Exactissima Regni Scotiae tabula tam in Septentrionalem et Meridionalem quam in minores earumdem Provincias. Nicolaes Visscher, Amsterdam, c1689

Exactissima Regni Scotiae tabula tam in Septentrionalem et Meridionalem quam in minores earumdem Provincias.
Nicolaes Visscher, Amsterdam, c1689

In 17th-century Europe, the Low Countries achieved dominance in map, chart and atlas compilation and production in what is referred to as their Golden Age.  Such activity was centred principally in Amsterdam and Antwerp, with a number of rival map-making and engraving businesses located there, often comprising family dynasties over several generations and linked by intermarriage.

Of these, the Visscher family, based in Amsterdam, was composed principally of engravers, and Nicolaes Visscher II (1649-1702), rather than his father, is thought to have been responsible for producing this highly decorative map of Scotland whose outline is based on earlier maps by both Dutch and French map-makers.

Many of these Low Countries map-makers would not have visited Scotland, and were reliant on outlines and information culled from a variety of sources, including plagiarising the maps of others!  This sometimes added to the errors, particularly in the transcription of place-names, and in the depiction of the coast and islands.  Distinctive geographical errors shown on this map include the flat top to the Isle of Lewis, the distortion in the alignment of the Isle of Arran, and the wavy rather than straight line marking the Great Glen.

Pasted to the back of this map is what Nicolaes Visscher describes aptly as “A Name-Shewer or Alphabeticall Table where are to be shewn all the Cities, principallest Country-Towns, Villages, Castles, Iles, and other most remarkable places in the Kingdome of Scotland, and how they are to be found on this map”.  Today we might call this a locational Gazetteer, giving as it does two letters after each place entry, which relate to the almost un-noticed grid on the map.  This grid has the same series of letters sited at the edges within each grid square, thus allowing us to locate the place.  Significantly, the map attempts to show the old provinces of Scotland, differentiated by colour, and the end result is a highly attractive, if not quite accurate, map.