Mapped: The whole of underground Manchester

I’ve always been fascinated by the hidden tunnels and chambers beneath our streets and Manchester has more than its fair share. I bought the book Underground Manchester a few years ago and thought it pretty comprehensively covered this secret world most of us know nothing about. However, a recent article in the Manchester Evening News shows that the city has many more stories to tell.

Mancunian enthusiast Mark Crossfield has spent the last few years putting together Hidden Manchester – a site dedicated to his love of the Manchester Underground. The MEN article contains a few good examples, but I thoroughly recommend a look at the site as it is packed with information.

Cartographically, it is not very exciting – just a push-pin overlay on a satellite basemap – but all the features have popup information with links for further reading. There isn’t any attribution on the basemap (I think it’s Google) and it doesn’t seem to be possible to switch to a vector map instead of imagery or turn on a street labelling layer either, but this map is definitely more about content than presentation. The sources page is full of interesting links and is probably worth the price of admission alone. There is certainly enough here to keep me quiet for some time.


Digitisation of Japanese Maps at the John Rylands Library

More from the excellent Rylands map collection.

CHICC Manchester

Digitised material is progressively being added to the Library’s imaging online collection – LUNA – It has grown to include another small but very important part of our Special Collections.

A number of Japanese Maps have recently been digitised with the support of the Library’s Digitisation Steering Group. The Japanese Collection, assembled by the 25th Earl of Crawford in the 1860s and 1870s and purchased by the John Rylands Library in 1901, is not large by international standards, but it contains a number of manuscripts and printed books of great interest and rarity. Amongst them are a number of 18th and 19th century maps together with topographical or geographical books and manuscripts.

Initiated by Erica Baffelli – Senior Lecturer in Japanese Studies, University of Manchester – The aim behind this project was to select and digitise a number of maps and associated books and manuscripts of the Library’s Japanese Collection in…

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Could not load file or assembly

So, I changed jobs recently* and have been mostly brushing off my C# skills to write ArcGIS Addins. This has been largely frustrating, as Esri and Microsoft have joined forces to make things as difficult as possible. For example:



This error message was particularly annoying, as it is fairly ambiguous. The full text isn’t much more enlightening:

Could not load file or assembly xxxx or one of its dependencies. The system cannot find the file specified. C:\Program Files (x86)\MSBuild\Microsoft\VisualStudio\v10.0\TeamTest\Microsoft.TeamTest.targets

If only there was a way for the system to tell my which dependency it was having a problem with. Never mind, I’ll go through them all one by one and get there eventually.

For the record, the culprit was ESRI.ArcGIS.Desktop.AddIns, and the solution is to change the CopyLocal flag to true. Makes sense that if the file isn’t copied locally, it can’t be found.

The question is, why was CopyLocal set to false in the first place? I’m sure it was true last time I looked. Not only that, but this bug has come back a few times. At least I know what the fix is this time. I still didn’t know why that flag kept changing, even though I’ve done many searches.

Finally today, I worked out what was going on – the CopyLocal flag is reset every time you update the file Config.esriaddinx. Why should it do this? Who knows, but at least I know the solution now, and I’ve written it down, so when I start searching for the answer in three months time, I’ll find it!

*Actually four months ago, but geologically speaking, that’s just a blink of an eye.

The Catawba Deerskin Map: A Rare Example of Native American Cartography

Continuing the Native American theme, here’s a map showing that sometimes people are more important than places.
Thanks to @globemakers for the tipoff!

Petros Jordan

This year I would like to explore more unusual methods of mapmaking by a more diverse group of creators.  Throughout history, maps by powerful nations and empires have proliferated, but maps by the less powerful actors, if they exist at all, are seldom seen.  In this way, we have come to see the world through the eyes of the conquerors, but almost never through the eyes of the conquered.

In the interest of opening our eyes to new perspectives, I want to share a unique Native American map I discovered while flipping through one of the map books I received for Christmas (yes, I got more than one).  This map was drawn up by a chieftain of the Catawba tribe that resided in what would become the Southeastern United States.  At the time of the map’s creation in 1721, though, this land was being colonized by the British.  The British settlements hugged the…

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Lost in the Infinite Wilderness of America

Did you hear about the Welsh-speaking tribe of American Indians? No? Well, indie rock genius Gruff Rhys is travelling the world, playing songs from his film, book, and album American Interior, which tells the tale of John Evans, the man who went to find them.

The story starts with the Norman invasion, when the Celts were pushed back to the fringes of Britain, with the Welsh territory largely reduced to Anglesey and Snowdonia. Owain Gwynedd strengthened the kingdom, but on his death, his successors began to fight amongst each other, causing his son Prince Madoc to decide to set sail in search of new lands to settle. Apparently, he made it all the way to America and established a settlement in Mobile, Alabama. After returning to Wales to gather more supporters, he travelled up the Mississippi, eventually stopping near North Dakota. Here, his descendants remained, passing on their language and skills such as building coracles.

That’s the legend anyway, and it became fairly popular in Elizabethan times, as Britain tried to claim more territory in the new lands of America by insisting that they had actually got there first. Some years later, Iolo Morganwg decided to raise an expedition to find this lost tribe and put Wales back on the world map. Unfortunately, there was only one applicant, John Evans.

Evans and Morganwg set off to London to find some benefactors for their trip, but after little success, Iolo scarpered back to Wales, leaving Evans penniless in the big city. He decided to go ahead and travel to the US anyway.

The inner sleeve of Rhys’ LP shows Evans’ route from Baltimore, then Philadelphia (“where they taught him to make maps”), and onwards to the Mississippi and finally to the lands of the Mandan in present day North Dakota.

[Map by Pete Fowler, who did most of Super Furry Animals’ artwork]

American Interior interior

American Interior LP inner sleeve


More maps and illustrations were on display during the show – here’s Gruff playing in front of maps of the Ohio River (“it looked exactly like this”) and the Canadian border at the 49th parallel (I think you probably had to be there).

Gruff Rhys and USA river map Gruff Rhys and the 49th Parallel

Evans had many adventures along the way including catching malaria, being imprisoned, defecting to the Spanish, persuading the English army to abandon a fort (thereby annexing the land for Spain), defending the Canadian border, and finally sailing the length of the Mississippi before dying in New Orleans. The whole saga is summed up excellently in the song 100 Unread Messages.

Rhys’ sleeve notes above (and detail below) highlight the difficulty of using the correct names when discussing the indigenous people of North America. History is written by the victors and too often, a name given by outsiders can stick, even though it causes offence.

Notes on terminology

Luckily for us, a young cartographer has produced a map of Native American tribes showing their names and locations before the Europeans arrived. Below is a detail of the map, showing the Mandan nation, the most likely candidates for the lost tribe that John Evans was searching for.

Tribal Nations

So, even though Evans never found the lost Welsh tribe, his efforts weren’t in vain, as his maps were used by Lewis and Clark during their journeys through the American west.

Mystery still seems to surround Evans though, as the above site also seems to think he is Scottish. Oh well, as I’ve said before, print the legend.

The Bowes Playing cards of 1590

A quick look at a fascinating set of playing cards, recently acquired by the British Library. I imagine that, just like my Raisin Splitz illusion cards, they’d be very distracting for the players though.

Thinking inside the box

This week’s @visualoop Vintage Infodesign roundup had a number of interesting entries, but this Soviet admin map caught my eye:

[Original image can be found here.]

Main Administration Regions of the Soviet Union in 1944

It reminds me of a map I made a few years ago. I had a dream where I saw a completely rectangular map of the lower 48 states of the USA. Perhaps I’d been reading too much Dr Seuss, but it made perfect sense, so when I woke up, I tried to recreate it.

Rectangular USA
Amazing, isn’t it?

I took a US States dataset and edited each state polygon down to just four points, then moved them around and added one or two more points where necessary. The result is quite pleasing, and most of the states are still a recognisable shape, though there are some notable exceptions. When distorting features in this way, there has to be some compromise and in the end, I chose to prioritise the state areas, then try to preserve  the shapes as much as possible. Some states, like Florida and Texas were never going to fit neatly into a rectangle, but I can at least make sure they stay the same size.

Let’s take a closer look at how the new “improved” map compares with the old.


New England doesn’t really work at all when compressed into a rectangle, but most of the borders stay intact. Vermont and New Hampshire have shuffled westwards, so they now border New York instead of Massachusetts and Maine has moved across to take their place.

USA Midwest

Not such a bad fit in the Midwest, although the Great Lakes have dried up and Michigan now has a land border with New York.


The larger states in the north west are probably the closest match to their original outlines.


Likewise the southwest, though Texas has had a large part sliced off.


Florida is probably the worst victim of this arrangement, but the panhandle was never going to fit into a neat rectangle.

Anyway, enough silliness for today, let’s get back to work.


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