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Creating a Custom Map for The Winter List

Updated: Apr 2

Every month I highlight a map I've illustrated and give you the story behind it. This month, it's the turn of this deceptively simple map of The Citie of Yorke, which was drawn for S.G. Maclean's book The Winter List.


A black and white hand drawn map of York in 1662. It features elements from the book The Winter List.
The Citie of Yorke by Nicola Howell Hawley for The Winter List by S.G. MacLean


Summer, 1660. Cromwell is dead and Charles Stuart has been restored to the throne. Men who supported the Protectorate are being hunted down as traitors.

By the summer of 1660 the last remnants of the Republic have been swept away and the Stuarts have been restored under their king, Charles II. A list of regicides believed to be involved in the death of Charles I is drawn up. Gruesome executions begin to take place and the hunt intensifies for those who have gone into hiding at home or abroad.

Although not a regicide, staunch Republican Damian Seeker is on a list of traitors to the king. Royalist spy, Lady Anne Winter, is employed to find evidence of guilt or innocence among the names on this Winter List. Seeker has fled England but his beloved daughter Manon remains, married to Seeker's friend, the lawyer Lawrence Ingolby, and living in York.

As the conduit to her father and to others on the Winter List and surrounded by spies and watchers, Manon lives in constant danger and fear of discovery. One of those spies is closer than even she could have imagined.


One of the first things I always do when starting a historical map is research: I try to find as many maps from the era and of the required place as I can. I get a feel for what maps looked like in that time period and how they were created. And I also look for accuracy: I look for maps that are as close to the required year as I can.

There are not always maps available to look at in the right time period and of the right place, but this time I was lucky: there was one, stand out map which helped me create this illustrated map: John Speed's 1611 map of Yorke, seen below.

A full colour historical map of York. The main buildings are all numbered and then listed down the side.
John Speed's map of York from 1611, the inspiration behind my map

As you can see: this became the base for my map. I loved all of its little buildings and the story they told, so wanted to keep them in: I copied every one as accurately as I could, hand drawing them all onto my own map. It took forever, and I'm pretty sure my hand was ready to fall off once I was finished.


If I'm creating a map for a book, I also try to read the book, time permitting, and because I know S.G. MacLean is an amazing writer, I definitely made the time for this one. This inspired a lot of the smaller elements in the piece: the letter, the dog, the cat, the candle, the gargoyle, the window . . . I love to hide small, important symbols that are pertinent to the story in my maps and that's what these became.

I also take a lot of inspiration from the handwriting on historical maps. I love how every letter has been hand created, meaning that no two letters look exactly the same. This is something I try to recreate when making my own maps. I don't use fonts: I hand letter everything, and I use examples from the time and place to create more authentic-looking lettering.

For this map, I particularly loved the swooping S and Fs on John Speed's map, and so included that in my own.

A lot of places on this particular map still exist, given how historic York is, but where they didn't (For example, Anne Winter's house), I looked closely at photos and drawings of buildings from the time period and amalgamated the elements I liked into new buildings.


I loved creating this map for The Winter List, which is out in paperback in May and completes the Seeker series, not least because I love piecing together the puzzle of historical maps. Maybe it's time you grabbed a copy of The Winter List for yourself and saw one of my maps out in the wild?

Interested in hearing more from S.G. MacLean? Check out my interview with her on her map for The Bookseller of Inverness.

Or perhaps you'd like to know more of the stories behind my illustrated maps? Why not read about Stef Penney's 1870 map pf Paris for her book The Beasts of Paris?

Like the writing on my maps? Download my font Here Be Dragons for free!

As always, thank you for reading,


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