A historical map created at the turn of the 20th century is giving curious travellers in the modern era a picture of what things used to be like 100 years ago. The map, known as an isochronic map, was created by legendary cartographer John George Bartholomew in 1914. It was published by the Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society.
What makes the map so interesting are the isochrones so valuable to travellers. What are isochrones? These are lines connecting various points on a map according to travel distance from a given starting point – in this case London. The lines were aided by different coloured zones that made it easy for travellers to determine how long it would take to get from London to their chosen destinations. Isochrones within the same coloured zone essentially told the traveller that he or she could go to any of the destinations in that end zone and it would take roughly the same amount of time to get to any of them.
The map shows that travellers in 1914 could get to Russia in the East or the Azores in the West in as little as five days. But going the same distance down into Africa would take more than a month. A trip to Siberia or across the ocean to Canada could be accomplished in 5 to 10 days while reaching Uzbekistan could take as long as 10 days.
According to experts, the disparities are mostly the result of railway travel, or the lack thereof. As European railways were being developed in the mid-and late 19th century, they reduced travel times across the continent. But where rails did not exist, horse travel and walking added considerably to travel times across land.
While the 1914 map created by Bartholomew is an object of curious fascination today, isochronic maps were very popular among travellers through the 1800s and into the 1900s. They were used by business travellers who wanted to plan their journeys in ways that made the most sense from an efficiency standpoint. They were used by leisure travellers to determine where to go on holiday. We still do much the same thing today. The only difference is we use the internet rather than a printed isochronic map.