceland.

The Cornish Peninsula appears on the map as very elongated. Over Cornwall is a figure which has been variously interpreted as representing a city (such as Exeter) or two fighting men. London and Winchester are the only two cities which are actually named on the map. Also named are Morenwergas (possibly moor-dwellers), Cumri (Cumbria or Cambria) and Hibernia (Ireland).

You might also like:

The First Map of America
The First Map of Australia

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

youre jokign arent you ? Its not much better than prolomys map and that was nearly 1000 years earlier. Nor was that the earliest map either...