The wool and silk tapestry is one of the finest of its kind. © Bodleian Library
Oxford’s Bodleian Library has reunited a series of rare Tudor tapestry maps after acquiring the Sheldon Tapestry Map for Gloucestershire at auction.
The wool and silk tapestry, which cost the library more than £100,000, is part of a set of four maps commissioned by Ralph Sheldon for his home at Weston, Warwickshire, dating from the 1590s.
Illustrating the Midlands counties of England the series features Worcestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire. The Bodleian’s new acquisition now rejoins the maps for Worcestershire and Oxfordshire, which were given to the library in 1809.
The maps had not been seen together since being exhibited in the early 20th century. The Warwickshire map is currently part of the Warwickshire Museum’s collection.
“The stunningly beautiful map depicts the late sixteenth-century Gloucestershire landscape with remarkable clarity and precision,” said Nick Millea, Map Librarian at the Bodleian Library.
Detail from the Worcestershire tapestry. © Bodleian Library
“The prospect of displaying such a striking artefact at the Bodleian is tremendously exciting, especially as it will now be housed only 26 miles from where it was created.”
Forming a unique representation of the landscape of the Midland counties when modern cartography was still in its infancy, the four maps are, for their time, technically without parallel in the UK.
Each features its county in the centre with a white background and named in red letters, with surrounding counties depicted in various colours. They retain much of their original colour and show landscape features, rivers and townscapes.
Oxford University’s Bodleian Library is the second largest library in the UK and is home to one of the world’s top ten map libraries and one of the most important centres of cartographic and topographic history in the country.