Plan of the Nile detail
Collections Series Short read

Manchester Geographical Society Map Project: Maps of Africa (#3) – An interesting find

This is a blog post detailing Irrigation maps and plans in Egypt from the Manchester Geographical Society Map Collection.

This blog post is the third in a series focusing on maps of Africa from the #ManGeogSoc Map Cataloguing project. The first blog post featuring Antiquarian maps of Africa can be read here. The second blog post focusing on collection provenance can be read here.

William Willcocks’ Irrigation works in Egypt

Plan of the Nile
Plan of the Nile

William Willcocks Plate 26William Willcocks Plate 12

In this blog post, I will focus on a folder of maps and plans of William Willcocks’ irrigation works in Egypt. As a brief introduction, William Willcocks (1852 – 1933) was born in India and trained as an irrigation engineer. He is remembered for his design of the Old Aswan Dam (or Aswan Low Dam), which was completed in 1902 and is referred to in these items. The dam was, at the time of construction, said to be the largest masonry dam in the world. The dam posed a conservation risk however for the nearby Temple of Philae, a sacred archaeological ruin, which was at risk of being flooded. These items were created before the dam was built, in 1893, and therefore they document the proposed plans for the Old Aswan Dam project and also proposed plans for dams in alternate neighbouring areas along the Nile.

Plan of the Nile snippet

In comparison to the single map-sheets and multi-sheets (one map which is spread over multiple sheets), these items are not a typical format. It appears to be a collection of 23 maps, plans and tracings that all relate to William Willcocks’ irrigation works in Egypt. These items are printed onto different types of paper and have been kept together in a hand-made folder. Various published plates have been stored together and some are on tracing paper.

William Willcocks Irrigation plans

The ‘Plan of the Nile’ (half of which is shown above) illustrates a challenge particularly faced with some maps and plans, as the item is very long and therefore difficult to store, handle and digitise – however it was no match for our Imaging team (thank you!). Below is a snippet of the plan, displaying the detail involved and including illustrations of significant ancient ruins as benchmarks for the work which was planned to be carried out.

Plan of the Nile detail

These items appear to be working documents from the period and represent the decisions being made at this time. When cataloguing these documents together, this captures the contextual value of the items.

Thank you to Donna Sherman, Map Curator, for supporting me throughout this project and also to the Imaging team.

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