Old Hampshire Mapped
The orientation of a map is often shown by a compass rose; this might be decorative or might be plain. It might show just the north point, or might show many points of the compass.
The four main directions are the Cardinal points of the
compass; north, east, south, west.|
These 4 directions are at right angles, 90 degrees to each other, a 1/4 of the circle.
The cardinal points are also called 'principal points'.
|north||For many of us 'north' is the primary point of the
compass and 'up is north' on the map page; this is not true
for every situation or culture. Not all maps are printed
The point might be labelled N or North, or perhaps in Latin, Septentriones, referring to the seven stars that make up the constellation of The Bear, or Plough, that is a pointer for the Pole Star in the North. The Latin term might be abbreviated, eg Sept.
British maps traditionally mark the north point with a fleur de lys.
|east||The east point might be labelled E or East
or perhaps in Latin, Oriens, from the verb
orior, to rise, reminding us where the sun rises. The Latin
term might be abbreviated, eg Ori.|
The point might be marked with a sort of cross potent or cross patee.
|south||The south point might be labelled S or South
or perhaps in Latin, Meridiens, referring to
where the sun is in the middle of the day [in the northern
hemisphere north of the tropics]. The Latin term might be
abbreviated, eg Meri.|
The point might be marked with a crescent.
|west||The west point might be labelled W or West
or perhaps in Latin, Occidens, from the Latin
occido, to fall or set, reminding us where the sun sets.
The Latin term might be abbreviated, eg Occi.|
The point might be marked with a cross crosslet, usually with a circle at the centre.
Between the cardinal points are the half cardinal
points of the compass; NE, SE, SW, NW.|
These 4 points are at 45 degrees to the four cardinal directions, an 1/8th of the circle.
The half cardinal points are also called 'quadrantal points'.
The directions dividing the cardinal and half cardinal points
are called false points; NNE, ENE, ESE, SSE, SSW,
WSW, WNW, NNW.|
These 8 points are at 22.5 degrees to the others, an 1/16th of the circle.
The false points are also called 'intermediate points' or 'three letter points'.
Directions are further divided into the by points,
eg NbyE, SWbyS. (The rules for expressing these are best seen
from the diagram at the head of this page. You always go
from the nearest half cardinal or cardinal point 'by' ie
towards a cardinal point.)|
The 16 by points are at 11.25 degrees to the others, a 1/32nd of the circle. It would be unusual to find by points marked on the compass rose of a land map; they are less unusual on sea charts.
The quarter points take the division two steps
further, eg Nby1/4E, SWby1/2S, Wby3/4N. (The half values
are called quarter points or half points.)|
The quarter points are at 2.8125 degrees to the others, a 1/128th of the circle. It would be very unusual to find quarter points marked on the compass rose of a map.
boxing the |
Reciting the 32 points of the compass in order is known
as 'boxing the compass'.|
Instead of having a compass rose the map might have its
borders labelled:- North, East, South,
and West, or perhaps the Latin equivalents:-
Septentriones, Oriens, Meridiones,
Occidens, which are explained above.|
OR; the the map might have latitude and longitude scales
along its borders, and perhaps a latitude/longitude grid
overall, and not need a compass rose at all. As this grid
may not be rectangular a compass rose could confuse matters!|
The majority of the Hampshire maps studied are drawn
'N is up' ie have 'north' at the top of the page. Compass
north varies with time; if this is used to orientate the map
on paper, the orientation will vary. At a later period
the orientation of the map on the printed paper may be
arranged to suit a formal projection rather than have
compass north 'up'.|
Matching the positions of a group of towns on an old map to today's national grid positions shows that each map page needs to be rotated to bring it 'into line'. The rotation needed to transform page-north into a standard north on the ngr projection, is listed below:-
Saxton 1575 7.1 degrees E Norden 1595 8.2 degrees E Norden 1607 8.2 degrees E Speed 1611 7.4 degrees E Blaeu 1645 7.8 degrees E Jansson 1646 7.8 degrees E Blome 1673 8.5 degrees E Morden 1695 8.6 degrees E Kitchin 1751 3.5 degrees W Harrison 1788 3.4 degrees W(The rotation may not be quite as exact as implied above.)
Keith gives a series of values for the magnetic variation over the period 1550-1850:-
These values are for London, the variation in Hampshire is not greatly different. John Norden declares he uses compass north; the 8 degree rotation needed to bring his map to today's standard is explained by the magnetic variation of his time. Some later map makers may have copied an outofdate compass north from an earlier map.
These notes are mostly Lloyd Brown's ideas about wind roses.|
Even though ancient astronomers developed the mathematical expression of directions, early chart makers gave directions on their charts by a more homely wind rose.
Heracleitus divided the heavens into four:-
|N  c;||The Bear|
|S||The region opposite the Bear|
The directions are general, not precisely N, E, S, W.|
Poseidonius and Polybius, recounted by Strabo used four more directions:-
|N  c;||The darkness|
The direction of the equinoctial rising and setting vary
with your position on Earth, which Strabo pointed out.|
Homer wrote of four winds, names:-
|But the wind names were used in various ways. Strabo observed that some writers refer to two principle winds, Boreas and Notus, and others differing only slightly from these:-|
And beside these confusions there were local names for winds
from particular places, Levante from the Levant, Greco
from Greece, ...|
The Tower of Winds in Athens, built about 100BC, had eight sides adorned with emblems, labelled:-
|Pliny, in his Natural History, reported two systems, four winds and twelve winds, and that modern sailors have simplified these into eight. He gave current and earlier Greek terms (order not certain):-|
The wind rose of twelve winds is found in writers down to
the 11th century, appearing again in the 14th century when
a sixteen wind system was also in use.|
A system with intermediate winds named by compounds of the four cardinal names was probably used by Flemish sailors, from Bruges and elsewhere, from the time of Charlemagne.
In 1581, Michel Coignet gave a list of 8 winds, in Italian and French:-
contrasting the traditional style of names with the
A 17th century source gave an Accurate Table of Winds, Ventorum Accurata Tabula, as a composite wind rose of 4, 8, 12, 24 and 32 directions; some of these points are:-
|NNE||Nord Nord est||Tramontana Graeco|
|ENE||est Nord est||Levante Graeco|
|ESE||est Sud est||Levante Siroco|
|SSE||Sud Sud est||Ostro Siroco|
|S||Notus||Notos||SUD||Ostro OR Mezogiorno|
|SSW||Sud Sud ouest||Ostro Garbino|
|SW||Lips||SUD OUEST||Garbino OR Libegio|
|WSW||Ouest au Sudouest||Garbino ponante|
|WNW||Oest Nord Ouest||Maestro Ponante|
|NNW||Nord Nord Ouest||Maestro Tramontana|
The quarter points were fairly clear in the compounding
style. eg 'Nord Quart au Nord est'. In the traditional style
the equivalent point is 'Quarta di Tramontana verso Graeco'
which is less immediately comprehensible.|
Some of the 12 and 24 system directions in this compound diagram are:-
(The greek is transliterated as well as I can; and I suspect
the author and engraver were each having trouble with
their sources too.)|
The compounding style of direction names was adopted by portuguese mariners before the 16th century. In the Arte de Navegar by Pedro de Medina, 1545, the flemish names are given in wind roses of four, eight, twelve (?16?) and thirty-two points. The wind rose had evolved into the compass rose that we know today.
This all makes me glad that we have the understandable compounding system we have today; and inclined to understand why mariners mostly, now, use headings in degrees although steer SW is more immediate than steer 225 degrees until you get used to it. The direction names tabulated above demonstrate how dangerous is translation from old terms into modern directions. But the tables may help you read terms off an old map decorated with winds puffing airs from the borders of a map, where you already have their positions.
Brown, Lloyd A: 1979 (reprint); 1949 (original): Story of
Maps, The: Dover Publications (New York, New York,
United States):: ISBN 0 486 23873 3|
Keith, Thomas: 1842: On the Use of the Globes: Teg, Thomas (London)
||Old Hampshire Mapped|