Oldest accurate "road map" of Britain

The Gough Map is a new book that details the fascinating history of the oldest accurate map of Britain, which is amazingly accurate (except for the Scotland bits), especially considering that it was made around 1360. It's also extremely lovely:

"There are 600-odd places and, if you compare it with a modern map, most of them are in pretty much the right spot," says Millea.

"We don't know whether they did the coastline first then filled in the interior, or whether it was done by word of mouth - a verbal map - so they put in London then worked outwards, adding places they knew."

Nick Crane, topographer and presenter of TV series Map Man, thinks they may have used an astrolabe - a highly technical instrument used by classical astronomers, navigators and astrologers which involved checking the horizon, the stars, the sun and all sorts of angles.

"This could be the beginning of mathematical map-making - some of the points of latitude have probably been measured through astronomy," he says.

Michael notes, "As a bonus, there doesn't seem to be a Wikipedia entry about this map yet - a nice little task for someone who feels like getting their cartographic vibe on." Link, The Gough Map: The Earliest Road Map of Britain? on Amazon (Thanks, Michael


  1. Why does BB so often show us a pic of something and then tell us how beautiful it is? You’re showing us the picture, and beauty is subjective. Don’t you think we can decide for ourselves what’s beautiful and what isn’t? LOOK AT THIS PICTURE, IT’S VERY BEAUTIFUL just makes me feel like I’m being led by the nose or smacked across the back of the head with a big hammy fist. Of course, this goes triple when you’re trying to sell me an ugly hoodie for $120 or something, instead of just showing me an old map that looks like a cock and balls with pimples all over it.

  2. Gord lord, england as a phallus… Of course, beauty tends to be very subjective. I suspect, however, that if you read Boing Boing regularly your taste in art probably leans toward that of the authors.

  3. Motisbeard (#6), simply because without one bunch of people telling others what’s beautiful we’d be hanging motivational posters at MoMa and glittery unicorns at the Louvré. Disagreeing with the statement is a part of the process.

  4. Oh Avalon, your sun sets in the west, upon a land that looks, at best, like a giant, handsome penis, not hard but at rest.

  5. “…just makes me feel like I’m being led by the nose or smacked across the back of the head with a big hammy fist.”

    Given the response to the image, maybe it’s something else he’s being led by, or is smacking him across the back of the head,

    which I guess he objects to, even in the name of art, history or geography.

  6. MOTISBEARD, personally it’s not the word ‘beautiful’ that annoys me on BB. Rather, ‘ongoing’. Ongoing! Ongoing! Bongoing! Bongboing! Boingboing! Argh.

    The thing is, what else can you say about this map after a quick google? Well…it’s pretty.

    (the hoodie is not.)

  7. I may just a cockeyed optimist (especially after seeing that green and flaccid land), but I think, Motisbeard, that you are not being instructed to find it beautiful, but rather being invited to look at something that the author finds beautiful. Sharing with others the things that give you pleasure is one of the best social actions around. You’re welcome to share the opinion or not. But your sense of violation seem a bit misplaced, and somewhat sad.

  8. People who think that’s phallic should check out the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland, which is so phallic it became the basis for an unofficial British Board of Film Classification rule about the depiction of male genitals.

  9. Really? quite a different evocation for me;

    “Mull of Kintyre
    Oh mist rolling in from the sea,
    My desire is always to be here
    Oh Mull of Kintyre “

  10. If you want to see this map in real life its
    on tour as part of the “Maps” exhibit from the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Check it out if it comes to town, its very very cool.

  11. I find old maps fascinating, because they show the state and limitations of human understanding about the world around them at that time (see: “Here be dragons” and blank white spaces in the center of Africa)…

    For instance, I have a reproduction of an 1864 Army map of the U.S Southwest on my office wall – the Grand Canyon is not labeled or delineated, and the Colorado River only an indistinct dotted line through the region. And that map is “only” 144 years old.

    And old maps are beautiful – many are hand-drawn one-offs or copies on the durable media of the time, using garish pigments and flourishes.

  12. It’s actually pretty cool in person – It was at the Field Museum’s (In Chicago) map exhibit until last weekend.
    There’s very faint ornate lettering in gold leaf naming some of the towns but it’s hard to read and most has rubbed off.

  13. They got the balls alright, but i agree with #17, it looks like a fourteen century prank.

    I wonder what’s the oldest recorded prank…

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