A landmark survey of the South Orkneys featuring pioneering work in the use of triangulation.

The South Isles of Orkney, with the Rocks, Tides, Soundings &c. Surveyed and Navigated by Murdoch Mackenzie

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Cartographer(s): Murdoch Mackenzie
Date: 1750
Place: Edinburgh (?)
Dimensions: 70 x 63.5 cm (27.5 x 25 in)
Condition Rating: VG
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From a seminal work for the history of mapping, this hydrographic survey of the South Orkney Islands of Scotland was carried out by famed cartographer Murdoch Mackenzie. Orkney is an archipelago in the Northern Isles of Scotland, situated off the north coast of Great Britain. Mackenzie was born there in the town of Kirkwall and in 1742 he began organizing and seeking funding for what would become the most accurate and detailed marine survey ever conducted.

This advanced accuracy was the result of a precise triangulation framework that Mackenzie adopted for his surveying. Triangulation is the process of determining the location of a point by forming triangles to it from known points. It was a principle that was only just beginning to be adopted for topographic mapping and charting. Murdoch compliments the quality of the cartographic measurements with artful insertions of important details, such as soundings, tides, and tidal streams, along with bottom deposits, which are depicted via a convention still used today, by a letter under each sounding.

Overall, an important map for any collector interested in the history of the science of cartography.


Murdoch Mackenzie

Murdoch Mackenzie (1712–1797) was a Scottish hydrographer and cartographer. He is known for his survey of the Orkney Islands; the subsequent maps, known as the ‘Mackenzie Charts,’ are still in use. He is also credited with the invention of the station pointer, a navigational tool that preceded the marine sextant and chronometer.

Condition Description

Nice, strong paper. Minor spot stains and remnant discoloration of mounting tape (?) in the margins.