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What's that behind the map? A recycled map from Ireland

In the early days, paper was valuable commodity. Paper consists of pressed fibers, and until the mid of the 19th century, these fibers were derived from recycled hemp, linen or cotton, collected by ragpickers. In 1844 German inventor Friedrich Gottlob Keller and Canadian inventor Charles Fenerty both published methods to use wood pulp as a base for paper. Although this revolutionized paper production and made paper a mass-product, wood-based paper has a major drawback: it gets brittle with aging. This brittleness is the result of the short fibers that are the result of the mechanical pulping of wood. An additional factor is the presence of lignin, which is a naturally occurring substance in wood that degrades in acidic byproducts in time, which contributes to further degradation of the paper.

Bothering book and map lovers ever since...

But of course, cheaper paper resulted in easier access to paper for the middle class, and therefore liberalization of the map. Up to then, maps were mostly a product for the very rich, for authorities, or for people whose life depended on them, like seamen. From the mid 18th century maps were increasingly available for almost everyone who traveled, or would have liked to travel.

This map is an example of mass-marketed maps in the early 20th century. It is a pictorial plan of London from 1906, published by the famous gentlemen's clothing company Chas. Baker & Co Ltd. It is also an early example of the effective advertising and marketing strategy of using maps to expose the public to a companies name and goods. The map is dissected into 12 sheets, and mounted on linen.

Enlarged Pictorial Plan of London, Chas. Baker, 1909

But there is something strange about this map. The right margin has been cropped. The panels are not completely in line, and there are smudges of glue, especially in the upper left corner. And when we take a closer look, and turn the map upside down, the reason for this can be observed:

The London map has been glued over an older mounted map. The map is a 'Scale Six Inches to One Statute Mile' Ordnance Survey map. Surveyed in 1841_42 by Captains Stothard & Chaytor, and Lieutenant Durnford, R.E. & Engraved in 1846 under the direction of Captain Larcom, R.E.

Now it feels extremely important to find out which map exactly has been used. The six-inch-to-one-mile survey was started in Ireland in 1820, and completed in 1846. So, it has to be Ireland. Now let's see if there is any geographical information of the underlying map visible. Two clues can be found: the words 'from Kenmare' and 'Churchtown Ho.'.

I've never been to Ireland, but using the wonderful Ordance Survey National Townland and Historical Map Viewer, the specific sheet could be identified as sheet KY065. Problem Solved.

Ordnance Survey maps were published as sheets. So whoever bought the map around 1846, dissected the map, and backed in with linen, in order to create a more convenient folding map. Or had this done professionally.

Around 1909, maybe in preparation of a visit of the Imperial International Exhibition held in the White City, somebody bought an attractive folding map op London. But not for decorating purposes: he or she wanted to use this map to navigate the streets of London. So, the map needed some strong backup. Somewhere in the library, a 63-year old map of a part of the County Kerry in Ireland was found. The owner removed the upper row of panels, dissected the London Map to match the panels of the Ireland map, and glued his London map over the redundant map of Kerry.

Of course, the London map would have been more decorative had it not been dissected. But to me, the discovery of the underlying map and the curiosity this provoked adds value: The thoughts on the previous owners of this maps, their walks through Kerry County, the visit to the Imperial International Exhibition.

But most of all, the image of a man at his desk, measuring his newly acquired map, carefully dissecting it. Putting glue on a brush, a final look at his old map before covering it with glue, and than the careful mounting of the new panels. All ready for his visit to the Great White City in the Big Smoke.



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