Producing spatial knowledge: mapmaking in Edinburgh, c.1880-c.1920
Feintuck, Anna Jane
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This thesis examines the social and urban history of mapmaking in Edinburgh between c.1880 and c.1920 and argues that cartography, along with the associated printing and publishing industries in the city, provides an effective lens on broader urban concerns. The predominant focus of the archival research is on the family-run firm John Bartholomew & Co., internationally-renowned map publishers during the period. The central questions of the thesis relate to print, knowledge, space and place. The work is grounded, in particular, within urban history and the geography of the book. Chapters are structured around the ‘lifecycle’ of a map and a re-modelled version of Robert Darnton’s ‘communications circuit’. Map production can profitably be contextualised within late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Edinburgh. A taxonomy of the contemporary printing and publishing industries shows — following Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of the ‘field of cultural production’ — that it is crucial to understand the economic, industrial and intellectual setting in which cartographers operated. In this respect, mapmaking is viewed as a fundamentally social process, a theme that continues into the factory, where technological developments are considered in the context of workers’ experiences. The buildings and spaces in which mapmaking occurred take on epistemological significance: they reflect how ideas about city space were made and the related importance of local knowledge. Changes in the sites and conditions of cartographic production corresponded with the increasing organisation of space shown in maps and fire insurance plans such as those produced by the firm Charles E. Goad. Once maps left the premises, a geographical approach to understanding distribution advances links between production and consumption: the local conditions of their making influenced international, national and local sales networks. Throughout, the thesis emphasises the importance of understanding maps as socially constituted objects. This also allows for new insights into the purchasing, ownership and use of maps. Tracing specific instances of use shows that meaning was not solely shaped by cartographers but also by the ongoing interactions and interventions of owners or readers. Overall, the thesis shows that mapmaking was a continually developing way of understanding the city. This was true for cartographers, city officials, or insurers, each of whose increasingly detailed conception of urban space corresponded with more accurate production practices and the greater availability of printed cartographic material. Mapmaking was also part of a broader move towards the growing documentation of urban places. The forms of cartography examined in this thesis show how codified, empirical systems of knowledge came to occupy a privileged position in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century cities. In particular, mapmaking practices in Edinburgh changed not only how the urban was depicted, but also how city spaces were conceptualised and used.