A talk given at the London Map Fair at the Royal Geographical Society, June 2011, on the occasion of the pre-launch of “British Map Engravers”. Click on any of the images to enlarge.
Nearly 800 pages in all, some 1,600 entries, over 600 illustrations – and more than just a dictionary. A rather large and ambitious claim, because plainly in most senses it is just a dictionary, but one we hope to justify. It has been compiled from our notes and jottings made over many years – fifty or so in all between us – but as we eventually came to put it all together for publication, we also came to think of the book as a complete reappraisal of the British map trade. We were seeing things we simply hadn’t seen before. A map requires context for its full appreciation and understanding and a large part of that context is a more complete knowledge of those involved in its making – their own context, if you will. And this we hope to provide. Before going on to those larger thoughts, let’s examine what we have.
What exactly is in the book? Let’s slice this up a word at a time. British / Map / Engravers – yes, what it says on the tin. But how, precisely? British? What exactly do we mean? English to start with, certainly. The vast majority of our entries relate to people living and working here in London, but it’s important to say that we cover everywhere else in the country.
Here is the rather accomplished trade-card of an engraver we previously only knew as T. E. Nicholson, known only for a handful of maps, as obscure as may be, but we can now reveal him to be Thomas Edward Nicholson of Newcastle. That is something else important to say: we have tried to include every known British map-engraver, not just the better-known. And indeed we include the occasional amateur who etched or engraved a map, not just the professionals. Another important thing to say is that because we include people who may only have engraved a single map, we have entries for very large numbers of engravers rather better-known for other kinds of material – portraits, views, caricatures, heraldic work or whatever it may be. This is a reference book for anyone interested in the history British print culture as a whole.
But by British, we genuinely mean the whole of the British Isles, not just England. Here is John Ainslie of Edinburgh with proposals for a subscription publishing venture. A rather meagre list of subscribers, even shorter than our own. Ashley and I always feel that we have a slight edge over other map historians in that we know what it is to try to buy and sell maps in the market-place. We understand the realities, the unremitting financial pressure, the occasional compromises and justifications of commerce. In this instance, we have certainly learned a great deal about subscription publishing. Part of the exercise was to explore this method once much-used by the map trade, especially in the eighteenth century. I used to think of it as an ingenious method of enabling these old mapmakers to get their maps funded and published. I have come to view it as an act of desperation, an act of commercial folly, but that is perhaps matter for another talk at another time.
We take in Ireland too. Here’s a map from the Dublin bookseller, printer and publisher George Grierson. Appointed Printer to the King in Ireland 1732. He was in fact born in Scotland, but his entire working career was spent in Dublin where he died in 1753.
And Wales. Rather less well represented in our entries than elsewhere in the British Isles, but here’s a handsome caricature map from Hugh Hughes of Caernarfon – artist, portrait-painter, author, caricaturist, polemicist, engraver, and publisher.
What else might we mean by British? We also include that actually rather large group of those not British by birth but who came here to work, for whatever reason, religious, political or otherwise.
Here is a rather fine plan engraved by Pierre-Charles Canot, reported to have been born near Paris in about 1710, working in London from about 1735. He died in Kentish Town late in 1777 or early in 1778.
And here is Paul Fourdrinier – and just to settle this, for those who are interested, his name was Paul – not Peter or Pierre as so many of the older reference books have it: the name is clear enough on his card. Also of French family, but in fact born at Groningen in the Netherlands. He is now buried in the famous old Huguenot cemetery in Wandsworth.
And under British too, we also include those British-born engravers who went overseas to start new lives: we have British engravers who went to America, to Australia, and elsewhere and founded enterprises there. Just one representative example: the very first entry in the dictionary, the Scotsman Thomas Abernethie, engraver, copperplate printer and land-surveyor, who settled in Charleston, Carolina, in the 1780s.
We have taken a very broad view of British and a similarly broad view of what we mean by a map. We won’t go down the path of the somewhat arid academic “What is a map?” debate which has jogged on ineluctably for at least the last forty or fifty years, but a broad view. We are talking necessarily about printed maps, although where people are known for both printed and manuscript material, there will be mention of the manuscript maps as well. Slightly beyond maps, we also include globes and globemakers, with previously unpublished new material on many members of this important group.
We have even included makers of orreries and similar instruments. Here’s another advertisement: this one for a magnificent four-foot orrery by Thomas Wright of Fleet Street.
We have also included the engravers of geographical playing-cards. Sometimes these would actually utilise little maps, but also, as here, the use of surveying instruments or geographical scenes. They were sold alongside maps by their makers – they were part of the range.
We have also included maps used as illustrations or simply as part of decorative designs – typically for title-pages. Here is an early seventeenth-century example of map elements being used in this kind of way.
Or maps as jigsaw puzzles: here is one of the earliest-known English examples from John Spilsbury. And we have included most if not all of the makers both of map jigsaws and other related geographical games.
This includes some wholly fresh and previously unpublished research on those very little documented nineteenth-century makers: David Ogilvy, the L’Enfant Brothers, the Barfoot family, William Sallis and others.
There are also maps used in satire and caricature – an eighteenth-century example of a map being abused and trodden underfoot.
And even simply illustrations of maps being made, or enlarged in this case. I suppose this just about makes Samuel Carr Harper a map-engraver. We have now defined (or partly defined) our ‘British’ and our ‘Map’ – but what about Engravers?
You are probably beginning to get the hang of this: obviously we mean more than just engravers. Certainly the first level of criteria for inclusion was a wish to include all those who put their hand to the metal to produce a printed map.
But the new invention of lithography was very quickly taken up by mapmakers in the early nineteenth century, so obviously we include lithographers as well. Here is an actually very funny advertisement from the Swinford Brothers on the iniquitous and ubiquitous nineteenth-century taxation system. They are barely known for their maps, but they specifically mention map-work in their advertisement and there are two little examples shown in the roundels to either side.
I suppose the book we both really wanted to produce would have been a dictionary of the entire British map-trade. But that would necessitate the inclusion of everyone who ever published a book, a magazine, or a newspaper with a map in it, as well as all those involved in the making of the maps. And even two lifetimes would not be enough. But what we have done is to include the major providers of work for our map-engravers: the major retailers, the printsellers who sold the maps, like John Bowles (and the rest of the Bowles family).
Alongside them we have included the booksellers and publishers, like John Bill and George Bishop, who produced significant books illustrated with maps: significant either in terms of earliness, as here, or of importance, or simply significant in terms of quantity or quality. And we have also added in the major publishers of the map-illustrated magazines.
And of course the major mapmakers, like Christopher Saxton, or John Speed here, because they provided the work and acted as a hub or focus for all the related endeavours, of which the engraving of the map-plates was a major part.
A final part of our title is “to 1850”. Broadly speaking, that means anyone active ‘by 1850’, anyone who had commenced their career by that date, but again we have taken a relaxed view. Edward Stanford was still a young assistant to a stationer in 1850 and George Washington Bacon not much more than a boy in New York, but both were so important to the late nineteenth-century map trade that we made an excuse to include them. And there are others, like the engraver Edward Weller, similarly technically ‘out of time’ but included anyway.
Now – having decided who is in and who is not – the entries themselves. What do they contain? We commence with name (and variants if there are such), the biographical dates, or career dates if birth and death are not known, and the principal place or places of activity. This is followed by a simple statement of the various activities pursued. And then a list of known work. These lists of work are not intended to be comprehensive. We have not attempted to list everything, although in cases where the subjects are only known for a handful of maps, we probably have. For the longer entries, what we have tried to do is to extract the weight and flavour of the known output: the earliest and the last-known work to give the career extent, the typical and the atypical material to give the range, and some implicit recognition of the sheer volume of the material. Many of the map-titles we, mainly in fact Ashley, have transcribed ourselves, but obviously we have had also to rely on earlier works of reference, catalogues, and other sources we felt reasonably trustworthy.
One of the things we have, I believe, established is some slight rearrangement of the pecking-order in the map trade: to a certain extent some re-evaluation of who was important and how important they were. The nineteenth-century London mapmaker James Reynolds is a beneficiary here. Looking at his career in the round, the early emphasis on thematic mapping, the working of new markets in brightly-packaged guide-maps – he pre-dated both Stanford and Bacon in these areas – he is, I think, a really rather more important figure than we may have realised. And someone (again) of whom we previously knew nothing beyond the record of his work.
Following on from the list of work in each of our entries is a simple statement of the known biographical facts. A factual basis on which to pin our thoughts and theories. Let us briefly look at some of the ways in which we have built up these biographies, using Reynolds as an example. Now, James Reynolds is a common enough name: there were in fact well over 600 people called that living in England on the night of the 1851 Census, which was in this case the first port of call. Some sifting and refinement of the search parameters eventually found our man. There he was, Reynolds aged thirty-three, living over the shop on the Strand – and recorded as a publisher employing four men, with his wife, identified only by her initials, two young sons, a widowed mother, a younger brother Robert, apparently his assistant, and two domestic servants.
The record also tells us he was born in Islington in North London. Armed with that and his stated age, we soon had the record of his birth and baptism. He was the son of a printer, and I suppose this is the point here: we have tried to verify everything we possibly could from the primary sources.
And now we can fill in the remaining details – his marriage to Mary Anne Hartwell Gilbert at Camberwell in 1845. Her father was described as a gentleman, i.e. someone who did not need to work for his living. There is possibly a clue here to the funding of Reynolds’ business, which really takes off at just about this time. And to round off our account, the details of his death in 1876 and the granting of probate to his widow. The business, which had already become “James Reynolds and Sons” by this date, was continued by the sons, William and Frederick, whom we saw as small boys on the 1851 Census return.
Some of these records, census returns, etc., are of course not available for periods prior to the nineteenth century, but parish registers survive from much earlier and we have looked hard. Here’s an entry that pleased us very much. William Marshall is known as the most prolific English engraver of the seventeenth century – over 250 separate engravings are known, including a number of maps. But, famously, he was someone of whom we knew nothing whatsoever in a biographical sense. We still don’t know much, but at least now we have a burial and an address.
Here is another entry that perhaps pleased us even more. Herman Moll is one of the best-known names in the book, one of very few mapmakers to have been accorded a full-length published monograph. We knew of a wife and child in Blackfriars from an entry in Robert Hooke’s diary, but we didn’t know their names. I can’t say that this adds greatly to our knowledge of his maps or of the cartography of the period, but it’s always nice to know. Here they are: the record of the baptism of his son, Gillis Hendrick, and the name of his wife, Ann Magdalen.
What other records? Surviving wills are another source we have made use of. One we found was that dated 17th September 1808 for Alexander Hogg, a man well-known as the publisher of part-works – illustrated works published in serial instalments – but again someone of whom we knew nothing in a biographical sense. Rather a sad story, this one. Hogg married somewhat late in life, in his mid fifties. The will was made out on the day of his marriage and left more or less everything to his young new bride, Hannah May. Just three months later he was dead and buried.
Newspaper announcements, advertisements and so on have been another plentiful source of information. All too often, these take the rather depressing form of an announcement of bankruptcy, imprisonment for debt, or the formal dissolution of a partnership. Here is John Luffman – someone else who has risen in our estimation, both as a mapmaker and as a man – as we uncovered more about him. But, like so many of his colleagues, forced to endure the humiliation of the bankruptcy court.
Other announcements are more hopeful. Here is William Simpkins at the outset of his career telling the world that “none but the real connoisseur” can tell his work apart from that of his former master, the well-known Harry Ashby – doyen of bank-note engravers – a career that Simpkins also followed.
And sometimes we learn altogether surprising things. Here is a map of Birmingham published in 1828, engraved by someone we previously knew only as W. R. Gardner. Rather a fine piece of work. But how little we knew about Gardner.
A year later, Gardner became suddenly notorious. “Extensive forgeries have lately been detected”. A member of the map-trade whose house and establishment “denoted him to be a man of opulence” should perhaps have set alarm-bells ringing somewhat earlier. But ring they eventually did. Gardner, the report went on to say, had disappeared with perhaps £10,000 illicitly obtained, taking with him an eight-year-old son. He was last sighted at London Docks seeking passage to New York. His wife and three other children were left behind, claiming to know nothing. And, as far as I know, he was never heard of again.
Map-engravers going rogue in this way were rare, although there are at least three other examples in the book. But the transcripts of trials have proved another useful resource. One of the most moving stories we came across was that of Garnet Terry giving evidence as an expert witness at a forgery trial of the sort which Gardner never faced. Terry, who engraved maps and also dealt in second-hand books before becoming engraver to the Bank of England, is another interesting man we are glad to know more of. At the trial in 1799 Terry, that generous and Christian man, was compelled to testify under oath when a man’s life hung in the balance:
Question: Are you prepared to say that is a forged bank-note? Answer: I am sure of it. (Proceedings of the Old Bailey. 19th June 1799. Charles Linsey, aged 33, was condemned to death later that day).
A further element of each of our entries is a table of addresses and known dates – these taken from imprints, advertisements, street-directories, and other sources. These are primarily intended to facilitate the dating of undated material, but, as I have argued elsewhere, they are a cogent source of information in their own right. We can gauge a great deal from an address, whether it be in one of the principal retail locations, or whether perhaps simply a workshop, typically in Clerkenwell, convenient for both the City and the West End, but off the beaten retail highway.
The next element in our entries is a list of known apprentices and, where we could discover it, the amount of the fee or premium paid. The interesting thing that emerged here, was the extent to which the trade was so fully interconnected and continuous, a point to which I shall return. I don’t whether you can read this chart: it’s one of half a dozen included in the book. It traces a continuous and unbroken master-apprentice line from the finest of the Elizabethan engravers, William Rogers, right the way through to the nineteenth-century Geographer to George IV, James Wyld 1 – a stretch of time extending over four centuries. One of the reasons we have not previously seen this pattern of continuity is perhaps the nature of the livery company system. This line began in the Goldsmiths’ Company, diverted into the Merchant Taylors when Rogers’ apprentice Ninian Cockson opted in 1598 to become a member of his father’s company rather than his master’s, and continued in the Merchant Taylors through Robert Vaughan and William Trevethen, both of whom engraved maps. It stayed in the Merchant Taylors through John Baily and John Williams, who perhaps did not, and then diverted again, this time into the Clothworkers’ Company when James Wigley in turn also decided to stay with his father’s company in 1720. This is why both William Faden and James Wyld were members of the Clothworkers rather than having any more obvious livery company affiliation. A number of other names familiar to us appear in different branches of the chart, most notably that of William Hogarth, who could also trace his master-apprentice descent back to William Rogers.
The final formal element in each entry is a list of our sources. We don’t regard our accounts as in any way final: they are simply building blocks or a platform for further work. We hope to have left an adequate trail as to where we have looked and where we have not.
And of course there are the illustrations. Maps, of course, as one would expect. But maps don’t reproduce too well at small size and we have consciously sought out other images. Portraits are one type – many of these previously unpublished. Here is a photograph of John Arrowsmith sent to us by a descendant.
Commercial documents too. Here is a receipt from a well-known name. But I think what we have enjoyed most is the hunt for trade-cards. We have scoured the records of the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum and are now about to publish, almost all for the first time, a great many of these. They come in different forms.
Here are two plain calligraphic ones.
What is particularly interesting, of course, about these trade-cards is that they give us a view of how people saw themselves, how they described and advertised themselves. Some, like Henry Burgh, simply as an engraver. Joseph Ellis also as an engraver, although he adds specifically that he engraved writing, maps, plans, shop-bills and cards.
Here is a more ambitious and artistic card from John Bateman. We illustrate dozens of these, but now for some personal favourites – the three which we use on our dust-jacket – trade-cards which are maps in themselves.
Here’s John Cooke. Primarily a chart-engraver who worked in London and later in Plymouth, the subject of rather a good recent book by Kit Batten. A card from the period when he was living in still rural Mill Hill – his own house and garden picked out at the centre.
And here is Daniel Henwood, a slightly mysterious engraver. Previously known only as D. Henwood – and known only for a handful of maps, all of those before 1830. But a specialist map and chart engraver he certainly was, throughout a very long working life. As late as 1861, then aged seventy-six, he was still recorded as a working map engraver. In this case, I imagine that most of his work was done anonymously for the chartmakers.
Rather better known is Benjamin Baker, who became principal engraver to the Ordnance Survey in 1804. His duties included not only carrying out the more complex engraving but supervising the other engravers. Baker and his team came to be regarded, in the words of the historian of the O.S., “the best topographical engravers in Europe”. Here’s Baker’s early trade-card with a map of Islington: you may be able to see the hand pointing to his premises.
Aside from some reappraisal of the relative importance and interest of various individuals, our main conclusion is that we now have the materials to see the British map trade as a whole. We are now able to view it not as a collection of individual stories and isolated pockets of activity, but as a solid and cohesive entity. Again and again we have found the unexpected connection, previously unsuspected continuities of activity, tradition and working practice that we had not identified before.
Let us look further at Benjamin Baker. Principal engraver to the Ordnance Survey in its formative years. It is no surprise to find continuity from this point onwards – here are just some of those that Baker himself brought into map-engraving (all with their own separate entries in the book): his brother Joseph; his sons, Alfred, Benjamin Richard and George; some of his apprentices, Joseph Bye, David Wright and James Tyrer, those he worked alongside like Froggett and Harrison, who were called on as knowing his handwriting so well they could authenticate various alterations made to his will – and Richard Tovey, another Ordnance engraver who was probably also his son-in-law. No surprise to see this kind of continuity, because the setting up of the Ordnance Survey has generally been seen as a kind of watershed. Something new, state-sponsored, a more responsible and authoritative means of publishing maps. Something divorced from previous practice. Something quite different from the conventional map-trade. But was this really so?
Now let us look at Baker backwards and sideways. How divorced was he from previous practice? From contemporary practice? Here he is in the final column alongside his own fellow apprentices – all apprentices of William Palmer. Some of the names are better known than others, but none of them wholly negligible. And in John Cary in particular we have one of the most significant of all English mapmakers. Baker was in fact very much part of the trade of his time. His master, William Palmer, is another of those due for a reappraisal and for a move up the pecking-order. Slightly obscure, but no-one in the entire dictionary has a more impressive list of apprentices, and his contemporaries I think knew and acknowledged that. The £100 he received as an apprenticeship fee with Robert Rowe was one of the highest ever recorded in our world of map-engraving. Moving back a generation, Palmer’s master was the great John Pine – one of the finest engravers of the eighteenth century – and, in our field, the engraver of John Rocque’s great map of London. From Rocque and Pine to the Ordnance Survey in two generations. There is solidity here, a growth, a culmination, not a fresh start.
The picture is actually slightly more complicated. Pine died halfway through Palmer’s apprenticeship. Palmer served out the remainder of his time under the map-engraver Richard William Seale. So there is a double line of map-trade tradition leading to Palmer, Baker and Cary. Because the Seale apprenticeship line takes us back to John Senex, perhaps the best English mapmaker of the early eighteenth century, and certainly its finest globemaker. Baker was steeped in the best of the map-trade traditions. But these are all working relationships – the passing of training and habit from master to apprentice. But there are also other relationships that govern our lives: the ties of family and kinship.
Let us look at Baker in this light. His father and grandfather, both Edward Bakers, were both instrument-makers (as indeed was a brother of the same name). His grandmother was a Cole and belonged to the Cole family of engravers and instrument-makers. We have four different Benjamin Coles in the dictionary – I won’t attempt to unravel them here – but all related and indeed all related to Baker. And then Baker’s sister, Mary, married John Newton of the globe-making family – and who, as you may be able to see from the trade-card, bottom right, was for a time the partner of Baker’s master, William Palmer. And what of Baker’s own first wife? Sophia Mary Ellis.
Well, yes. She was the daughter of the map-engraver Joseph Ellis and the grand-daughter of Richard William Seale. And indeed the niece of William Palmer. Ellis and Palmer, of course, brothers-in-law, worked together on “The New English Atlas” (1765). It is difficult to imagine anyone more tied to the traditional map-trade than Benjamin Baker.
So, in terms of a reappraisal, I think it fair to say that we now see a slightly different map-trade. One far more cohesive and singular than we have previously supposed. More than just a Dictionary? We hope you think so – we have endeavoured to give you the British map-trade in the whole and in the round.
Although published by subscription, some copies of “British Map Engravers” are still available. Please contact your favourite mapseller.