Review of Motco CDs
by Peter Barber MA, FSA, FRHistS, Head of Map Collections at the British Library
The following review of the Motco CDs was published in the May 2005 Newsletter of the London Topographical Society:
This series of CD-roms grew from an ambitious and ongoing project, masterminded by Patrick Mannix and assisted on the academic side by (our own) Ralph Hyde , to scan the major maps and views of London. At the time this was far in advance of what most major libraries throughout the world were able to undertake, despite the wealth of their own holdings, and they have since struggled to emulate Motco’s achievement, in its admittedly restricted field, as far as their usually precarious finances and corporate constraints permit. These CDs go a significant stage further. The novel ‘yellow circle navigation’ pioneered by Motco enables particular locations to be zoomed into very easily and speedily thereby making it possible for users to pinpoint locations in bygone London in the style of an automated A-Z.
Henry Harben’s scarce Dictionary of London published posthumously in 1918 but completed in 1918 does not include a map. It does, though, provide background information for the City of London elements of the other CDs, including the date of a road or lane’s first appearance on a map (if, indeed, it ever was recorded cartographically). The CDs proceed chronologically from Strype’s ward maps of the 1720’s, Rocque’s great map of London and Westminster of 1746, Cary’s one-inch to the mile pocket atlas of the country fifteen miles round London of 1786 and finally Stanford’s superb Library Map of London and its Suburbs of 1862. (CD of Greenwood 1830 subsequently published). Each CD is accompanied by excellent introductions by Ralph Hyde and indexes of place names, supplemented in the case of Cary by an index of landowners and in most other cases subject indexes enabling the user to identify particular types of building.
I found the CDs easy to use. You can find your way to areas of interest either by clicking repeatedly on the (necessarily very much reduced) image of the whole map or by clicking on the place names lists in the left-hand columns. In all cases the quality of the images is superb.
The CDs cannot reproduce the spaciousness of the original map sheets. There are fewer chances for serendipitous discovery. On the other hand they enable atlases such as Cary’s or disparate maps such as Strype’s to be interrogated as though they were a single map sheet so as to provide the efficient finding aid that Motco proclaims that it sets out to provide “for historians, genealogists, researchers, authors and producers”. Users of the Mac need not complain of being excluded since Motco is producing a new series of versions for them as well as PC users [All CDs are now Mac compatible, January 2008].
All in all these CDs can be strongly recommended for computer-literate members as an automated supplement to our (London Topographical Society) own popular series of published A-Zs.
Peter Barber, Head of Map Collections, British Library