Putting Scotland on the map

Back at the end of January I went to an interesting talk at the National Library of Scotland about the Bartholomew family and the history of their map making firm. I have finally made it to the related exhibition in the library which also features material from the Bartholomew Archive which is now held by the NLS, the exhibition is fascinating.

The talk focussed on the members of the Bartholomew family and their contributions to the company and to map-making in Scotland and beyond. From George Bartholomew,  the first engraver in the family, in the early 1800s, right through to 1995 the family have been involved with maps.

What I found most fascinating in both the talk and the exhibition is the history of map-making from engraving to digital maps, and the how improvements in printing technologies  enabled more detailed maps to be printed. The coloured maps showing topography are particularly impressive, and it’s interesting to see how the colours are built up during the printing process.  I am in awe of the skill of the engravers, the tools they required to produce the detail in a map are tiny and they work back to front, no wonder their apprenticeship took several years!

Geography was always my favourite subject at school and I followed this up with a degree in environmental science. I often think that if I hadn’t become a librarian I’d have liked to be involved in cartography somehow.

If you’re at all interested in maps I recommend the exhibition, it’s on the NLS until 7th May 2013