[Image: Fragment of the Gough Map]
[Image: Fragment of the Gough Map]

Linguistic Geographies: The Gough Map of Great Britain

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The map was trimmed

Posted on 25 June 2010 by Elizabeth Solopova 

Semicircular cutout on the eastern side of the Gough MapAn interesting, but overlooked, fact about the Gough map is that it was undoubtedly trimmed and was originally bigger. Pictorial features on all sides, apart from possibly the south, lie too close to the present edges of the map and some were partially cropped off, including an island and a drawing of a ship in the north, and the spire of a church in Calais. This spire was traced in dark ink which suggests that the trimming may postdate the 15th-century revision. The trimming was probably moderate in the West. There is a large semi-circle cut out on the western side of the map. This is almost certainly where the animal's leg used to be, suggesting that on this side the skin could not extend much further (the map is made of two pieces of sheepskin parchment; on the smaller piece the spine runs vertically (see http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/csb/Gough%20Map.htm), but on the larger piece it must have run horizontally). These is nothing like this on the eastern side, and the trimming there may have been more substantial. The closest known parallel to the Gough map is Thomas Butler's map of England, c. 1547-1554 (see D. Birkholz, Imago Mundi 58, 2006). Though much smaller in size and having generally far fewer place names, Thomas Butler's map has more place names than the Gough map in Ireland and on the Continent (including Paris, for example). Butler's map is enclosed in a frame with the names of the points of compass written within it, and has decorative scrolls at the top and at the bottom containing a title and the maker's name. All this suggests that it is not entirely safe to make conclusions about the map's historical context based on what it does not portray on the Continent. Interestingly, Thomas Butler made a decision that parallels that of the 15th century reviser of the Gough map: under the title ‘The Mape off Ynglonnd' he includes England and Wales, framed by Ireland and the Continent, but excludes Scotland.

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