Exploring the Artifacts: English Maps

Continuing our exploration of 17th-century maps (see my last featurette here), we look at yet another map in the Manor House:

Map of Buckinghamshire – by Danielle Straub

In the Manor House’s Withdrawing Room, there is a map on the far wall across from the rope. This map is small and hard to see from across the room, but up close one can see vibrant colors and beautiful ornamentation. I wanted to point this map out because not only is it beautiful, but also because it is an interesting specimen of maps from the 1600’s.  Be sure and click on the images to open a larger view.

I mentioned in the last Featurette characteristics of older maps, if some may recall, which I will be using again in this article. Our map is of Buckinghamshire in England, from 1610. Since this map is 100 years older than our Pennsylvania map (also seen in the last Featurette, follow link above to view), we can see more decoration and the use of mythical creatures.

To begin, in the center of the map is the main map of Buckinghamshire. Noted on the map are man-made features such as towns, cites, and bridges. The towns and cites are marked by a symbol of small buildings with a red dot of watercolor over it. Our mapmaker seemed to use red and yellow watercolors more than the others! These colors are splashed across the crests, fleur de lis, and well-inked lions. Getting back to the central map, the natural features that we placed on the map include hills, mountains, trees, and rivers. The shape of the hills and mountains appear to be anywhere from a bump to a rounded peak, while rivers are a consistent bold line. The trees stand alone at places or are placed in clusters as well on the map.

At the top corners are inset boxes. The box on the left is of Buckinghamshire and on the right is Redding. These insets are like mini maps to important cities and include their own compass, distance scale, crest, and key. They show the roads, river, groups of buildings, fields, and is decorated with oversized farmers and their animals. The key is for the street names which each have a corresponding letter or number on the map. The inset of Redding also labels the South Giles Church and the school in Redding.

Lastly, in the bottom corners are arches. These arches have titles held up above them by two cupids. In the arch on the left is the King’s crest and below are crossed lances and flags with a crown. Across the lances is a banner which reads “UNION”. In the arch on the right are four crests with the title of “The Armes of thofe Honorable Families which have born ye Titles of Buckingha(m)”. The family crests include those of “Walter Gifford Earle, Richard Stanbowe E., Thomas of Wodftoke E., and Humfr. Stafforde Duke”. This map is beautiful and was a symbol of pride for these families to be from Buckinghamshire. If you ever get a chance to see it close up, please go view and enjoy it.

**A big THANK YOU to Danielle Straub for her work on these summer featurettes and helping our curator Todd with his work in Pennsbury’s archives!**

Exploring the Artifacts: Colonial Mapmaking

Colonial Mapmaking

This is, as stated on the artifact, “A MAPP OF YE IMPROVED PENSILVANIA IN AMERICA DIVIDED INTO COUNTIES TOWNSHIPS ANDLOTS. SURVEYED BY THO.HOLMES SOLD BY P.LEA. DEDICATED TO WILLIAM PENNBY INO HARRIS”. This print, shown above, is on display located in the porch of the House, above the fireplace. The map shows Philadelphia and the land along the Delaware River from New Castle to Pennsbury. It is an early 18th century map that is 26 ¼ by 20 ¾ inches in size. It is on white paper done in black printer’s ink and some watercolors.

Some features of the map include the crest of Pennsbury, decorations depicting a full net of fish and a harvest of food with farming tools in the top center, signifying prosperity and the abundance of resources. Key of the map include a scale of distance, compass, and in the top left and right corners there are boxes that say, “REFERS TO SETTLEMENTS OF SEVERAL INHABITANTS IN THE COUNTY OF CHESTER/ BUCKSANDPHILADELPHIA”. Terrain features shown on the map consists of rivers, islands in the Delaware River, trees which symbolize not only forests, but perhaps how dense the forests were by showing trees close to each other and some spread out, and clumps of buildings symbolizing settlements, such as on this map “Newcafle” and “Bridlington”. On the top center of the page is a close up of Philadelphia, which is quite significant in its layout. The Fire of 1666 in London destroyed most of the city. The main problem in London’s design was how close the building was to one another, thus the fire was able to spread more easily. William Penn saw this flaw and he designed Philadelphia to be organized in a grid pattern with plenty of open space between buildings. This map is not only an important resource to us in learning what the landscape looked like back then, but also how map making progressed through time. 

Maps with color and decoration such as this one began to appear in the 17th Century. Over time, maps got grander in their decoration, showing anything from Roman gods to mythical creatures to historical or biblical events unfolding on land or at sea. Along the boarders were sometimes family crests or university crests to show the power and prestige of the areas that the map showed. Close up boxes of important areas could also be found somewhere on the map. Small pictures of terrain features were also prevalent, showing forests, hills, mountains, wildlife, castles, settlements and bodies of water, to name a few. Map keys for distance measurements and other features were always on maps, just like they are today.

In comparison with old and modern maps, our maps shows at least one characteristic of both. Compared to old maps, our map does not have any references to biblical, historical, or mythological themes. It was done in color, though it has faded over time, and the crest of Pennsbury is featured on it, which is also shown in older maps. In comparison to modern maps, our map differs by having land plots with the owner’s name on it, beautiful symbolic decorations, differences in landscape, and is less accurate geographically. The most common feature that mostly every map has is a key for which anyone could figure out and find their way.


 By Danielle Straub

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