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Posted - 25-01-2018 No Comments

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#LoveMaps – Gerald Morgan

Gerald Morgan, Historian, Teacher and Author takes part in our #LoveMaps campaign.


Darluniad y Ddaear 1677

Before the 20th century Welsh-language maps are scarce. To readers before 1900 the most familiar maps using Welsh are those published in Bibles from 1717 onwards, showing Palestine and the journeys of St Paul through the Mediterranean. Alas, many have been torn out or mutilated by long usage through the years. Only stumps remain in my own copies of the Bibles edited by Moses Williams (1717-8) and Richard Morris (1746 and 1752). The same thing has happened to almost every copy of the remarkable first-ever map using the Welsh language.

This is ‘Darluniad y Ddaear’ (An Illustration of the World), a map of the two hemispheres printed in 1677 as part of the third edition of Y Ffydd Ddi-ffuant, a history of Christianity, the masterpiece of Charles Edwards. The first edition (1667) was at 89 pages only a foretaste of the second edition (240 pages). By 1677 Edwards had extended the text to 422 pages. He has commissioned artists to illustrate the new edition with gruesome pictures of the sufferings of Christian martyrs, who comment on their agonies in Welsh bubbles. The ways to Heaven and Hell are also illustrated. Above all, there is the map. It seems odd that the text doesn’t really need the maps, since they bear little relation to the text. But Charles Edwards wanted the monoglot Welsh to know about world geography.

The map illustrates as well the way eclipses of the sun and moon are caused, and demonstrates the tropical, moderate and frigid zones of the world’s climates. The engraver was Richard Palmer, an Englishman working in London. He was using earlier maps by John Speed and Robert Vaughan, but his map is an original creation for Charles Edwards. It’s not an English map with overprints in Welsh, but a new creation. Every placename, every explanation, is in Welsh.

As one would expect, the map is far from correct. California appears as an island, India is much too skinny, while Malaysia looks like a fish-hook. Huge continents cover the north and south Poles. The course of the river Nile is shown remarkably correctly, considering that no one knew where its source actually was. The Niger however is far from accurate. Another Welsh map of the world did not appear until 1805, the much more correct map of Robert Roberts of Holyhead, in Thomas Charles of Bala’s Geiriadur Ysgrythyrol (Scriptural Dictionary).

Alas, although I have a copy of Y Ffydd Ddi-ffuant, with some of the illustrations, the map is missing, as it is in most copies of the book in the National Library. It appeared again in the fourth edition of 1722, but again, it’s absent in my copy. Considering the importance of this map, it’s surprising that no scholar took notice of it until 2003.

Remarkably, the copper plate made by Richard Palmer survives in the Rawlinson collection in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. By sheer coincidence the copper place for the Robert Roberts map of 1805 also survives, in the National Library of Wales.

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A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.

Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.

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