Fort museum gifted Dutch cartographer’s map of Lochaber dating from 1659

The map with from left, Norman Bell, Vanessa Martin, Caroline Gooch, Charlotte Macnee Bell, Helen Adam and Dr Chris Robinson. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos NO-F06-Historical-map-5
The map with from left, Norman Bell, Vanessa Martin, Caroline Gooch, Charlotte Macnee Bell, Helen Adam and Dr Chris Robinson. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos NO-F06-Historical-map-5

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The West Highland Museum in Fort William was last week gifted a 17th-century map which was the first one printed named specifically Lochaber.

It is actually titled in Latin ‘Lochabria’ and was printed in Amsterdam in
1659 by the Dutch cartographer, Jan Jansson.

The map was copied from a smaller scale map again printed in Amsterdam by Joannis Blaeu just five years earlier in 1654. Blaeu engraved his map from sketches made by  Timothy Pont in about 1690.

Pont was a minister, as was his father, who gave him an allowance to support him through 15 years of travelling around Scotland making sketch maps of the places, tracks, rivers, mountains, and woods and coasts of the country.

Not all his maps survived but the one covering the area around the head of Loch Linnhe, which shows Ben Nevis drawn and Old Inverlochy Castle, did. The original is preserved in the National Library in Edinburgh.

The Jansson map displays many local place names including Torlundy, Blarmachfoldach, Ardgour, Achintore, Torcastle, Blarour, Tirindrish, Onich and Ballachulish.

NO F06 MSS Lochaber Map
Lochaber Map

It has original bright hand colouring and, though primitive by today’s standards shows the outline of the head of Loch Linnhe quite accurately.

The map was gifted to the West Highland Museum by the Gooch family who have had the map in the family probably from the time of Victor Hodgson, who founded the museum 100 years ago this year.

The map, which was delivered after detailed conservation work and so will be preserved for another 360 years, is expected to be on display before Easter.

Museum director, Dr Chris Robinson, told us: ‘After framing the map will probably be on display in the Governors’ Room in the museum, where the papers for the Massacre of Glencoe were signed and where the doomed James Stewart of the Glen, accused of involvement in the Appin Murder, was first brought after his arrest.

‘As the museum attracts more volunteers, the opening hours are increasing toward its normal routines and is now open Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm.