Friday, April 2, 2010

More on Maps - My Favourite Resources

I never write without a map on my desk. Town maps, country maps, county maps and atlases; they are an everlasting delight. I find a map an absolute necessity for historical writing--the world looked very different in the past, no matter what era. Even for contemporary stories, a map can ground you, and it provides you place and street names and directions that add verisimilitude to your story.

Thank you, Jude for your informative post last week, and for making me think about how much I depend on maps. I realize I need to work more with topographical maps than I do. They are lovely things, and with the variety of landscape in Britain, I could use more knowledge about hills and dales and valleys and downs. I am, after all, a girl from the very flat NA prairie.

There are several books of maps that I absolutely rely on in my Regency writing. The County Maps of Old England by Thomas Moule (ISBN: 1851704035 / 1-85170-403-5), published originally in 1836 is one of my mainstays. Of course I have to keep in mind that even it is fifteen to twenty years later than my era, but neverthless it is invaluable. The original title page is a delight. 

  Likewise, Pigot & Co's British Atlas comprising the Counties of England etc etc. (ISBN: 1858336597 / 1-85833-659-7) is fascinating. This book is from 1840 however and already includes railway information, so one has to be very careful is using it.

Another essential is my Town and City Maps of the British Isles 1800-1855 [(ISBN: 185170941X / 1-85170-941-X) Ashley Baynton-Williams]. Again care must be taken with the dating of the maps, but they are remarkable. This illustration is the town of Chichester in 1812:  

I use a contemporary atlas of Great Britain in concert with these old maps in order to refine distances and other details. It is possible to obtain very large scale current maps and those I find particularly useful for a close-up view of the area in which my story is set The DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Portrait of Britiain has street maps of towns and snippets of history that are excellent.

London is another place where period maps are essential to the writer of fiction. Fortunately they can be found for nearly any period. The A-Z of Regency London from the London Topographical Society is the bible of Regency writers; there are A-Z's of other periods also available. I have also a book titled The Timeline History of London which has several useful maps, and, as the title, indicates a timeline chart that is super.

An on-line search for maps turns up all kinds of websites, and there are many that sell reproduction of period maps. Two of my favourite sites for these maps are PrintsGeorge (that tongue-in-cheek compendium of all things Regency/Georgian) and

Next week we'll talk about something different, but for now, get out a map and travel to a different time and place!

'Til next time,



Shannon said...

I've found that maps are vital no matter what genre you're writing. Even if the location is entirely fictitious, it's worth having a map, no matter how crudely drawn. After all, there will always be an eagle-eyed reader who points out that the supermarket that had taken an hour to reach in Chapter 3 is reached in five minutes in Chapter 5.

I find your map of Chichester incredibly beautiful, by the way.

Linda Banche said...

I love maps, too. I also have THE COUNTY MAPS OF OLD ENGLAND. Buying it was quite a thrill--I paid such a small amount for a used copy, and it came all the way from England!

I have to learn how to use Google Earth so I can see the topography.

Here's the link to the Ordnance maps online:

The maps are a little hard to read, but at least they're there.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

I quite agree Shannon. When I made up a village for 'The Disadvantaged Gentleman', so much of the action took place there that I had to draw a map of it to understand the movements of the characters.

About the Chichester map--all the maps in Town and City Maps of the British Isles are gorgeous...

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

Oh, thank you for that link, Linda! I know what you mean about Google Earth--one more thing to learn and more time to spend on-line. Oh, well, it could be worse :)

Isn't County Maps great? I've used mine so much.