The Sheldon Tapestry Maps for Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire are woven in wool and silk, and are fine examples of cartography and decorative art dating from the 1590s. Commissioned by Ralph Sheldon for his home at Weston, Warwickshire, the series illustrates these four midland counties of England, the tapestries’ geographical extent covering the country from the Bristol Channel to London. The tapestries are of major significance for cartographic history, forming a unique representation of the landscape, at a period when modern cartography was still in its infancy.
Since 2012, a team of conservators from the Bodleian and the National Trust have worked together to undertake conservation work on all three of the Bodleian’s tapestry maps, plus on a small set of accompanying fragments. The conservation treatment work is now close to completion, and the Sheldon Tapestry Map of Worcestershire (currently on display in Blackwell Hall, Weston Library, since 2014) will soon be rotated with the Sheldon Tapestry Map of Oxfordshire, coinciding with our upcoming major exhibition “Talking Maps” (5 July 2019 – 1 March 2020).
The project has also included the scientific analysis of the colours used to make the maps, in collaboration with the Department of Scientific Research of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, National Museums of Scotland, the University of Edinburgh, and the Bodleian’s Heritage Science section. Additionally, we are currently working with University College London to develop a micro-fading system that is suitable for this kind of collection.
This project was made possible thanks to generous donations from The JP Getty Jnr Charitable Trust, the Clothworkers Company, and a number of private donors.