A Brief Guide To OS Maps 1801-2021
For the purposes of brevity and relevance I am going to skim over the rich history of the Ordnance Survey and technical detail of OS maps. I am providing only brief detail on each series and the dates and scales they cover. I am only including small-scale maps that were on general sale in this guide.
If you want a more comprehensive history and further technical detail you can find this at the website of the Charles Close Society and in their many publications, which cover the subject comprehensively.
This is an abbreviated list and there are many variations and less common formats, all of which can be seen on the Charles Close Society website.
Dates are not precise (I am sure someone will correct any errors) and there are overlaps in various series and versions. If you are looking for something specific please drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll help as much as we can.
1801-1869 The One-Inch Old Series of England and Wales
The first genuine OS map was the One-Inch Map of the County of Kent, but this was an early anomaly and the Old Series proper began publication in 1805 and was completed in 1869.
Over a period of more than five decades these were produced in many different “states” (revisions and versions).
Detail on these early maps is impressive, aided, perhaps, by the relatively sparse man-made features in many areas.
We don’t often have these in stock and when we do their price reflects their scarcity.
1869-1892 One-Inch New Series of England and Wales
In 1863 a new survey resulted in the appearance of the New Series, which was never completed in a satisfactory manner, with some sheets only produced, due to political pressure, in an “Advanced Edition” (extremely rare).
We often have a number of these in stock.
1895-1901 Revised New Series of England and Wales
The first One-Inch maps to be revised separately from larger scales in order that no sheet would ever be more than fifteen years out of date.
As well as on-the-ground corrections and up-dates, the Revised New Series brought some changes to symbols and road classifications which provide greater clarity. These can be found in various versions, including colour, to cover the entirety of England and Wales.
We usually have a few of these in stock.
1901-1913 One-Inch Third Edition Maps of England and Wales
Made in Large and Small Sheet editions Third Edition maps were first available to the public from 1906 and continued to be sold in various forms into the 1940s, despite being superseded three times in that period.
1919-1928 One-Inch Popular Edition Maps of England and Wales
Probably the first really popular series of maps that the OS produced, the “Popular Edition” saw the introduction of covers designed for marketing. There are a few variations of the covers – hinged, self-adhesive and “bender-fold” (one piece folded at the top). Ellis Martin was the artist for this series of covers as he was for a number of others, many much more colourful and visually appealing.
This edition saw colour, up to seven per sheet, as standard and the clarity was greatly improved as a result.
We always keep good stocks of these from across England and Wales, although one or two are hard now hard to come by.
1928-1935 One-Inch Fifth Edition Maps of England and Wales
The first edition that moved away from engraving and lithography into photographic production methods and the first to use the Transverse Mercator projection rather than the Cassini projection, which tended to distort angles. It also saw the introduction of the first national grid.
The first of these sheets was in the form of the Fifth (Relief) edition, which depicted variations of height – hills and valleys – with elaborate shading and colouring. These proved unpopular as they were more expensive and, in the consumers’ eye, less clear than the Popular Edition had been. And so a cheaper version with less elaborate colouring was produced – the Fifth Edition. And this superseded the Relief edition.
Fifth (relief) edition sheets can be hard to come by and we usually have relatively small numbers of these.
For one reason or another, including the onset of war, only a small number of Fifth Edition sheets, in the South of England, were ever produced. We usually have a fair number of these in stock.
1945-1954 New Popular Edition One-Inch Maps of England and Wales
The Second World War made a bit of a mess – of Ordnance Survey maps as well. A chaotic mix of Popular Edition, Fifth (Relief) and Fifth Edition sheets necessitated a review and the result was the New Popular Edition.
A complete set of sheets covering all of England and Wales came forth and provides a valuable look at the landscape from the 1930s with revisions through to the mid 1950s.
We always have plenty of these in stock, although some of the low numbers (Northern sheets) are becoming a little scarce.
1952-1974 Seventh Series One-Inch Map of Great Britain
Probably our most popular map, the Seventh Series began life printed in ten colours. This was later reduced to six colours but the Seventh Series is still a wonderful, clear map and sheets were produced to cover the whole of Scotland, England and Wales.
We always have plenty of Seventh Series maps in stock, although one or two of the Scottish sheets are scarce.
1974-2021 Landranger 1:50 000 Maps
In 1974 the Ordnance Survey’s first metric map was published in the form of the 1:50 000 First Series Map.
These First Series sheets were (mostly) not newly drawn maps but photographically enlarged Seventh Series One-Inch sheets. But within a few years the entire country was covered by the completely Second Series 1:50 000, which were renamed the Landranger within a few more years.
The Landranger map rapidly became the number one seller for the OS as it retained the clarity of the Seventh Series but the larger scale and new format was (and still is) very popular.
Early covers were in the same style as Seventh Series maps but predominantly pink with black and white detail. These gave way to covers with photographic images of local scenes. The style of the cover has undergone many changes over the years but the base colour is still the same magenta.
The maps themselves have also undergone many revisions, not only in detail but in style. The Landranger has been constantly evolving through the years and it has been highly successful in adapting to the times and to users’ needs.
We always have very good stocks of Landranger maps from 1974 to the present day.
1945-1972 First Series 1:25 000 Maps
First published from around 1945 the Ordnance Survey 1:25 000 First Series map was the first of this scale to be published for general public consumption.
Each sheet, with a few exceptions, covers a 10Km square of the National Grid and carries a great deal of detail in a very clear way. At 2.5″ to the mile you get individual buildings and plenty of topographical and historical information.
Initially issued with a buff card cover with a location map on the front, there were four subsequent covers with the last one being printed on the reverse of the map and folded to show as a “cover”.