Friday, March 26, 2010

Guest Blogger Judith B. Glad on Maps

I love maps. In fact, I depend on them so much that I can't write without a map of the places I'm writing about. That's fine when my story takes place in the recent past, but what about when it happened a couple of hundred years ago?

Old maps are hard to obtain, unless one has deep pockets. Many of them are only available in the larger libraries, often far, far from home. If they are reachable without international travel, staff tend to laugh uproariously when one asks to borrow them. They are also available from dealers in art and antiquities, for prices ranging from a mere arm and leg to one's soul.

Even Google is woefully thin when one searches for old maps of England. I was recently disappointed to find only three pages of links, and many of them were duplicates. The rest led to dealers, and we've already noted their cravings for arms and legs and other irreplaceable body parts.

A number of years ago I was doing some research at the University of Oregon's Map Library. Fabulous place for someone like me, and I kept getting distracted from what I was supposed to be doing every time I ran across an interesting map. The very best one was actually a set of very large maps, copies of an old Ordnance Survey map of England, published, I believe around 1840 (It's been a long time and I've misplaced my notes). Each map was about two-thirds of a meter high, a full meter across. The scale was probably around 1:5,280 (one inch to the mile--England hadn't gone metric yet), which is a very large scale indeed. Topography was shown with little drawings of mountain peaks and tiny cliffs. Major rivers were winding ribbons and brooks were squiggly lines. What made them fascinating to me was the labels. Estates, farms, cities and town, and even cemeteries were labeled. Wikipedia has an excellent overview of the various Ordnance surveys ( ).

While they tell little about the people who lived there, the Ordnance Survey maps tell quite a lot about where they lived and why. Topography and drainage has a lot to do with choosing a home site or a location for a village. They also have a tremendous influence on the locations of roads, many of which just happened. Unlike our modern freeways, early roads went where walking was easiest, where one could haul a cart filled with firewood, where a stage on a tight schedule could make good time.
Here's a small section from a topographical map of England, published by Oxford University Press, on which I've marked the approximate locations of our favorite places: London, Brighton and Bath. If I ever write about a race between London and Brighton, guess where I'll look first (short of seeing for myself), so see what sort of topography Our Hero will face.

Maps are essential if places matter to a story. I found this lovely little map in a book titled A Hundred Years of Georgian England, from the accession of George I to the heyday of the Regency (Hastings House Publisher, New York; ISBN 8038-5365-3). The shaded areas show built-up areas in 1730, the rest was filled in by 1830. Imagine someone going off to seek his fortune in India in 1796. What changes he would see when he returns in 1811.

Maps are not, of course, substitutes for going there and seeing for yourself. They do, however, greatly enrich your understanding of a place. And when you do go there, be sure to take a map along, because without it you'll be lost.
On her way to a career as a writer, Judith B. Glad made a lot of detours, but eventually she decided she had to write those books that had been growing in her head for years—romances all. She believes every story should have a happy ending, even if it requires two or three hankies to get there.

After growing up in Idaho—the locale of several of her books—Judith now lives in Oregon, where flowers bloom in her yard every month of the year and snow usually stays on the mountains where it belongs. It's a great place to write, because the rainy season lasts for eight months—a perfect excuse to stay indoors and tell stories.

Visit Judith's webpage at to learn more about her books. While you're there, take some side trips to view early 20th century picture postcards, read about 5,000 ways to earn a living, and see what a Mentzelia really is.

The Portrait: A Regency Fable

By Judith B. Glad
Lord and Lady Curran expect their daughter's portrait to convince potential suitors of her beauty, her worth and her desirability. Of course, it must also show her as a perfect, obedient, demure lady.

Kermit Sutherland is a popular portraitist, so of course he is engaged to produce the portrait. What Chastity's parents don't understand is that Sutherland paints more than the surface. He has a knack for seeing into a woman's heart and soul.

Under her obedient fa├žade, Chastity harbors a rebellious heart, and Sutherland sees it and encourages it. When her portrait is finished, it might show more than her parents--or she--have bargained for.

From Uncial Press (
ISBN 978-1-60174-073-1


Jana Richards said...

Hi Jude and Lesley,
I hadn't thought of using maps in my research, apart from checking the distance from point A to point B. But Jude's blog made me realize what an important and useful tool a map can be. I'll remember your blog when I work on my World War 2 story.


Joanna Waugh said...

Great blog, Judith. I too love maps! I have the 9th Edition (1821) of Cary's New Itinerary with a fold out map in the front of all the major roads in England. In addition, I have a modern travel atlas of Great Britain. Perhaps my most unusual map is one of Toulon France's battlements that I purchased years ago. It was removed from Mr. Tindal's Continuation of Mr. Rapin's History of England, published in the 1700s.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

I always have to have a map handy when I'm writing, so I really enjoyed Jude's post. Joanna, I'd love to have a Cary's--I am envious! Jana, I would suppose a map would help greatly for WWII stories--things have changed so much in the intervening 60 years.