The Map

In addition to illustrating his tours with numerous topographical and natural historical plates, Pennant prepared a new map of Scotland to accompany the publication of Part 2 of his 1772 Tour in Scotland – a remarkable feat in itself, though it was not completed until 1777, the year after that volume reached print.[1] The cartographical dimension of Pennant’s tours, as both texts and perambulatory acts, is represented by these maps, developed by Nigel Leask and Alex Deans in collaboration with Chris Fleet at the map department at the National Library of Scotland.

The maps show Pennant’s itineraries through Scotland in 1769 and 1772, representing key sites visited by coloured dots and presenting the order and direction of travel numerically and by arrows. They are represented on a zoomable split-screen display that shows their positions on a modern geo-referenced map (left screen), linked to four specially modified historical maps (right screen). Because early maps were not geo-referenced, we preferred to display the itineraries on a modern map, and to use a parallel display. Users can choose between Dorret’s map of 1750, Pennant’s own map of 1777, Arrowsmith’s of 1807, and the earliest Ordinance Survey map of Scotland. In order to provide comparison with another influential contemporary Scottish tour, we also show the 1773 itinerary of Dr Johnson and James Boswell. The Highland tours of both Pennant and Johnson, so close in time and often covering the same ground, formed the basis for our exhibition at Dr Johnson’s House in London (2018-19). You can read our exhibition catalogue here.

How to use the map

Clicking on a particular dot on the itinerary brings up a tab detailing the dates of Pennant’s visit, a brief description of the place, and a bibliographical reference to his two published Scottish Tours. (The information provided for Johnson’s tour is limited to place and date.)

This allows us to visualize the ways in which Pennant’s two tours differed from each other, as well as how they overlapped and diverged from Johnson and Boswells, and how both line up next to a selection of historical maps. Because some of the places mentioned by our eighteenth-century travellers no longer exist on a modern map, the historical maps allow us to reconstruct the contemporary topography, often recovering places and names lost from modern memory.

The Scottish mapping application complements the project’s core digital outputs, namely the selected transcriptions of Pennant’s correspondence, and a collection of previously unpublished manuscript tours of Scotland and Wales. Both letters and manuscript tours are XML-encoded for web publication. As well as reflecting current best-practice in the digital humanities, this technique allows us to retain both variant eighteenth-century renderings of toponyms, and the facility for users to search for standardised modern versions – a vital functionality when dealing with Welsh and Gaelic place names often phonetically spelt by non-native speakers: evidence of cross-cultural encounters that our transcriptions will preserve. We would specially like to thank Chris Fleet for giving up so much of his time and expertise in helping to develop this map page. A map showing Pennant’s journeys in north Wales is planned for the future.

[1] See Gwyn Walters, ‘Thomas Pennant’s Map of Scotland, 1777; A Study in Sources, and an Introduction to George Paton’s Role in the History of Scottish Cartography’, Imago Mundi: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Cartography, 28/2 (1976), 121-8.