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NOTES from MATTHEW PARIS'S MAP of GREAT BRITAIN, 1240s

These notes, relevant to Hampshire, are made about the manuscript maps of Great Britain by Matthew Paris, St Albans, drawn in the mid 13th century. These notes are not any sort of appraisal of the maps which has been done by far more competent hands than mine; of necessity the notes here are derivative, and are made just for the convenience of those interested in the county of Hampshire.
map type : HantsMap & Paris 1240s

It Looks Wrong

Overall the map looks out of true to our eyes, and that is right. Miss Mitchell, in a paper presented in 1933, described the map as diagrammatic; distorted for a purpose, not indicating any ignorance or misconception:-
The position of Dover, placed centrally at the bottom of the map, and the consequent distortion of the South-East of England is ..., due to the desire to emphasize the importance of the northern route, the itinerary on which the map is based. This route is the way from Dover to Berwick.
E G R Taylor's remarks after the presentation of Miss Mitchell's paper at the Geographical Society were that what some might call 'grossly exaggerated' would be described by the medieval cartographer as 'carefully emphasized.' A nice way of expressing it. Even considered as a diagram rather than a map the plot is awfully wrong to modern eyes with '20 20 hindsight'.

Four Versions

There are four versions of the map. The most finished map is prefaced to the:-
 
Abbreviatio Chronicuorum Angliae
(Cotton MS Claudius D VI)
Miss Mitchell describes the likely relationships of the four maps, involving at least two scribes.

Places Chosen

Matthew Paris was a Benedictine monk at St Alban's. His interests show through in the selection of places to go on the maps. Of 252 place names, there are 81 cathedrals and monstaries, 41 castles, 33 ports, 11 towns on routes, and 86 other regional and topographical. A good proportion of the monasteries selected are Benedictine. The choice of place names etc shows the influence of:-
stereotyped geographical descriptions ... [prefaced to] chronicles, ..., barely modified from Pliny and the Roman geographers.' plus knowledge obtained first hand or from contemporary travellers.

Hampshire Places

The following places in Hampshire are included in the map:-
         
place   map name   written where
         
Avon, River   Avene fl'   written at the Bristol Channel, ie north, end of a combined Bristol and Salisbury Avon crossing the south west peninsula of England
Beaulieu   beuli   written in a cartouche on coast below 'SUM'SET'
Portchester   porecest'   written in two parts just below 'SUM'SET'
Portsmouth   portem~   written vertically from coast below the name 'DORSETE'
Southampton   Suha~tun   written in a cartouche on coast above 'Vecta'
Winchester   Wintonia ci.   written north of Southampton

REFERENCES

Close, Charles, Sir: 1931: Ancient Maps of Great Briatin, with special reference to Hampshire: ProcHFC: vol.10: pp.211-219

Mitchell, J B: 1933: Matthew Paris Maps, The: Geographical Journal: vol.81: pp.27-34

Paris, Matthew & Poole, Herbert, Rev (place name notes): 1928: Four Maps of Britain designed by Matthew Paris: British Museum

Paris, Matthew & Vaughan, Richard (ed): 1993: Illustrated Chronicles of Matthew Paris: Sutton, Alan & Corpus Christi College (Cambridge):: ISBN 0 7509 0276 0


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HantsMap Notes -- PARIS1.txt
MN: 17.6.2002
last edit: 12.7.2002