How many Pont maps were lost by the Advocates Library? by Bob Henery

Four Pont maps went missing from the Advocates Library sometime between 1723, when the Library bought all the maps left by Robert Sibbald, and 1780, when the maps then held in the Library were listed in a book by Gough. Robert Sibbald made lists of some but not all of the maps in his possession, but the titles in his lists are very brief, and often ambiguous, and on this account it is said that the maps cannot be certainly identified. However, the order in which Sibbald listed his maps is close to the order in Gough's list, which is the order in which the maps were stored in the Advocates Library, and this is key to identifying the maps. Indeed the order of the maps is so informative that we can identify all but four of the maps in Sibbald's lists. The reason why these four maps cannot be identified is that they have been lost. The following four maps appear in Sibbald's lists, but are not listed by Gough:

Ye mapp of ye West Isles by T.P.;
Compleat Map of Garyoch;
a draught of ye River Carron by T. Pont;
ye first draught of ane Universall Mapp.

In Gough's list of 1780 there were 126 maps. If, and it is a big if, we have correctly identified all the maps held by Sibbald that later went missing, we can deduce that the Advocates Library must have bought 130 maps in the 1723 auction of Robert Sibbald's manuscripts. Of this auction we know only that the Advocates bought the maps as a single lot for the sum of 260, so it appears that this sum was calculated at 2 per map. Such a nice round sum for the price of each map suggests that the maps may have been auctioned as a "parcel lot", with the successful bidder on the first map being given the opportunity to purchase the rest of the maps at the same price. A simpler explanation is that the Advocates did a private deal based on a fixed sum of 2 per map.

How did we identify the four missing maps? Sibbald left us with three lists of maps:

1) 45 maps received fra the person of Rothemay (in two bundles with 31 and 14 maps);
2) 9 maps in the list headed In ys bundle on the back of Gordon 19;
3) 67 maps on 65 manuscripts listed under Maps done by Timothy Pont M.S.

The maps in the last two lists are relatively easy to identify, as their ordering is directly related to the ordering of the maps in Gough's list of 1780. Take, for example, the nine maps listed on the back of Gordon 19. The titles of these maps are given in Table 1, in the order that they appear on the manuscript. Also given are their modern names (column three), their order of appearance in the Gough list of 1780 (column four), and their order in the list of Maps done by Timothy Pont M.S. (column five). Because Sibbald usually listed manuscripts rather than maps, and kept separate lists of maps by Adair, the ordering quoted is for manuscripts excluding Adair maps.

Table 1. Identification of the maps listed by Sibbald on the back of Gordon 19.

( The ninth map appears to be lost, as is the "paper qtaining the interpretation of severall Irish words" that accompanied the Mapp of Cathness. )

OrderMaps listed In ys bundle on the back of Gordon 19
(c. 1683-1722)
Identification Cash name
Advocates Library
Gough, 1780
Maps done by Pont
Sibbald c. 1722
1The Draught of ye River of Charron yt falleth in to ye Firth of TaineGordon 196530
2Ye mapp of CoygachGordon 136832
3a Mapp of Cathness with which is a paper qtaining the interpretation of severall Irish wordsGordon 096429
4Mapp of Sutherland, Stra okel & Stra CharronGordon 106733
5Ye mapp of Coygach & LochbryinGordon 146227
6Ye Mapp of Assin by T.P.Gordon 125923
7Ye Mapp of Ederacheulis by T.P.Gordon 116631
8Mapp of Lochness & ye Land lying upon ye head yrof.Pont 056934
9Ye mapp of ye West Isles by T.P.lost by 1780NANA
Total number of manuscripts in the list10065


The first map listed is clearly Gordon 19 itself. Gordon 19 is the 65th manuscript in Gough's list of 1780, so we expect the other maps listed on the back of Gordon 19 to appear in Gough's list in positions close to the 65th. The next manuscript in Gough's list, in 66th position, is Gordon 11, and Gordon has endorsed this map with the words "Ederacheulis. M.T.P.", matching the description of the 7th map in the table. The 67th map in Gough's list is Gordon 10, entitled by Robert Sibbald himself as "Sutherland, Strath Okel, & Strath Charron", matching the title of the 4th map in the table. Proceeding in this manner, we readily identify all but the last map: Ye mapp of ye West Isles by T.P. This cannot be identified with any map in Gough's list. We conclude that Ye mapp of ye West Isles by T.P. was in Sibbald's possession some time shortly before his death in 1722, and was bought by the Advocates Library in 1723, but was missing by 1780. Ye mapp of ye West Isles was probably a large-scale map that provided all the material for Blaeu's engravings of the Western Isles, as well as the small-scale engraving Aebudae Insulae covering the whole of the Western Isles and the west coast from Kintyre to the Coygach. It is probably the missing Pont map that Jeffrey Stone identifies as the source for several placenames in Gordon's map of Coygach & Lochbryin (Gordon 14), as nine of those placenames appear on the Aebudae Insulae engraving also. The mere presence of Ye mapp of ye West Isles in the same small bundle as Gordon 14 is suggestive of a possible connection between the two, and indeed many of the maps in this bundle would be relevant to mapping the Coygach and its environs.

The last extant map listed In ys bundle is the 69th manuscript in Gough's list, and the 34th manuscript in the Maps done by Pont, so in both lists there are 31 manuscripts following those In ys bundle. The remarkable fact is that these are exactly the same 31 manuscripts, and in almost exactly the same order, apart from a few inversions. The closeness of the relative ordering in these two lists suggests that the Advocates Library bound the maps in the order in which the maps were then kept by Sibbald. It also suggests that the Maps done by Pont formed a distinct bundle, which was transferred in its entirety, though with some slight rearrangement, and was not a selective list of the more important maps in a larger bundle.