10 Medieval Maps of Britain | History Hit

10 Medieval Maps of Britain

Alex Collin

31 Jul 2018

People in the medieval world were remarkably well travelled and huge leaps were made in the extent and precision of cartography in the late Middle Ages. This article traces 500 years of development in maps of Britain from before the Norman Conquest to Gerard Mercator’s 16th century atlas.

Dan visited the Bodleian Library in Oxford, home to one and a quarter million historic maps. Aided by professor Jerry Brotton, together they discuss the significance of ancient cartography and look at some of the jewels of the collection.
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1. Canterbury map – 1025-50


2.  Map of Britain by Matthew Paris – 13th century

Paris was a Benedictine monk who was well known in 13th century England for writing and illustrating several manuscripts including a number of maps. This particular image of Britain features around 250 named towns.

3. The Gough map – 14th century


Donated to the Bodlian Library in the 19th century, the Gough map is the earliest known map of Britain to give a detailed representation of the country’s roads.

4. Portolan Chart by Pietro Visconte – c. 1325


Portolan charts were key to maritime navigation in the medieval world. This representation of Britain comes from a larger navigational chart covering the whole of Western Europe.

5. Britannia Insula by George Lily – 1548


Lily’s map is believed to be the first printed map of the British Isles.

6. Anglia and Hibernia by Sebastian Munster – 1550


Munster was a Franciscan monk who took an interest in geography throughout his career. This map of Britain was one of a number of maps he produced, including maps of mainland Europe. He also translated Ptolemy’s ‘Geographica’ and published it with his own illustrations.

7. England with the adjoining kingdom, Scotland by Sebastian Munster – 1554

Produced in 1554 for his translation of Ptolomey’s Geographica, this map shows a significant improvement from Munster’s 1550 map of the island.

8. Anglia and Hibernia Nova by Girolamo Ruscelli – 1561ruscelli_angla-1_1561

Ruscelli was an Italian cartographer who published extensively throughout the first part of the 16th century.

9. England and Scotland by Giovanni Camucio – 1575


10. Anglia Regnum by Gerard Mercator – 1595


Now probably the most famous cartographer of the late medieval period, Gerard Mercartor was the first person to use the term ‘atlas’ to describe a collection of maps. This map of Britain is taken from one of Mercator’s early Atlases.

Alex Collin