Friday, 27 July 2012

The Mapping of Britain & Ireland

Map of a Nation  Rachel Hewitt - Granta Books

I like maps. I like poring over them and plotting journeys to be taken and remembering journeys made.

Rachel Hewitt's, "Map of a Nation," subtitled, "a biography of the Ordnance Survey," traces the story of the Ordnance Survey from its conception after the Jacobite uprising in Scotland until the completion of the Survey's First Series of maps in 1870. She ably describes the militaristic demands which prompted the commissioning of  an  accurate  and detailed mapping of both Britain and Ireland. When she is talking about the men who drove the Survey forward, William Roy, William Mudge and Thomas Colby, her writing reads well and one gains a strong impression of these individuals.

I had hoped that more might have been said of Colonel Colby's sojourn in Ireland  and in particular his Memoir of the City and North West Liberties of Londonderry, Parish of Templemore, but that I concede is rather parochial on my part. There are  sections of the book which I found to be somewhat tedious, particularly those dealing with the Romantic movement's attitude towards cartography.

There is no doubt that this book has been well researched. The notes and listings of works cited, taken with illustration credits extend to some one hundred and ten pages. This clearly reflects the origins of this work in the author's doctoral thesis and there for me  lies the weakness of the book. On occasions I begin to feel that I am reading an academic paper. An informative work yes but not a page turner.

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