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Manuscript Maps

Meet the Maker - Kevin Sheehan

Kevin Sheehan.jpg

What do you do?

My maps are drawn by hand, using dip-pens with various calligraphic and drawing nibs. I am inspired by antique maps of the 15th through 19th centuries – an age when aesthetic and design in cartography was as important, if not often more important, than function. 

Each original map takes many hours over weeks, if not months, to draw. The Whisky Map, for example, took me over three months to research and create. Each fine hairline that fills in the seas was drawn one at a time, and that alone took 15-20 hours.

The maps are then scanned and slightly touched-up in Photoshop to make sure they print to appear like the original drawing (if you print a raw scan that hasn’t been touched-up, there are all sorts of problems).

The prints are printed using archival quality inks onto 250 or 300 gsm Conqueror paper, which is acid-free – so each map should continue to look great for decades, if not centuries. Each print is signed and numbered as an edition print. While I do make multiple editions of maps, each edition has changes to it, so each edition is unique and thus ‘limited’.

A few years ago I had my two most popular maps printed as puzzles and tea towels.

How did you get started?

Way back in 2011 I was commissioned by the World Heritage Site Director in conjunction with Durham University to draw two maps – the Durham University and the Durham Pub Map – for them to sell prints of in the new World Heritage Visitor Centre. At the time I was working on my PhD, so I didn’t do anything beyond those two maps at the time. In 2014 though, when I had finished my PhD and had more time on my hands, I drew the Shipping Forecast Map, and the Whisky Map of Scotland, and started Manuscript Maps officially.


I try to add a few new maps to my portfolio each year, and my hope is to go full-time with the business in the next couple years.

Is this your full time job?

No, although sometimes it feels like it! I also work at Durham University 31 hours a week during term and 16 hours a week during the vacations.

Where do you create?

In a spare bedroom at home I have two desks set up: one with all my drawing materials and an angled backlit drawing board, and another with my Mac laptop and external screen, for doing all the digital content and editing that comes with running a small business. The garage is set up as a map storage and packaging area – bursting at the seams.

Tea or coffee?

I like both, though I certainly couldn’t live without coffee – the darker and richer the better!

Where is your favourite local place?

That’s a tough question. Depends on what I’m doing. I love running along the riverbank footpaths in Durham City. Winter pint by the fire in the Queen Victoria or Dun Cow, summer pint at the Elm Tree, or hidden beer garden of the Colpitts. It’s somewhat exclusive, but the Fellows Garden of the Castle. For an impressive vista, the top of the Cathedral tower. Farther afield, Wolsingham, Barnard Castle, and Beamish are great. Embarrassingly I have never been to High Force, but keep meaning to.

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