Historic map of Lincolnshire and Rutland. Damaged with tape marks across the map

On The Map Part 2

Rebecca Lucas, Collections Officer

County Maps

Planning for exhibitions at North Lincolnshire Museum involves researching the collections. This is the second article in a series exploring the research that took place for the On the Map exhibition. The exhibition displayed maps from the Museum’s collection and showed the different ways maps have been used and created.

Following on from the first article, I identified further categories of maps held in the Museum’s collection. One category is 16th-18th century county maps which are all influenced by the mapmaking commissioned in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603).

Queen Elizabeth’s chief adviser, Lord Burghley, recognised the political and military uses of accurate mapping. In 1574 he commissioned Christopher Saxton to produce a survey of every county in England and Wales which was completed in 1578. The Elizabethan period experienced significant advances in surveying technology which made the Saxton maps the most accurate and detailed of the time. Lord Burghley annotated the proof copies of Saxton’s maps with notes useful for defence and governance and had them bound into his ‘Atlas of the Counties of England and Wales’. Improved printing technology also meant maps were no longer one-off pieces of art but something that could be reproduced and viewed by a large audience. This made maps an increasingly prominent part of everyday life. Saxton’s maps were updated and reissued until c.1778 setting the standard for cartography and forming the basis for all succeeding county maps until towards the end of the 18th century.

The Museum holds a copy of the Saxton map of Lincolnshire and Rutland from 1576.

Historic map of Lincolnshire and Rutland. Damaged with tape marks across the map
Saxton map of Lincolnshire and Rutland, 1576.

For comparison, take a look at the Map of Lincolnshire by Robert Morden, 1695. Although this map was drawn over 100 years after Saxton’s map you can see the style and details haven’t changed a great deal.

Historic map of Lincolnshire
Map of Lincolnshire by Robert Morden, 1695

John Speed was inspired by the Saxton maps and produced his own county maps in his atlas ‘The Theatre of the Empire of Greate Britaine’ published in 1611. Again, there are clear similarities with the Saxton map.

colourful historic map of Lincolnshire with heraldry on left.
John Speed’s map of Lincolnshire. Cambridge University Library (CC BY NC 3.0)
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