Introduction to Ordnance Survey maps

Early Ordnance Survey one-inch mapping in Scotland

decorative graphic illustrating this particular set of maps
With many thanks to Olivia Vane for this animation - for further details, see her Observable Notebook.

Ordnance Survey's one-inch to the mile (1:63,360) series was intended as a 'touring, cycling and small-scale manoeuvre map, [with] the primary object being that the average man should be able to find his way about unfamiliar country with ease' (OS circular of 1909, quoted in Oliver (1993, p.35)). Essentially the one-inch is a general map, supplementing the main record of landscape change at the larger basic six-inch and 25-inch to the mile scales, so that minor changes may not appear even on full revision. For example, cottages more or less within a village, or the exact number of buildings at a farm were not considered important, 'provided the village or farm is indicated in the right place and approximately the right size and shape' (OS circular of 1909, quoted in Oliver (1993, p.35)). By giving coverage of a wider area than the basic larger scales, the series is particularly useful in showing an overview of significant landscape changes such as urbanisation, changes to roads, and forestry developments.

The one-inch 1st edition of Scotland was based on larger scale surveys of 1843-1878, and published on 132 sheets between 1856 and 1895. A national revision of 1894-1895 was published in 1896-1898 as the 2nd edition, whilst a further revision of 1901-1910, published between 1903-1912 as the 3rd edition. A 4th edition, begun in 1909, was abandoned, with just one sheet published. From 1912, work began in England and Wales on the one-inch 'popular' edition, extending this into Scotland as the Scottish Popular edition from 1921. Unlike the previous Scottish engraved mapping based on the Bonne projection, the 'popular' edition put Scotland on the same base as England and Wales by extending the Cassini projection northwards with a point of origin of the projection at Delamere Forest.

Ordnance Survey one-inch second edition with coloured parishes, 1898-1904 (Hellyer 14.4 and 14.5)

These map series were published as indexes to larger scale mapping at six-inch and 25-inch to the mile scales, and from the evidence of the OS Dorington Committee reporting in 1892, and a Departmental Committee of the Board of Agriculture (1896), they were intended to reduce the great confusion that existed between the two series. With underlying topography dating from 1894-1895, the indexes show parishes in five colours, and were an important milestone in OS printing history by obtaining green and orange from combinations of the primary colours, anticipating 'process printing' some 80 years later (Oliver, 2002).

Certainly the extent and boundaries of civil parishes, incorporating the recent and extensive changes of the Local Government Act (Scotland) 1894 are a striking feature of the map, and of great value for the genealogist and local historian. The earlier civil parish boundaries can be seen on various other maps, but are shown quite clearly on the county series indexes (1854-1886) on this website. However, the sheet lines of larger scale mapping are usefully included, of value particularly for those counties with revised meridians in the 1890s, which differ from the first edition sheets lines shown on the earlier county series indexes.

The series was never completed, the high production costs and low sales leading to its abandonment in 1904, with only 100 (showing six-inch indexes) or 104 (showing 25-inch indexes ) sheets published out of a possible 131. Our website includes 105 sheets numbered from south to north aiming to give most extensive coverage of Scotland from our collection: 96 sheets showing six-inch indexes, and nine (covering Fair Isle and Shetland) showing 25-inch indexes.

Ordnance Survey one-inch 3rd Edition (Coloured), 1902 - 1923

This attractively-coloured series was based on the Ordnance Survey's one-inch to the mile 3rd edition maps, with topographic detail based on a revision of 1901-1910. It reflected the earliest attempt to produce a one-inch to the mile map with coloured topographic detail: water in blue, woodland in green, the first and second class roads in burnt sienna, hachures in brown, and contours in red. These maps were intended for practical recreational purposes, and they were issued in a convenient folded form with covers. The engraved copper plate of the outline edition formed the base content, but with coloured zinc plates used for lithographically printing the additional colours. The roads, which had not been very clear on the original engraved maps became much more prominent, even if some of the text for names was difficult to read in hillier areas. We have scanned all our sheets of this series, including the various reprints with updated detail and railways, etc. noting these in the table listing below.

Ordnance Survey one-inch 3rd Edition (Black Outline), 1902 - 1923

This incomplete series was a lithographic reprint of the earlier outline engraved maps. The new style of heading and the note in the bottom margin that "An edition of this map is published in colours" reflect a change in what the Ordnance Survey meant by 'outline'. Prior to the First World War, it was a way of distinguishing a simpler style of map where relief was shown only by contours from sheets that used hachures as well. By 1918, it was used for a monochrome (or reduced-colour) version of a coloured map intended primarily for users who wanted to add their own information in coloured ink or wash.

Ordnance Survey one-inch 4th Edition, 1910

A third cycle of one-inch revision had been started in 1909-11 but was effectively abandoned. Of the Scottish sheets covered by this programme, only one sheet (Sheet 26) was ever published and it appears, headed Fourth Edition.

Ordnance Survey one-inch 'popular' edition of Scotland, 1921-1928 (Hellyer 18A.1 )

The Popular edition was the first one-inch edition produced completely independently of copper plate engraving, the production method used for earlier 19th century editions. The name indicated Ordnance Survey's intention of producing an attractive contoured road map in seven colours that would be popular with the 'man in the street', and the series still evokes images of the inter-war generation's leisure hours, cycling, touring, or walking through the British countryside.

The larger sheet area than previous one-inch maps, even with new overlaps between sheets, allowed the whole of Scotland to be covered on 92 sheets, numbered from north to south. The revision dates of sheets must be used with caution, bearing in mind the functions stated above of the series as a general map, ignoring many features considered to be minor. The first printings were all based on field revision of 1921-1930, also incorporating data from the (limited) county revision from 1921 onwards.

Although showing many similarities to the 'popular' edition of England and Wales, the Scottish sheets differed in some respects, such as showing parish boundaries and names, showing buildings in solid black rather than hatched, with limits shown for rough pasture, and showing parks by dots rather than ruled. Following the completion of the series in 1932, the series was updated and reissued in various military editions between 1933 and 1944 (including GSGS 3908), before appearing with the new National Grid lines (1945-1948).

Further reading

Roger Hellyer, Ordnance Survey small-scale maps, indexes: 1801-1998 (Kerry, 1999)
Roger Hellyer and Richard Oliver, A Guide to the Ordnance Survey One-inch Third Edition Maps in Colour (London: Charles Close society, 2004).
Roger Hellyer and Richard Oliver, One-inch Engraved Maps: Of the Ordnance Survey from 1847 (London: Charles Close society, 2009).
Yolande Hodson, Popular Maps: the Ordnance Survey popular edition one-inch map of England and Wales 1919-1926 (London, 1999)
Richard Oliver, Ordnance Survey Maps: a concise guide for historians , 3rd ed. (London, 2013)
Richard Oliver, A guide to the Ordnance Survey one-inch Popular Edition of Scotland (London, 2000)
Richard Oliver, 'The Ordnance Survey and its indexes to large scale maps' in Ordnance Survey of Great Britain. England and Wales Indexes to the 1/2500 and 6-inch scale maps (reprinted Kerry, 2002)