Mysterious Numerals on Pont, Gordon, and Adair maps by Bob Henery

Many maps by Pont, Gordon, and Adair have numerals written on them, some in a prominent position in the middle of the map, near the top, yet others in a top corner, and some deliberately bleached out making them nigh impossible to read. Jeffrey Stone (1) says of the numerals:

"The numerals seem to bear no relation to Cash's list, nor to the record provided by Gough (1780) of their relative position " in the Advocates' Library ". The origin and meaning of the numerals is a mystery."

It turns out that there are three or more sets of numerals, one related to Gough's list of 1780 (2), one related to Cash's list of 1907 (3), and others whose only known characteristic is that they are bleached. Which numerals are on any given map is rather variable. Pont's map of Clydesdale has three numerals: a prominent 73 top mid left, a very faint bleached 4 (?) just above it, and a 34 top right (Figure 1).

Image of part of Pont 34 showing the number 73   Image of part of Pont 34 showing the number 34

Figure 1. Numerals on Pont 34 Clydesdale.

Cash labels this map "Pont 34", and this explains the numeral 34 top right. I cannot explain bleached numerals anyway, so I have set the bleached 4 aside, leaving 73 as the numeral relating to Pont 34 in Gough's list (see the last entry in Table 1).

For other maps, we ignore bleached numerals, and also numerals equating to Cash's map numbers. The remaining numerals are usually prominent, usually near the top middle of the map, and these mysterious numerals I will call "Gough numerals", and write them in bold font. Occasionally the Gough numerals are difficult to read, or may be read in different ways. I have chosen that which best fits Gough's order. For example, 81 could be 18 upside down, so I have choosen 18 for map 2 in opening XV (see Table 1).

The Advocates Library held the maps in a single volume with 50 openings. In Table 1 we list all the maps in the order given by Gough in 1780, with a short version of Gough's description of each map, together with the numeral identified and its location on the map. Generally the numerals in Table 1 form an uninterrupted sequence from 1 to 75. One exception is Gordon 54 in opening XII, a single manuscript with two maps, one numbered 42 (but bleached) and the other 43. These numerals clearly do not belong to the Gough sequence, which otherwise gives numerals to manuscripts. In any case, numeral 42 is attached to another map, Pont 19, in its proper place in the Gough sequence. I would conclude that both numerals 42 and 43 on Gordon 54 belong to the bleached set. Numeral 82 on Gordon 48 is also out of sequence, but the largest numeral in the whole Gough sequence is only 75, so numeral 82 may have some other explanation.

Though the map in the first opening is now missing ("The west coast..."), that is the only casualty since Gough's list of 1780, and it may be significant that the Gough sequence starts with numeral 1 in the second opening. Perhaps the Gough numerals were written after this map was lost. Some numerals are missing in the whole Gough sequence, for example numeral 15, which we would expect in opening XII or XIII. It is possible that this numeral is on the back of a manuscript, or was on a segment of map lost by wear and tear.

The mysterious numerals imply a slight rearrangement compared to Gough's list of 1780, with numeral 75 preceding numerals 72 and 73, for example. This is consistent with Fullarton's observation of 1858 (4) that the maps were no longer in the order given by Gough. It is also consistent with these particular numerals being the handiwork of Cash in 1907, who says that his first step "was to number the maps consecutively in the order in which they were then bound, so that subsequent identification would be easy" (3)

Table 1. Gough's list of maps in the Advocates Library (opening, number, description), the "mysterious" numerals on the maps, and the modern names of the maps.

Gough's list of maps (1780)Numbers of the maps (? added 1907), and modern map names
OpeningNumber in openingGough description of map (abbreviated)Mysterious NumeralLocation of numeral on mapMap name (Cash 1907)
IWest coast, rivers Forth, Tay, in black pencil and inkLost
IITeviotdale, Ettrick, Lothians, Forth, Tay1top middleGordon 6
III1Caithness, Southerland, Ross, Mearns, Murray2top middleGordon 2
III2England divided into Roman provinces,Gordon 1
III3Kyle, Carrick, to Mull of Galloway3top middleGordon 60
III4Shire of GallawayGordon 61
IV1Dumfries, Cumnock in Kyle, Selkirk4top middlePont 35
IV2CantyreGordon 39
IV3Cunningham from Clyde to Irvine5top leftGordon 59
IV4Tweedale and Roxburgh, Clyde to GlasgowGordon 56
V1Shire of Etterick Forest6top middleGordon 57
V2chart of the entry into river Tay [Marr]Pont 31
V3Maimor in Lochabir Tim Pont7top middlePont 13
V4Lochs Goyll, Lung, and Gherr, part of LennoxPont 16
V5Glastrie and Ardskeodenish, Loch FynePont 15
VI1Loch Lomound, Loch Loung8mid rightGordon 49
VI2Loch Lomound from Glinshyro to Dunbritton9top middlePont 17
VIITay, coast of Fife, Loch Lomond82top leftGordon 48
VIIISea coast from Cromarty to Tay10top middleGordon 4
IXPart of Orkney, coast from Duncansby to Bamff11left middleGordon 3
Xnorth east coast, from Dunrobin to NE of Murray frith12top middleGordon 18
XIAdair's Mid Lothian13top middleAdair 9
XII1Edderacheules14left middlePont 3
XII2North Fife, Falkland42bottom rightGordon 54A
XII3Abernethie, Londores, Mugdrum, and Newburgh43bottom rightGordon 54B
XIII1properties of Leys on the river DeeGordon 31
XIII2Part of Murray containing Elgin, SpynieGordon 23
XIVCromarty point to Redhead on east coast16top middleGordon 25
XV1outlines of Angusshire17top leftGordon 45
XV2Fife by James Gordon, with plans of Cowper18bottom leftGordon 53
XVIEast Lothian, by Adair19top middleAdair 10
XVII1Keanrosse 1642 by James Gordon20top middleGordon 52
XVII2Forth, Ben Lomond, MonteithGordon 51
XVII3coast, from Dunrobin to FindhornGordon 17
XVIII1course of Dee river61top right cornerGordon 28A
XVIII2Devern in Banffshire, Cabrach to Strathbogie61top right cornerGordon 28A
XVIII3Draught of river Dee62top right cornerGordon 28B
XVIII4Athol and Rennoch22top middleGordon 40
XVIII5country above PerthPont 24
XVIII6Course of Tay38top right cornerPont 25
XIXWest Lothian by Adair23top middleAdair 8
XX1Part of Argyllshire, lochs Sheill, Dowich and LuongGordon 15
XX2Loch Aw in Argyleshire from Cheulchurn24right middlePont 14
XX3All river tilt, parts of Badenach, Marr, part of DeePont 20
XX4Dee from Birse to Innerchat25top left cornerGordon 29
XXIAberdeenshire and adjoining counties26top middleGordon 32
XXIILoch Ness, Inverness to Cullen, Spey27left middleGordon 5
XXIII1Yla, Gleney, Lintrathen28top middleGordon 43
XXIII2Findhorn riverGordon 22
XXIII3Loch Lochy to Glencoe29top middleGordon 37
XXIII4Loch Tay, river Tay to WeemysPont 18
XXIV1Lochaber, lochs Ness, Rennach and Timmell30top middleGordon 38
XXIV2Birse, Dee, Banchories, TannerGordon 30
XXIV3Strathardill and GlensheePont 27
XXIV4Lochaber, with lochs Ness and Lochie71top right cornerGordon 36
XXV1Strathern, from Glen Ammond to Kinkardin32top middlePont 21
XXV2North Esk river50top right cornerPont 30
XXV3Prossynn and South Esk rivers50top right cornerPont 30
XXV4Renfrewshire, Clyde to FlattertownGordon 55
XXVIHydrographical map of Forth by J. Adair34top middleAdair 4
XXVII1barony of Renfrew35 top middlePont 33
XXVII2Cowel, Lochaw, and LornPont 12
XXVII3Tay, from Lyon river to Dunkeld36left middlePont 23
XXVII4Angus, from loch Ordy, to Yla36left middlePont 23
XXVII5Ochell Hills, ErnPont 22
XXVII6Nether Stormont, Tay at RuthvenPont 22
XXVIII1Glen Yla, Ruthven to Lintrathen37top middlePont 28
XXVIII2Part of Angus, Airly, Kirk of Alyth37top middlePont 28
XXVIII3outlines of the same37top middlePont 28
XXVIII4Dumbarry, Airly to Cowper Angus37top middlePont 28
XXVIII5lower Buchan, from Kynaird's head38top middleGordon 33
XXVIII6Loch Shinn and environsGordon 12A
XXVIII7Lochs Imberboll, Quinag, Ben More AssyntGordon 12B
XXIXEast Fife from Dysart to Fife's ness by John Adair39top middleAdair 7
XXX1Strathbogie and Ainzie40top middleGordon 26
XXX2Rosshire, Tayn Frith to Tarbat ness41top middleGordon 20
XXX3Coygach and LochbreynGordon 14
XXX4Glenelg, loch Carroun and KisernessGordon 14
XXXI1river Garry, part of Loch Eyracht42top middlePont 19
XXXI2CathenesiaGordon 9
XXXII1Draught of river Charrron, from Tim Pont (back)43top middleGordon 19
XXXII2Edera Chules between Strathnavern and AssynGordon 11
XXXII3Sutherland, Strathuskel, Strathcharron45bottom rightGordon 10
XXXII4west coast, from river Meaty to loch OwrinGordon 13
XXXIIIStrathern, Stormont by Adair 168346top middleAdair 2
XXXIV1Lochs Garry, Lochie, Ness to Inverness47top middlePont 5
XXXIV2friths of Tayne, Cromatie48top middleGordon 16
XXXIV3NE coast, Buchan Ness, Inverugie to YthanGordon 35
XXXV1Strathdon, river Don, to Foulford49right middleGordon 27
XXXV2Part of Aberdeenshire, Inverugie, Pitsligo, Ythan, FyvieGordon 34
XXXVIStirling, Forth, down to West Lothian by Adair51top middleAdair 3
XXXVII1Strathnavern, from loch Bellachchorn52left middlePont 2
XXXVII2County of Murray53right middlePont 8
XXXVIII1Buchan, from Ythan by Tim Pont54right middlePont 10
XXXVIII2west coast, Loch Ewe, Loch Broom, Gruinard55bottom middlePont 4
XXXVIII3Glen Elchegg (i.e. Elg)55bottom middlePont 4
XXXVIII4back part of Rosshire55bottom middlePont 4
XXXIXwest part of Scotland, Clydsdail, Nithsdail by Adair56top middleAdair 11
XL1Dee from Kincardin O'Neil to Aberdeen57left middlePont 11
XL2Dureness, Westmoyn, Kintail58left middlePont 1
XL3Angus, south Esk, Prosyn and Yla rivers, LintrathenPont 29
XLI1Strath Braen, lochs Monarr, Mayly, Benachan59left middleGordon 21
XLI2Ben Lawers, Dee, Tanar, StrathavonPont 7
XLIIThe sheriffdome of Ettrick forest by Adair60top middleAdair 12
XLIII1Strathdon, river Don, lochs Awin and Builg, river AvinGordon 24
XLIII2coast between Spey and Diverne62right middlePont 9
XLIII3Part of Buchan, Banff, from Spey to DeveronPont 9B
XLIV1Abernethy and course of Spey63top rightPont 6
XLIV2course of river Marke or north Esk64top middleGordon 44
XLVOrkney by Adair65top middleAdair 1
XLVI1Clackmananshire106top right cornerAdair 6
XLVI2Clackmananshire, more beautifully done68right middleAdair 5
XLVII1parts of Perthshire and Angus, Carse of Gowry, Yla69bottom rightGordon 41
XLVII2Part of Perthshire, Carse of of Gowry and AngusPont 26
XLVIII1Nithsdail, described by Tim Pont 164470top middleGordon 62
XLVIII2Description of Merse (Berwickshire)Gordon 58
XLVIII3Eskdail, Eusdail71top middleGordon 64
XLVIII4Eskdale, Eusdail, and Liddisdail, Solway frithGordon 63
XLIX1part of Angusshire with Yla, Lintrathen loch75  top middleGordon 42
XLIX2Tay from Perth, Fife coast, Eden, Leven watersGordon 47
XLIX3Stirlingshire and Lennox, Daldowie on ClydeGordon 50
XLIX4Stirlingshire and Lennox, but fullerPont 32
L1east coast, from Orkney, Caithness, to CocketGordon 7
L2Tay, up to Perth, St Andrews72top rightGordon 46
L3Shetland, Fair IsleGordon 8
L4Clydesdale, confines of Tweedale73top middlePont 34



(1) The Pont Manuscript Maps of Scotland, Jeffrey C. Stone, 1989, pp 12-15. Beware two typos in Appendix I: Pont 35 = IV/1; and Gordon 59 = IV/3.
(2) Gough, R., British Topography (London, 1780).
(3) Cash, Scottish Geographical Magazine, p 575, (1907).
(4) Fullarton, J., ed., Topographical Account of the District of Cunningham, Ayrshire (Glasgow, 1858) , page xxvii.