[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 Legend of Dartmoor

Posted on 28 September 2010 by Elizabeth Solopova 

In British Topography (1780) Richard Gough transcribed a relatively small selection of place-names on the Gough Map. His reading of what Parsons transcribes as ‘dertesmour’ is ‘The Sond’. This made me think that the generally accepted modern identification of this feature on the map as Dartmoor is incorrect, and instead this may be an attempt to depict Plymouth Sound. From a paleographic point of view reading 'The Sond' is possible, but problematic. Parsons’ reading 'dertesmour' is however also highly problematic (see the image). This geographical feature is depicted as a water body that supports the possibility of this being the Sound, and would eliminate one of the great anomalies of the Gough Map, which made scholars speculate that the exemplar of the map was damaged at this point. Its position on the map in relation to other features also makes its identification as Plymouth Sound possible. 'Sond' would be a correct medieval form of the name (Old and Middle English word meaning 'the sea'). An earlier form of the name ‘Plymouth Sound’ given in the EPNS volume is ‘the Sounde’, dated to 1585. The word is probably overwritten – it is in dark ink – and the names of lakes are usually written in red on the map. This may explain the paleographical difficulties for all proposed readings. The beginning of the inscription is now unreadable, but if it is ‘the’, it would be the only example of the definite article used in this way on the map. Parsons’ reading of the name of another lake, Tarn Wadling, as ‘The Wathelan’ is almost certainly incorrect and should be ‘terne wathelan’ as confirmed by early attestations of this name, such as ‘Ternwathelan, 1319.


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