4. Mapping Landscapes and Places

Places are more than just locations; they have significance. That significance combines landscape, human modifications and activities, and cultural meaning, which together distinguish one place from all others. Maps are a key element in place making. We use them to delimit particular areas and to construe their defining characteristics. The hand-drawn maps prepared by small groups — military, historical, official, or commercial — make unique images, and imaginings, of places in the past.

The military has long been interested in the suitability of certain places, whether for fortification [item 21] or for battles [item 23]. Government officials have mapped places defined by coherent economic activity [item 22]. Individuals have mapped the historical character of places [items 23–24]. Commercial companies have mapped places of economic potential [item 25]. In all these examples, the maps offer the possibility of changing the landscape to advance each group’s needs.

Map makers have long used artistic methods to show hills and valleys in perspective. Indeed, there is no easy distinction between maps and views of particular places [item 25].

The odd shape of this map of the fortifications and defenses neighboring Boulogne, on the northern coast of France, stems from the need to capture the line of the coast. In its style, it is very much the product of eighteenth-century military mapping.

When the map was produced, Boulogne was the primary port for Napoleon Bonaparte’s planned invasion of Britain. The map depicts some of the encampments of the 200,000-strong Armée de l’Angleterre (Army of England). It also shows the range of each of the mortars and howitzers arrayed along the coast: should the British launch a preemptive assault, commanders would know how close to let their boats get to the shore before opening fire.

Several lines of low water are indicated, including the regular neap low water (“morte eau”) and the extra-low tides observed on 22 March 1803 (the equinox in Germinal an 11, in France’s Revolutionary calendar) and on 1 and 14 January 1804 (10 and 23 nivôse an 12).


21. “Plan des côtes de Boulogne, d’Ambleteuse et de Wimereux” (1804)

Manuscript, 32cm x 172cm

Osher Collection

This twenty-foot long scroll describes the coasts and landscapes around the Seto Inland Sea, in Japan, between the islands of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. The scroll extends from Osaka, the chief city of western Honshu, past Hiroshima and the end of Honshu, and follows around the island of Kyushu to Nagasaki. At the western extremity of Japan, Nagasaki was the only port that foreign traders, and then only Dutch traders, were permitted to enter.

In addition to information about the locations of fortresses, temples, and towns, the map is extensively annotated with the taxes levied annually on each community. That is, the map was made to keep track of a precise region of major economic activity. Despite the map’s emphasis on the coasts, this was not made as a navigational tool!


22. Map of the Seto Inland Sea between the islands of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, Japan (1814)

Manuscript, 27cm x 610cm

Smith Collection

Military mapping also entails the commemorative mapping of battles. Among the highly diverse content recorded by Dr. Bennett in his notebook was a plan of a battle he had witnessed during the Revolution: at Guilford Court House, in North Carolina, Lord Cornwallis had defeated a much larger American force but with heavy casualties. Bennett included other maps in his journal, such as a sketch map of the Ohio River and its tributaries.


23. Walter Bennett (1745–1812)

Battle of Guilford Court House, N.C., 15 March 1781

From “A Book of Memorandums and Remarks with Notes Observations and Receipts on Various Occasions” (1758–1812)

Manuscript, 19cm x 32.5cm

Osher Collection

Towns and cities are often the subject of maps that enshrine the distinctive identity formed from their built environment (urbs) and civic community (civis). Much of this mapping is historical: mapping the past of an urban place as the foundation for its present-day character. In this map, a local historian in the late- nineteenth century compiled multiple records to map out the antebellum growth of the mill town of Biddeford. Annotations in a second hand indicates a continuing process of adding to and correcting this historical map.

This map was donated to OML by Charles Garland.


24. James Gray Garland

“Village of Biddeford Maine 1835–1840” (1889)

Manuscript, 56cm x 88cm, trimmed across the bottom

OML Collection

The depiction of landscape in maps of place is closely akin to landscape art. In both cases, the draftsman/artist stands in the landscape and directly sketches the form of the hills and valleys to capture the character of place. The difference is one of visual perspective and style, but both kinds of imagery provide a sense of the spatial structure of a given place. This landscape view of Mt. Kineo captures the spirit of the place, and of Prentiss & Carlisle’s plans to expand and revitalize Mt. Kineo as a summer tourist destination.


25. Prentiss & Carlisle Co.

Landscape view of Mt. Kineo (ca. 1960)

Manuscript (watercolor and pastel), 58cm x 86cm

Hamilton Collection