Map compilation at Bartholomew
Posted 30 October, 2012 13:04 by Karla Baker
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.
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.
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.
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.
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