John Chapman’s Map of Nottinghamshire 1774

A cartographic life-story

Being the true and complete History of the manner whereby Mr. Chapman did Survey, Engrave and Publish his Exceptional Map of the fair County of Nottingham …………


In 2011 I wrote a short essay for an undergraduate course at the University of Nottingham. It was an exercise in source analysis and I chose to write about an 18th century map of Nottinghamshire published by John Chapman in 1776. The assignment did not require a detailed historical examination of the map, nevertheless I found myself asking many questions:

  • How did the map come to be made?
  • Were there similar maps for other counties?
  • Who was Chapman and what was his connection with Nottinghamshire?
  • How was the survey undertaken, how long did it take, how much did it cost? How was it financed?
  • What was involved in engraving and printing the map?
  • How was it sold, by whom and at what price?
  • Who were the purchasers? Why did they want such a map, and what did they do with it?
  • Where was the original on which the facsimile was based?
  • How many other copies had survived in the archives?

Chapman was not the only county surveyor and Nottinghamshire not the only county to be surveyed. During an intense period of map-making in the second half of the 18th Century, new maps were produced of all the English counties. They were based on the most up to date survey methods and were published at a scale of one inch to one mile, and in a few cases two inches. By the end of the century virtually all the counties of Great Britain and Ireland had been surveyed and mapped.

This work was accomplished by a group of a dozen or so surveyor/map-makers who often collaborated with each other. There were those who produced only one county map: Thomas Martyn, Benjamin Donn and John Prior. Others surveyed and published maps of several counties: John Rocque, Thomas Jefferys, Isaac Taylor, Andrew Armstrong and John Chapman. Each of these county maps is unique, and not simply because it depicts a different area of the late 18th century English landscape. Each has it’s own story to tell.

Literature Review

Part 1: The End – Extant Copies of Chapman’s Map

Part 2: The Beginning – How the Map came to be Made

Part 3: The Survey – Triangles & Topography

Part 4: Creating the Map – Copper Plates & Copyright

Part 5: Copies & Revisions – The Fate of the Copper

Part 6: The Market-Place – ‘On this day is published ….’

Part 7: The Map in Georgian Society – Maps as Cultural Artefacts



Appendix 1: Facsimile Editions

Appendix 2: Printed County Maps

Appendix 3: John Chapman (fl. 1761-78): land-surveyor, engraver and map-maker

Appendix 4: Large-Scale County Maps – Commercial success or failure?

Appendix 5: Suggestions for Further Work


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