Selden map of China: detail

Elizabeth Baigent, SCIO’s Academic Director, and Nick Millea, head of the Bodleian Library’s map collection organised an international conference at the Bodleian on 22 September 2017 to mark the 25th anniversary meeting of TOSCA, The Oxford Seminars in Cartography.

The theme of this inaugural whole-day seminar was Enlightening maps and drew speakers and audience from around the globe. From universities came, among others, Danny Dorling, University of Oxford and Katy Parker, University of Pittsburgh; from major collections came several people including the National Maritime Museum’s Megan Barford and staff from the British Library and National Library of Scotland; and the major international research project The History of Cartography was represented by Mary Pedley, co-editor of the project’s Enlightenment volume to which several speakers and attenders had contributed.

As well as listening to excellent research papers which eloquently illustrated how maps can enlighten but also obfuscate, attenders participated in discussions and had the chance to go behind the scenes in the Bodleian and examine maps from the library’s collection at first hand. With some 1.3 million paper maps and extensive digital map collections to choose from, library staff and speakers readily found items to illustrate the themes of the day, and attenders were delighted to get up close to a range of interesting items including the enigmatic Selden map of China from the mid seventeenth century, one of the first maps of China to reach Europe, and the beautiful Sheldon tapestry map of Warwickshire which dates from the 1590s.

Papers from the very successful conference will be published in a special issue of the Cartographic Journal and Elizabeth Baigent and Nick Millea plan the second of TOSCA’s all day seminars in 2020.  In the meantime TOSCA offer their normal termly programme of map seminars and visits to archives in Oxford to which all are welcome.