The maps of John Ogilby and Herman Moll

John Ogilby is best known for his book Britannia Volume the First, published in 1675, in which he mapped c. 7500 miles of road using a strip map format.34Alan Ereira, The Nine Lives of John Ogilby: Britain's Master Map Maker and his Secrets (london: Duckworth Overlook, 2016), p. 256. This was the first time that individual roads had been mapped, based on survey and measurement. A generation later, Herman Moll, a London-based geographer and cartographer, produced a map of England in 1710, entitled The South Part of Great Britain Called England & Wales, which incorporated Ogilby’s roads and added other ones. In 1724, he published A New Description of England and Wales, which comprised a textual description of the country along with a set of county maps showing the roads.35The print versions of these maps are cited in 'Resources', but they can also be viewed online at Search for 'Ogilby Britannia Volume the First', 'Moll 1710' and 'Moll 1724'.  Most of these county maps reflect the same roads as the 1710 map, with the important exceptions of London and Yorkshire which offer a more detailed picture of the road network.

An important question is whether there are any flaws in these Early Modern road maps that undermine a comparison with Gough Map settlements. For example, what types of roads were mapped between 1675 and 1724, how comprehensive was the coverage, and did any biases affect the road selection? In the Preface of Britannia, Ogilby claimed to map “the Principal Modern Roads… such as lead Directly from the City of LONDON … or Cross, from Great Town to Great Town, among which the Post Roads for conveying Letters missive to and from this Great Center, taking up a considerable Part”.36John Ogilby, Britannia. Volume the first, or, An illustration of the kingdom of England and dominion of Wales, 'Preface'.  Ereira has argued that Ogilby did not fulfill this claim because he deviated from some post roads and main routes.37Ereira, The Nine Lives of John Ogilby, p. 207.  He cites the examples of the omission of the important port of Liverpool38Ereira, The Nine Lives of John Ogilby, pp. 195-196. , and the addition of the insignificant Aberystwyth.39Ereira, The Nine Lives of John Ogilby, pp. 193-195 and 259-260.  It seems clear that Ogilby mapped many of the principal and post roads, but that Britannia does not, on its own, provide a comprehensive picture of the main road network in the late seventeenth century.

This incomplete picture was improved upon by the work of Herman Moll. He had gained a reputation as an engraver of maps and his interest in road maps only developed towards the end of his life. The 1710 map showed the principal road network of the England and Wales. Its debt to the work of Ogilby is acknowledged in the ‘Explanation’ Moll provided (Figure 7), in the bottom left-hand quarter of the map.

Key on Moll's 1710 map of England and Wales
Figure 7. Key on Herman Moll’s 1710 map of England and Wales.

His key shows that he used a solid double line for Ogilby’s ‘Great or Direct’ roads, and a slightly thinner equivalent for the ‘Principal Cross Roads’. But he has also used a single line to indicate ‘Roads not to be found in Mr. Ogilby’s Book’. It is not known exactly to what extent he has filled in Ogilby’s omissions, nor is there any indication of the status of these roads. Were they as important, or as frequently used, as Ogilby’s roads or do they represent a set of less important roads? He indicated them as a single thin line, which, pictorially, might suggest a lesser road. But he also needed a way to distinguish his own contribution from Ogilby’s. Given that Ogilby omitted many routes that he had surveyed40Ereira, The Nine Lives of John Ogilby, p. 195. , Moll’s additions may have been equally important. This is not an issue that can be fully resolved without further research, but the assumption has been made that as the additions mattered enough to be included, and were a selling point to a public that was increasingly interested in travel41Dennis Reinhartz, The Cartographer and the Literati: Herman Moll and his Intellectual Circle (Lewiston, N.Y.: E. Mellen Press, 1997), p. 27. , they were most likely well-used, and therefore, important roads.

Moll’s county maps often mirror the 1710 map, but in places provide extra roads. For example, there are highly articulated road networks around London and in Yorkshire, with many more roads than the 1710 map of England. But, in other counties, such as Norfolk, Suffolk, and in the Midlands, there are no additional roads at all, and in some places, such as Dorset, there are fewer roads. The reason for this inconsistency is unknown but both London and Yorkshire were areas of high population and so may have had more well-travelled roads. It has been calculated that in 1700, Middlesex had a population of 522,405, while Yorkshire had 433,176, with two counties together accounting for just under twenty percent of the English population.42E. A. Wrigley, 'Rickman Revisited: The Population Growth Rates of English Counties in the Early Modern Period', in The Economic History Review, 62.3 (2009), 711-735 (p. 721).  And, in the case of Yorkshire, it may also be due to the division of the county into three separate maps, allowing a greater number of roads to be portrayed.

In summary, Moll used Ogilby’s work as his starting point, and then supplemented it with roads that were well-used by 1724. The combined maps, therefore, offer the best representation currently available of what contemporary geographers believed to be the main, or at least, the most useful roads to travellers.

Ogilby's Britannia. Volume the First

Table 5.
Title:Britannia, Volume the First. Or an Illustration of the Kingdom of England and Dominion of Wales: By a Geographical and Historical Description of the Principal Roads thereof
Type:National Atlas
Content:Strip map format of the principal roads of England and Wales
Size:45 x 29cm

Moll's 1710 map

Table 6.
Title:The South Part of Great Britain, Called England and Wales
Content:Counties, roads, towns, and an index of place names
Size:62 x 100cm

Moll's 1724 county maps

Table 7.
Title:A new description of England and Wales, with the adjacent islands
Content:48 county maps showing roads roads, placenames, regional names and some topographical detail, accompanyied by textual description of each county
Size:19 x 32cm