Christian Barnes

A Bathymetric Atlas of the Lake District

A unique hand-made book measuring 120 x 120 cm, revealing the hidden contours of the principal lakes in the English Lake District.


The idea of creating a Bathymetric Atlas of the Lake District was conceived by the artist Christian Barnes and produced in conjunction with the Newcastle based arts organisation Locus+. It focused on the idea of creating a scale map which showed the contours of the lakes in the area below the level of the water. This is obviously something that is never seen from land but it intrigued the artist enough to make some preliminary investigations. He made a few small scale versions onto paper as an experiment but soon realised that making a large scale book including all the lakes was a much harder task.

Christian Barnes approached us at Book Works Studio to physically make this giant book measuring 1200 x 1200mm and to cut all the contours through the pages at a scale consistent with the area of the Lake District. He also employed surveyors Price & Myers to create the detailed drawings of the contours of each of the 19 lakes so that the Studio could cut the contours from the pages.

The other important factor was that the height scale, or the thickness of the block of pages, needed to corresponded in scale to the height and width of the page creating an accurate 3D form. The lakes appear at different heights in the area which meant that some pages only had one contour cut away and others had a number of different contours from different lakes featured on the same page.

We worked out a process of overlaying each of the contours so they remained true to the scale and position, and on some occasions had to build up areas of the bottom of lakes where the rock formation rose up again under the water.

Each of the lakes was indexed along the foredge of the book allowing the viewer access, but the size and weight of each fold requires two people to turn the sheet to prevent damaging the page. The book was casebound in a canvas cloth with a screen printed title and a title page introducing the work.