MapCarte 118/365: Britannia by John Ogilby, 1675

MapCarte118_ogilbyIn 1674 translator and publisher John Ogilby was appointed as His Majesty’s Cosmographer and Geographic Printer and published Britannia, a road atlas of Great Britain, in 1675 which set the standard for many years to come.

The atlas contained 100 strip maps accompanied by text at a scale of one inch to one mile.  The scale was innovative for the time and later adopted by Ordnance Survey in its first (one inch to one mile) map series. Ogilby’s maps are a linear cartogram and north varies between strips.


People can orient themselves in the direction of travel regardless of the true direction.  The scroll effect suggests their use for navigation as if they were to be opened and used on the journey itself.  The lines have been necessarily straightened to fit into each strip but the essential details along the route are maintained. Features are artistically represented but all have a practical value and a great deal of extraneous detail is omitted.  Hills are included, oriented to depict whether you would be ascending or descending depending on the direction approached. Distances are included as well as place names, illustrations of villages, towns and forests. The maps, marginalia and cartouches are particularly ornate and typography also includes flowing ascenders and descenders.

Ingenious for its time and a style still used today to show the linearity of route networks (e.g. motorway networks) in many street atlases. Certainly, the use of straightened lines has become a very familiar cartographic approach for depicting transport networks with subway maps being perhaps the most abstract.