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May 30, 2001

CW hosts rare Scottish maps

Colonial Williamsburg will host "At the Edge of the World: Mapping Scotland," a loan exhibition from an anonymous donor on display at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum Nov. 30, 2001 to Dec. 1, 2002. The exhibition will feature maps, charts and atlases that illustrate a fascinating blend of art, science and social history with some of the earliest efforts at creating printed maps of northern Britain, including those from the 16th century when Scotland was on the edge of the known world.

"Mapping Scotland" will include an exploration of early maps and urban views of Britain and Scotland, nautical charts, elaborate coffee table atlases and other cartographic miscellany. Significantly, this is only the second such display of Scottish maps in the United States, the first having taken place in 1995 at the John Carter Brown Library in Providence, R.I. Scottish map aficionados will note that the exhibition's Nov. 30 opening date coincides with St. Andrew's Day honoring Scotland’s patron saint.

Exhibition highlights will include: "The Woolly Mammoth Map," a 1522 interpretation of Ptolemy's second-century world map by Martin Waldseemuller; a 1700 map by Pierre Mortier depicting Scotland's only overseas colony on the Darien Peninsula of what is now Panama; English historian John Speed's 1611 work, "History of Great Britaine," with its imaginative drawings of the early Scots with painted and tattooed bodies; and Joseph Thomson’s milestone "Atlas of Scotland." The exhibition also will include a complete set of early 18th-century charts by John Adair, the first Scottish marine cartographer; a set of charts of the west coast of Scotland by Murdoch Mackenzie, who attempted the first scientific mapping of Scottish waters; and the only Spanish edition of Blaeu’s volume on Scotland and Ireland.

"We’ve tried to show how attitudes toward Scotland have changed over time, from a relatively unknown outpost at the edge of civilization to the most mapped country in Europe," said John Hyman, Colonial Williamsburg guest curator. "I’m especially interested in the northern islands, which were safe havens and fishing stations for ships trading with North America. They are critical to any study of Scottish migration to this country."

Hyman currently is writing a monograph on Scottish maps that will supplement information in the exhibition.

"Colonial Williamsburg is lucky to be able to call on specialists like John Hyman to mount unusual, thought-provoking exhibitions such as this," said Colonial Williamsburg Chief Curator and Vice President of Collections and Museums Ronald L. Hurst. "This is a fascinating, visual display that tells history with many unexpected, contemporary insights."

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