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  • Writer's picturej. matthew thomas

Christopher Saxton

When we think of countries, we pretty much take for granted that the countries has defined parameters of what constitutes it’s boundaries with maps. But, it wasn’t until the 16th century that a country actually created the first atlas, thereby ‘certifying’ its homeland boundary’s and contents.

“Map making became increasingly common in the reign of Elizabeth I made possible by advances in surveying technology and printing from engraved copper plates. Accurate mapping of the whole country became increasingly important.”

Christopher Saxton is credited with being the first cartographer who produced the first county maps of England and Wales. In 1574 Saxton began the survey of England and as it was a significant undertaking, the survey wasn’t complete until 1578. As there was some country maps already created, by the likes of John Rudd, it is possible that Saxton included some of these sheets into his work.

In 1579 the Atlas of the Counties of England and Wales was produced, becoming the first atlas of any country. It contained 35 maps, showing buildings, settlements, hills and mountains, but didn’t provide precise information regarding their location or altitude. The atlas was a commercial success, prompting other cartographers.

The cover of the Atlas was the image of the queen, royal and important. This publication is important as it signifies the domination of a land, the declaration of a nation, and the preordained authority bestowed upon it.

If you draw it, label it, print it and share it, it is so. Unfortunately, this won’t be the last time a bunch of privileged white folks travel around drawing maps and declaring it theirs.

The act of capturing the representation of space on paper, and labeling it, has historically been the precedence for ownership. This is mine, look here, all of this is mine… I drew it and have it here, I own it. It’s almost that the drawing itself is the land, in miniature, the land captured in paper. A miniature representation of the actual thing, able to be rolled or folded and placed in one’s pocket.

How can you capture something so large, and nearly inconceivable? The essence of which is much greater than any canvas, paper, computer can hold. But even an outline becomes a country.

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