Map. Pen and ink with watercolor. Image measures 18 x 12.5".
This anonymous pen and ink map of the British Isles was produced around the middle of the 19th century, likely by a student or apprentice as training in geography, drafting, and penmanship. The relative simplicity of the map suggests that the student was working from a school atlas as opposed to a more elaborate source. Major roads, rivers, and cities are all labeled, but the anonymous cartographer has clearly paid more attention to correctly rendering the coastlines of Great Britain and Ireland, as well as the surrounding smaller islands. The lettering is also exquisite, as the names of Irlande and Ecosse Angleterre are written to accentuated the shape of the islands. The coloring of the map, done in watercolor, corresponds to common patterns of the day, with a spectrum of blues used to highlight the islands and fill the surrounding water. Light brown watercolor has also been artfully applied to show areas of elevation. A finely written title at the top is flanked by a painter's palette in a black circle on the right and the Red Ensign flag on the left. A decorative gold border surrounds the map. The map is in good condition. Cropped bottom margin comes right to the border of the map. Manuscript map-making was a useful educational tool in the 19th century, a period of imperialism and increased world trade in which geography grew significantly as a field of study. In the United States and northwestern Europe, reform movements that sought to improve the quality and accessibility of childhood education pushed for the inclusion of geography in school curricula. One common method of teaching was the making of manuscript maps. Working from wall maps, globes, and atlases, students were made to meticulously hand-reproduce maps in pen and ink and with watercolor. Such exercises not only provided a way to review and retain geographical knowledge, but they also functioned as training in penmanship, calligraphy, and drafting. Today, these idiosyncratic projects offer a glimpse into the way 19th-century youth engaged with the world around them.