Catherine Delano-Smith is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research. She is especially interested in the history of maps and mapping, including concepts in medieval mapping, map signs on early printed maps, and maps and itineraries in travel, as well as the relationship between maps and their users, especially in the context of biblical exegesis from Late Antiquity to the Reformation. She is the editor of Imago Mundi, The International Journal for the History of Cartography. Currently, she is the Lead Researcher for the Gough Map of Britain, c. 1400, a 3-year project funded by the Leverhulme Trust, a collaborative investigation of historical and physical aspects of this remarkable document.
For the last 250 years, since a worn and damaged parchment bearing a map of Britain came to light in a private library in the eighteenth century, the Gough Map has challenged all who have attempted to study it. Recognising it as the earliest surviving map to show the island with a recognisable outline and in considerable detail, the antiquary Richard Gough purchased it in 1774. However, it is still not known who made the map, why, for whom or when. Only now is light beginning to dawn through the collaborative researches of a group of historians and scientists, led by Catherine Delano-Smith, who will share some of the key discoveries that are leading to a total reassessment of what really has to be called a ‘unique’ document from the Middle Ages. We will look closely at some of the intriguing details in the ways the places have been marked on the map, consider the puzzles posed by the inks, and think about where what we are now able to see on the map might be leading us in our ongoing search for answers to misleadingly simple questions, including what does the map show?