The Gough Map

When this map is turned 90 degrees in a clockwise direction its shape immediately becomes familiar: it is the earliest surviving map to show the coastline of Britain in a recognizable form. As an example of cartography the Gough Map (named after a former owner, the antiquary Richard Gough) is a remarkable achievement; it served as the blueprint for similar maps for over two centuries, and was well known both at home and abroad. It is a rich source of historical information, but because the circumstances of its making are so obscure, it raises as many questions as it answers. When and where was the map made? Is it an original map, or was it derived from a lost earlier map? Does the map show signs of revision? Many of the settlements identified on it are linked by a series of straight red lines, which provide information on the distances between them and appear to be associated with particular itineraries, but what is their exact purpose? The fact that a number of the key settlements of the time are not linked in this way adds to the mystery. What, indeed, was the overall purpose of the map itself?

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Pen, ink and washes on parchment (two membranes joined together); 1150 × 560 mm