The last couple of weeks I’ve found out that the British library have started to share scans of old manuscripts. First of all this is great from a historical point of view, but secondly it is a gold mine for me as a cartographer. A lot of those scans are absolutely perfect to use as backgrounds for maps. And they are all free to use.
However all of the pages are covered with more or less areas of text. So to be able to use them as a background for a map I first had to clean the book pages so that they appeared to be blank.
I located a scan that wasn’t too covered in text (see picture at the top of this post), so I could start cleaning it. The easiest way of removing the text is to use the patch tool in Photoshop.
To do that, do as follows. First open your picture of the scan and select the patch tool. With the Patch tool you mark out an area with text, not too big. Find a place on the page where there is no text and drag the selection you just made with the patch tool to the empty area and release the left mouse button. The area with the text will now be blank. Continue in this way until the whole page is blank.
Now when you have one side of the book you might also want two sides next to each other, so it looks like an open book. To do this you extend the canvas (image\Canvas size) so it is twice as wide as before. Then copy the layer with the book page and flip the new page horizontally (Edit\Transform\Flip horizontal). Then it is just a matter of making the two pages fit next to each other. It can be a bit fiddly and you have to erase some areas. When you are satisfied with the result just flatten the image. If some areas still look strange or if the pages look too similar next to each other, just use the patch tool again to remove those areas.
Feel free to use the images attached in this post however you wish, after all they are not really mine. Or head over to the British library and get some scans of your own.