Local History

Historic maps of Scotland

Belhaven Bay and Dunbar - John Thompson 1832
Belhaven Bay and Dunbar - John Thompson 1832

At long last we are seeing the fruits of many years of investment in making the National Library of Scotland’s map collection accessible online. With now something like 6000 maps available, it seems like it was well worth the wait. The resolutions are high and the images look really good. NLS have added a range of geo-referenced historical map overlays, on Google maps and Bing (Microsoft’s search and mapping site has been rebranded and has vastly superior aerial images for parts of rural Scotland). Dig around because there are a range of different presentations that are quite appealing.

The NLS navigator isn’t wonderful, and, not for the first time I have given up on trying to get the Lizardtech plugin viewer. Also, using both Google and Bing can be confusing as a single click zooms in on Google, whilst it is a double click for Bing. If some of the overlays appear a bit wonky, and you travel awkwardly through time as you zoom in, this is more than compensated for by the respectable performance (it loads very quick) and the range and quality of the images. 10/10, our tax money well-spent.

Here are some interesting Lothians examples:

A real treasure are the earliest surviving detailed maps of Scotland, made by Timothy Pont in the late 1500s. This map of West Lothian may not be the prettiest, but is interesting nonetheless showing Bo’ness, Linlithgow, and the Pentland Hills.

Blaeu’s maps are pretty. Lothian and Linlitquo by Johan and Cornelius Blaeu is 1654.

In Herman Moll’s Lothian, the fishing village of North Berwick is more accurately located than in Blaeu’s.

Haddington 1853 from the Ordnance Survey large-scale town plans, 1847-1895. Check also the Haddington 1893 edition. Zoom in to see the quality of the imagery.

If you like old maps generally, or want to embed an old map into your website, you should head over to David Rumsey Map Collection If you have Google Earth, then download this kmz file which will open access to some of the David Rumsey Collection in Google Earth. This is exceedingly good stuff, maybe something that National Library of Scotland should emulate?

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