Archive for the 'News' category

Map compilation at Bartholomew

Posted 30 October, 2012 13:04 by Karla Baker | Permalink

On the 7 December, 2012, our exhibition of Bartholomew Archive material will open in our George IV Bridge building. Putting Scotland on the Map: The World of John Bartholomew and Son will explore the techniques and processes by which Bartholomew brought their maps to life. By way of a little teaser, I would like to give you a small glimpse into the complex world of map compilation.

Photo of draughtsmen 1895

This photograph shows Bartholomew’s draughtsman in their Park Road office. It was taken in 1895 but it shows people performing tasks which, in many respects, changed little for the next 50 to 60 years.

Some map publishers, such as Ordnance Survey, conduct ground or aerial surveys to gather the information they need for their maps. Bartholomew gathered the information that they needed via a process called compilation. Compilation is where the draughtsman’s role began. This was but one of the many elements to the draughtsman’s role, which made it one of the most specialist positions in the firm.

Alex Williamson

Draughtsmen had a lot of different resources to hand when it came to compiling information. Bartholomew kept a vast collection of reference maps and atlases produced by their competitors such as Ordnance Survey. Although Bartholomew did not plagiarize these works, studying the maps of others could reveal changes to natural and man-made features that Bartholomew might chose to incorporate into their own maps. They also kept a large collection of newspaper clippings. Whenever a story touched upon a pertinent subject, such as the building of a new road, the demolition of a bridge or the redrawing of an international boundary, Bartholomew would cut out and keep the story for future reference. This article, which details the post-war changes to London following the Blitz, is a poignant example.

Times, 27 July 1944

But by far the biggest source of information was the vast amount of correspondence sent to Bartholomew every day. In some cases members of the public would volunteer information, sometimes including a hand-drawn map of their own, or an annotated clipping from one of Bartholomew’s maps. In other cases the relationship was more formal. This is perhaps best demonstrated by Bartholomew’s relationship with the Cyclist’s Touring Club.

The Cyclist’s Touring Club (CTC) was founded in 1878 and by the end of the 1890s boasted membership figures of close to 60,500. This then was a desirable market for Bartholomew, as CTC members actively sought useful, accurate and cycle friendly maps for their excursions. In 1898 John George Bartholomew (the firm’s director at the time) sought to capitalise on this market and wrote to the CTC’s Secretary with a proposal. Bartholomew would supply the CTC with discounted half inch maps but in return they requested that CTC members supplied the firm with up to date information. The benefit was therefore twofold; Bartholomew acquired a ready market for their maps but also, an army of thousands of people who toured the country and passed on information, for free, which the firm could then use to ensure their maps remained accurate. Although much of this correspondence is formal and business-like, some correspondents were a little more forthright, as this letter from 1915 demonstrates.

20 August 1915

Bartholomew derived similar information from local surveyors, town planners, planning departments and other like agencies, complementing the information they received from members of the public.

Once this information had been collected the draughtsmen would either update a base map, or draw a new map from scratch and the next stage of the draughtsman’s work would begin.

If you would like to know what happened next, why not pop by the National Library of Scotland and visit Putting Scotland on the Map: The World of John Bartholomew and Son, a free exhibition open from 7 December 2012-7 May 2013.

Images © permission of Collins Bartholomew

The Building of an Institution

Posted 13 August, 2012 13:04 by Karla Baker | Permalink

The second instalment of our Bartholomew Archive Exhibition tasters looks back at one of the firm’s most recognisable premises – Duncan Street.

dsphoto1

John George Bartholomew (1860-1920) moved his firm to Duncan Street in 1911. This was the fourth premises that John George would have been able to remember. He recalled the hustle and bustle of North Bridge, Bartholomew’s first commercial premises, which he experienced as a very small child. He undertook his apprenticeship at the firm’s next and first independent premises (North Bridge was shared) on Chambers Street. Then, as head of the firm, in 1889 he moved with the company to their biggest premises yet, on Park Road.

Park Road was an unhappy home for John George. Problems arose not so much because of the building, but because of the terms in which it was taken. Park Road was built by the publisher Thomas Nelson, who in 1888 entered into partnership with Bartholomew. For reasons we may never fully understand, John George found this partnership difficult. One explanation is that in order to pay Nelson back Bartholomew essentially acted as Nelson’s indentured printing concern. Perhaps it was the belief that this would curtail his freedom that troubled the imaginative and ambitious John George.

plan

After twenty years at Park Road, John George began to plan his future, free from Nelson, in Duncan Street. This sketch by John George, of the Duncan Street building superimposed over a print of Park Road, perhaps reveals something of a man happy to be moving on.

Work began on Duncan Street in 1909 and by 1911 Bartholomew were moving in. The Bartholomew Archive is extremely lucky to have photographs of Duncan Street under construction. They are a little murky but they will show you this building in a way that few who are alive today will have seen it before.

photo11

photo22

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The Archive goes even further than this and contains some extremely detailed information about this building. One item, a building abstract, shows us how much each element cost and the name of the firm that was contracted to do it. So, for example, we know that the roof slater was R. Kidd and that the cost was £251.10s. 5d (about £20,000 today).

building2

Bartholomew celebrated the move with a flurry of promotional material, which of course included a map or two.

map1

John George must surely have felt that Duncan Street was a home from home. And in fact, this is more true than it might seem. John George and his family had enjoyed many happy years in an Edinburgh home called Falcon Hall. Before this building was demolished, John George had the entire front portico taken down and rebuilt as the entrance to Duncan Street. Compare this picture of Falcon Hall below with that of Duncan Street above.

falconhall1

The firm stayed at Duncan Street until 1995, which marks almost 200 years of a Bartholomew business in Edinburgh.

This is but a wee snippet of the tale of Duncan Street, which we will explore in much more detail in our December 2012 to May 2013 exhibition, here at the National Library of Scotland. We look forward to seeing you there!

Countdown to Bartholomew Archive exhibition

Posted 6 July, 2012 13:04 by Karla Baker | Permalink

We are in the midst of preparing for a major exhibition of Bartholomew Archive material, due to run from December 2012-April 2013 (I will pass on dates when I have them).

The exhibition will focus on map production techniques at Bartholomew as seen through the eyes of its highly skilled staff and directed by its colourful managers. The exhibition will follow the life story of Bartholomew maps from the compilation of source material, to hand-made ‘graving tools, to the noise of the printing room floor. Visitors will have the chance to meet one of Bartholomew’s most influential characters, John George Bartholomew; to enter the upside down and back to front world of the copperplate engravers before reflecting on the ways in which modern technology may have altered our relationship with maps.

The exhibition affords us the opportunity to display some of the key treasures of the John Bartholomew collection of rare and antiquarian atlases as well as some of the unique manuscript maps that can be found in the Bartholomew Archive.

To mark the occasion, each month until December this blog will focus on items that directly reflect the theme of the exhibition. This month the focus is Bartholomew’s premises on Park Road.

draughtsman room

The firm of John Bartholomew moved to Park Road in 1889. It was arguably the pivotal point in the firm’s history. Between 1888-89, John George Bartholomew (1860-1920) took control of the firm from his father John Bartholomew Junior (1831-93); the firm went into partnership for the first time in its history with the publisher Thomas Nelson, becoming John Bartholomew and Co.; they moved to their first ever purpose built premises and they restyled themselves the Edinburgh Geographical Institute. This sequence of events was to have a profound affect on the future fortunes of what had hitherto been a relatively modest printing and engraving concern.

machine room

Thomas Nelson (an Edinburgh firm of even greater age than Bartholomew) built Park Road, with Bartholomew paying them back via rent, as well of course, via printing work. John George was never enthusiastic about partnerships and there are telling snippets in the archive about his dissatisfaction. In perhaps the most stark comment he privately reflects that he is,

“Determined to end the T. N. [Thomas Nelson] partnership at any cost. To continue would mean ruin to the business and a breakdown on my part – It is impossible to work with so much unpleasant friction & jealousy”

Relief finally came in 1911 when John George removed his beloved Edinburgh Geographical Institute to their most famous home on Duncan Street.

litho room

There were positives and negatives to working at Park Road. On the negative side was the attraction that the building appeared to have for rats. A former employee recalled,

“They [the rats] seldom appeared in the day time but one day, when we were all busy at work, one of the draughtsmen jumped up and knocked over his stool with a great clatter. Next we saw him standing with his hand behind his back clutching at the top of his trousers. A few moments afterwards he jerked out the back of his shirt and a dead rat fell out on the floor”

map mounting room

But on the other hand, its unusual floor plan did have some advantages,

“For weeks before the annual staff picnic there was practicing for the sports, the long corridor between the offices and the printing room being a favourite sprinting track”

There is far more to say about Park Road than can fit in a blog, so with appetites whetted, I look forward to seeing you in December!

floor plan

Temporary stop of Bartholomew blog

Posted 14 September, 2011 13:04 by Karla Baker | Permalink

I would like to let subscribers and others know that the Bartholomew blog will be taking a brief holiday. I have been temporarily seconded to a new post within the National Library of Scotland which will prevent me from adding new content.

There are many more entries in the pipeline (including a First World War cheese cracker map of Europe) and I hope that normal service will be resumed in the very near future.

Thank you for your ongoing interest in this amazing archive.

Karla