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As early as the 15th century a team of Portuguese explorers and tradesmen, under the leadership of Prince Henry de Avis made big steps in cartography. The 15th and 16th centuries saw the dawn of exploration so the need for charts, which showed coastlines compass lines and rivers, were very important. These charts were used for military purposes as well as for trade so were not generally accessible

Before this important first step ‘finding the way’ had been largely intuitive, relying on word of mouth and the sharing of experience.

In the 15th century however maps depicted a world divided into three continents some were real and some remained imaginary.

Early maps were drawn by hand as were the decorations, as a result they were rare. It wasn’t until the 15th century when maps were printed; using carved wooden blocks,
that they became more available. In 1540 Sebastian Munster published ‘Geographia’, which established a new standard in the field of cartography.

Following these wooden blocks came copper plate engraving in the 16th century. The voyages of Columbus to the New World started the further development of maps. A map created by Waldseemuller in 1507 was the first world map to show America.

Over the centuries mapping improved as the methods available became more sophisticated. Knowledge about uncharted areas was supported by aerial photography, which meant they to could be recorded.

In 1747 in Britain a royal survey was commissioned the outcome of which was The Duke of Cumberland map. This was a very important step as it led to the principal triangulation of Great Britain, which then led to the development of Ordinance Survey.

In 1791 the mapping of the South of Great Britain began. The Board of ordinance started the military survey under the leadership of William Roy.

A decade later the first 1inch to the mile was published and from 1801-1821 one third of Wales and England were charted.

An example of the commitment to making accurate maps was so high by those involved that in 1891 a Mr. Thomas Colby walked 586 miles in 22days to establish the correct details of an area being mapped.

The Ordinance Survey act in 1841 meant that people were given access to property in order to survey an area.

Another important step in mapping came when Henry James the director general saw the importance photography, which could allow maps to become cheaper and therefore more accessible.

Maps historically have always held great importance as they were in World Wars 1 and 2. When maps of the areas involved were created.

Other significant activities undertaken were; in 1935 the massive job of triangulating Britain, the launch of the National Grid system with a metre as the unit of measurement and in 1995 the Ordinance Survey digitised mapping thus allowing the U.K. to be the first country to develop electronic mapping. A far cry from Claudius Ptolemy’s ‘Guide to Geography’ in the 2nd. Century A.D.

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