Linguistic Geographies: The Gough Map of Great Britain

Linguistic Geographies: The Gough Map of Great Britain image

An interactive, searchable edition of the Gough Map, one of the earliest maps to show Britain in a geographically-recognizable form.


Main URL


The Gough Map, named after one of its former antiquarian owners, Richard Gough (1735-1809), is internationally-renowned as one of the earliest maps to show Britain in a geographically-recognizable form, but its origins have long remained uncertain, including who made it, how, where and why?

The Linguistic Geographies project has helped to explain how maps were produced in the Middle Ages. Generally very little is known of the processes that were involved in medieval map-making. The project used an innovative approach that explores the map's 'linguistic geographies', that is the writing used on the map by the (unknown) scribes who created it. This technique involves specialist palaeographic and linguistic skills that are normally applied to text manuscripts, but somewhat experimentally the aim with this project was to use them on a map manuscript in order to find out more about the Gough Map's making.


This resource is of particular interest to geographers and map historians, historians of medieval Britain and language scholars. It is an important source as the earliest surviving route map of Britain, and unique in accuracy, scale and detail for its period. It depicts over six hundred towns and villages.

The website presents an interactive, searchable edition of the Gough Map, together with extensive contextual material, a blog, and information about the project.

Places on the map have been described in detail, with information including modern place-name, description of icons used to represent geographical features, a full transcript of place-names and other text, etymology and attested spellings, records in earlier maps, the appearance of the writing, and whether the place name was overwritten subsequent to the original inscription.

Introductory reading

Parsons, E. J. S., Map of Great Britain circa A.D. 1360, known as the Gough map: an introduction to the facsimile, Oxford, 1958.

K.D. Lilley and C.D. Lloyd, 'Mapping the realm: a new look at the Gough Map of Britain (c.1360)', Imago Mundi 61(1) (2009), 1-28.

Technical Methods

The project used a GIS to capture information about map features in a vector format using a high quality scan of the original map as a background. This method of data capture facilitates viewing layers of information (places, rivers, coastlines, routes, mountains and moors, lakes and loughs, islands, historical features, cartouches).

The spelling and capitalization of the manuscript are preserved in transcribed text. Standard abbreviations are expanded; abbreviations whose meaning is uncertain are represented by special symbols. In longer inscriptions line division is indicated by double bars.

Special Characters

This resource uses the searchable special characters thorn (þ) and eth (ð).

It also includes a number of accented letters (eg ó) which have been replaced for searching purposes by their unaccented equivalent.

About the project

The Linguistic Geographies project was a collaboration between Queen's University Belfast, the Bodleian Library and King's College London. The project director was Keith Lilley (QUB), and the co-investigators were Nick Millea (Bodleian) and Paul Vetch (King's). The project received financial support from the AHRC Beyond Text programme.


Search The Gough Map

Source Types

  • Maps and Works of Art


  • Full-text Transcriptions
  • Manuscript Descriptions


  • place names
  • scribal cultures
  • map-making


  • English


  • Free

Time Period



King's College London

Cite this page:

"The Gough Map" Manuscripts Online (, version 1.0, 1 October 2023),