Mapping stories from Scotland's capital
Enthralling stories about Scotland's capital city are told in a new book which uses historic maps to reveal new insights into the political, commercial and social life of Edinburgh over five centuries.
'Edinburgh: Mapping the city', which is published today (Tuesday 21 October), shows the capital as a city of contrasts with a past filled with danger, disease, destitution, violence and injustice. The 71 maps in the lavishly illustrated book capture these themes and disparities in a very direct and revealing manner.
The maps — many of which have not appeared before in print — date from the early 16th century to the present day and illustrate particular themes and places in Edinburgh's history.
The book, published by Birlinn, in association with the National Library of Scotland, includes:
- The earliest printed view of Edinburgh from around 1530 with a stylised representation of Arthur's Seat and the castle
- Re-fortification plans for Edinburgh Castle from 1710, known at the time as 'le grand secret'
- A beautifully engraved 1819 overhead plan of the east end of Princes Street at a time when controversy raged over building on the south side of the street
- A map used to measure the speed of sound from the firing of the one o’clock gun on Edinburgh Castle in 1879
- A city centre snapshot of Edinburgh's drinking dens from 1923 produced by the temperance movement in an attempt to limit the number of licensed premises.
Chris Fleet, Map Curator at the National Library of Scotland, who has produced the book with Daniel MacCannell, said: 'Today we may think of maps as tools to get us from one place to another but they are important historical documents in themselves. They can show how people's lives have changed over time and how the city has been adapted around them.
'"Edinburgh: Mapping the city" is an anthology of historic maps which have been specially selected for the particular stories they reveal. It provides many surprises and we hope people will find it an accessible, enjoyable, attractive and browsable history of Edinburgh as seen through maps.'
The book also selects maps that promote the special accomplishments of the people who made them, especially those who lived and worked in Edinburgh. Mapmaking employed a range of specialist skills — surveying, compiling, drafting, engraving, printing, and publishing — that were only rarely found in combination in particular institutions, let alone individuals. Georgian Edinburgh, however, quickly became a place where all of these skills could be found in relative abundance, earning it a special place in cartographic history.
The book is aimed at a broad, popular market, for all those interested in the history of Edinburgh, including residents and tourists, the 'man on the street', students, as well as local and family historians. It will hopefully appeal too to a number of other audiences: those interested in urban history, architectural history, town planning, the history of cartography, and the history of Scotland.
'Edinburgh: Mapping the city'
By Christopher Fleet and Daniel MacCannell
Published by Birlinn, in association with the National Library of Scotland
21 October 2014