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Essays on Timothy Pont’s Maps of Late Sixteenth-Century Scotland

Edited by Ian Cunningham

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Subject: Cartography
Illustrated: approx 150 in b/w and colour
approx 200 pages
ISBN: 1 86232 198 1
Paperback £20

Around 1583-1596 Timothy Pont, a young graduate of the University of St Andrews, undertook his remarkable task of mapping Scotland – the first person to do so in any detail, as far as is known. He spent 13 years during the post-Reformation period travelling around Scotland drawing and naming every hill, loch, and building in miniature sketches. Little is known of Pont’s life and the reasons for his initiative are still obscure.

Many of Pont’s documents were destroyed in a fire in 1673, but at least 77 have survived. Now held by the National Library of Scotland, this collection provides a unique insight into the history, geography, landscape and architecture of 16th century Scotland.

All the fragile manuscript maps attributed to Pont have now been scanned, revealing details previously invisible to the naked eye. They show natural features such as rivers, coasts, lochs and trees, as well as settlements, towns, bridges, mills and churches. In one 18in by 12in drawing of Lanarkshire, Pont included 1,385 names. The smallest map is a two-inch square drawing of the islands in Loch Maree.

Although Pont uses symbols for small settlements, he shows important buildings and towns by individual sketches. Architectural and garden historians of 16th century Scotland believe that these tiny sketches may be fairly accurate representations of the buildings Pont saw, and in some cases may be the earliest depictions.

These remarkable maps are enlivened by notes such as “fair salmond, trouts, eeles and pearls in Loch Tay. A king drowned here. Good fishing”.

Editor: Ian Cunningham was until his retirement in 1998 the Keeper of Manuscripts, Maps and Music at the National Library of Scotland.