Literature Review


The bibliography of the history of cartography is extensive (Edney 2006) and published works on the history of Nottinghamshire fill a good sized volume (Brook 2002). Fortunately the focus of this review can be narrowly defined to published works on map-making and the map trade in England in the 18th century. The review covers published volumes and articles in the principal academic journals specialising in the history of cartography. Most of these secondary sources were consulted at the University of Nottingham libraries, or the British Library. Journal articles were generally consulted on-line.

Facsimile Editions

The facsimile edition of Chapman’s map (Henstock 2003) is an attractive  colour reproduction of the 4 sheets of the original map. It gives access to a fine example of the work of a skilful 18th century surveyor and engraver. Accompanying the map are brief notes, the bulk of which concern the topographical content. There is limited information about Chapman or how the map came to be published, and no bibliography.

Facsimile editions have been published for most of the English counties surveyed and mapped between 1746 and 1797 (Appendix 1). Generally these have been published by county societies and libraries, the exception is Harry Margary, a London publisher of antiquarian maps who produced several facsimile editions in the 1970’s.

Most of the county maps are black and white reproductions published in bound volumes and frequently accompanied by introductory notes from established scholars of cartography. Particularly informative examples are those by J.B. Harley for Derbyshire, Cheshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire. Other examples are Laxton’s introductions for Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Hampshire and Ravenhill’s notes on Devon and Surrey. To date, facsimiles have been published for 26 out of 38 counties.

There is no space here to review each of the facsimile editions but I will look briefly at those published for the counties adjacent to Nottinghamshire. There is no facsimile of Andrew Armstrong’s map of Lincolnshire, but there are reproductions for Thomas Jefferys’ map of Yorkshire, Peter Burdett’s map of Derbyshire and John Prior’s map of Leicestershire. By contrast with Nottinghamshire, all are black and white reproductions although Burdett’s 1767 map is actually based on the 1791 edition which included revisions made by Chapman.

All these facsimile editions have accompanying notes and some bibliographic information. The notes for Yorkshire and Derbyshire provide accounts of how the maps came to be made, the conduct and accuracy of the surveys and descriptions of the topographical content. The bulk of the text on the Leicestershire facsimile is a commentary on topographical features written by members of the Leicestershire Industrial History Society. There is also some biographical information about John Prior and a list of subscribers for the map.

Modern technology has been applied to these 18th century artefacts and several maps have been digitised (Appendix 1). The digital version of the Norfolk map comes as a DVD with Macnair & Williamson’s volume on the 18th century Norfolk landscape (2010). Macnair has also digitised the maps of Suffolk and Hertfordshire and there are proposals to published digital versions of the maps of Essex and Cambridgeshire.

Original Maps

The original maps are comprehensively catalogued in a Bodliean Library publication (Roger 1972). The catalogue covers England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland and is arranged by county and then chronologically. It lists all the 1 inch maps produced from the large-scale surveys as well as the early editions of the Ordnance Survey. The entries identify the surveyor, engraver and publisher, the date of first publication and subsequent editions and revisions. A system of abbreviations identifies holdings of the map in repositories. There is an Introduction which provides a brief historical sketch of 18th century map-making, some biographical information about the principal personalities, a short bibliography and an index of names. This publication is the first point of reference for anyone researching the large-scale county maps of the 18th century.

Printed County Maps

There are only two published works on the printed maps of Nottinghamshire: Wadsworth’s article for the Thoroton Society (Wadsworth 1934); and Nichol’s catalogue of local maps up to 1800 (Nichols 1987). The county maps listed in the former cover the period 1579 to 1794 and Wadsworth adopts the standard carto-bibliographic style introduced by Thomas Chubb the early 1900’s. Maps are arranged in chronological order of their first edition, with subsequent editions and revisions listed under each main entry. This volume is rather dated so other maps may have come to light since, but it is a good starting point for Nottinghamshire. Nicholls’ book is a finding-aid, an inventory of parish and estate maps arranged alphabetically by parish, and then chronologically. The inventory is a useful aid to identify local surveyors working in the county at particular times and in particular parishes.

Under various titles, guides to printed maps have been published for most of the English counties (Appendix 2). Generally they cover the period from Christopher Saxton’s maps of the 16th century to the early editions of the Ordnance Survey in the 19th century. They place the large-scale county surveys in the historical context of mapping individual counties and they illustrate the substantial quantity of printed maps published in 18th century.

Map-making in the 18th Century

There is a plethora of published works on the history of map-making, the contents of which go well beyond the scope of this dissertation, although frequently there is some reference to developments in the 18th century. It is not until the 1960’s that the large-scale county surveys received detailed attention. From the researches of the cartographic historian, J.B. Harley, emerged three articles in Imago Mundi which are essential reading for the student of this period of English cartography. Using correspondence and Committee Minutes from the Royal Society of Arts archive, he explored the role played by the Society in promoting the large-scale county surveys (Harley 1964a). He then went on to take a broader view of the factors contributing to changes in regional map-making during the second half of the 18th century (Harley 1965). Finally he looked in detail at the business affairs of one of the major figures during the period, the map-maker Thomas Jefferys (Harley 1966). These articles provide a coherent history of the technical and commercial developments that took place in English map-making during this period and are the standard works on which all subsequent researchers have relied.

To give but one example of more recent works, ‘English Maps: A History’ (Delano-Smith & Kain 1999) surveys the broad sweep of map making in England from the medieval period to the 19th century. Some 30 pages are devoted to the 18th century large-scale surveys and provide a very readable summary of the period. Mention has already been made of the contributions by historians such as Harley and Laxton in the Introductions to several facsimile editions. The only full length work on an individual county map is Macnair’s volume (2010) referred to earlier. The introductory chapter is another readable account of the large scale county maps which includes sections on the geodetic and topographical surveys, engraving and printing, as well as the finances of the map trade. There are extensive notes and a detailed bibliography.

The Map-Makers

Returning to Chapman’s map of Nottingham and its surveyor, engraver and publisher, John Chapman, little has been published about this enigmatic figure. The main sources of information on his life and career are two short articles by Stuart Mason. ‘In Search of Chapman’ (Mason 1983) is a short article on Chapman’s activities as land-surveyor, engraver and map-maker between 1768 and his death in 1778. Mason concludes that that Chapman ‘remains a shadowy figure’. A subsequent article in the Essex Journal (Mason 1990) adds little new information and is principally concerned with Chapman’s 1777 map of Essex. The only other source specifically about Chapman, is an article on his two maps of Newmarket (Lewis 1991) which were published in 1769. This fleshes out Mason’s research at least as far as the Newmarket maps are concerned.

Published works on Chapman’s contemporaries are more numerous with articles in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and in Imago Mundi on John Rocque, Jefferys and Burdett. In addition there is some biographical information on Burdett, Jefferys and William Yates in the Introductions and Notes to the facsimile editions of the Derbyshire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, Staffordshire and Lancashire maps. Burdett and Yates are also discussed in an article on the Cheshire and Lancashire maps (Harley 1964b). Finally there are brief biographical notes on Burdett and Yates in Delano-Smith(1999), as well as Benjamin Donn and Isaac Taylor.

Frequently the county map-makers were drawn from the ranks of the local land surveyors. As the name suggests the Dictionary of Land Surveyors and Local Map-makers of Great Britain and Ireland 1530-1850 (Bendall 1997) is a compendious volume reflecting the work of many researchers in this field. As well as an historical survey of local land surveying, the detailed entries by name facilitate research on the activities of particular local map-makers. Another substantial volume written in a similar style, is the ‘Index of British Mathematicians, Part III 1707-1800’ (Wallis 1993). It covers a broad church of those ‘who would have needed some ability to calculate in their work’.

Land Surveying

The conduct of the large scale surveys is described in the Introduction and Notes to several of the facsimile editions. The survey is also described by Macnair(2010) together with a discussion of the topographical detail included in county maps, and Bendall(1997) includes a general account of developments in surveying during the 18th century.

The geodetic and topographical evaluation of English County Maps 1740-1840 (Laxton 1976) is an interesting discussion of the accuracy of the Berkshire, Cheshire and Leicestershire surveys. Laxton also examines topographic content comparing Rocque’s Berkshire survey with the work of local land surveyors. He also looks at representations of industrial activity, watermills and windmills, in the Cheshire, Essex and Yorkshire surveys. This article includes extensive Notes, but no bibliography. A comprehensive text on the history of surveying is English Land Measuring to 1800 (Richeson 1966). The chapter on the 18th century provides useful background information on surveying texts and methods although there is little mention of the large scale county surveys. As well as these modern accounts, there is no shortage of 18th century published works on the methods of land surveying, many of which are listed by Richeson. An excellent finding aid is Eighteenth Century Collections Online (Gale Digital 2013).

Engraving and Printing

The engraving and printing of maps is briefly discussed by Delano-Smith(1999) and Macnair(2010), but the most comprehensive account is ‘Copperplate printing’, a chapter in Five centuries of map printing edited by David Woodward (Verner 1975). An informative text, providing a detailed description of the stages involved as well as information on the costs. In addition there is a useful discussion on the structure of the map printing industry in the 18th century A valuable source of biographical details is ‘British Map Engravers: A Dictionary …’ (Worms & Bayton-Williams 2011) which includes a general introduction to the trade of map engraving including information on apprenticeship.

The Map Trade

Macnair(2010) writes briefly about the commerce of map making and Delano-Smith(1999) has a more detailed account, however the most comprehensive treatment of the late-18th century map trade is provided in works published by Mary Pedley. Paris along with Amsterdam and London were the leading centres of the trade and Pedley examines the correspondence received by Thomas Jefferys and his partner William Faden, from map sellers in France, in an article in Imago Mundi(1996) and a subsequent published volume (2000). The Commerce of Cartography: Making and Marketing Maps in Eighteenth-Century France and England (Pedley 2005) is the fruit of Pedley’s research. The commercial aspects of the map trade are examined in detail, although there is more information on France than on England. Nevertheless there are useful appendices on costs and selling prices. The protection offered to 18th century map engravers by the Engraving Copyright Act, 1767, is discussed in an article by Hunter (1987). As well as Pedley’s general survey, there are biographical articles on individual map-publishers in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Maps in Georgian society

From a review of the literature, one is forced to conclude that the mapping of the English counties in the late 18th century has received little attention from historians in terms of the map as a cultural artefact or map-making as a cultural phenomenon. There are a few published articles on 18th century map collections by Harley and Walters, for example: William Roy’s Maps, Mathematical Instruments and Library (1977) and English Map Collecting 1790-1840 (1978). The former discusses the map content of Roy’s library as published in the Christie’s sale catalogue of 1790. The latter extends the discussion to sales at Sotheby’s of the map collections of other named individuals between 1790 and 1840. In addition there are contemporary sale catalogues accessible online (Gale Digital 2013) which reveal the presence of county maps and many others in the collections of diverse individuals.

It is clear from the above that maps were present in Georgian libraries, large and small, and there are numerous, lavishly illustrated, studies of the great Georgian houses in which occasionally the library is featured. However the usage and storage of maps in those libraries and houses is not discussed. A work such as ‘Decorative Printed Maps …’ (Skelton 1952) yields little except to record that in the 18th century the ‘ornament of maps’ in earlier centuries ‘was increasingly subordinated to topographical and antiquarian information’.

There are several published works on the cultural significance of maps and map-making, and the semiotics of ‘the map’. For example, Maps and Civilisation: Cartography in Culture and Society (Thrower 1972) includes a discussion of the scientific revolution and the development of more accurate, scientifically based mapping in Europe. However this is not interpreted in the context of the production and consumption of topographically detailed maps in Georgian England. A seminal essay on the map as a ‘text’ is Maps, Knowledge and Power (Harley 1988), but the focus of the argument is on mapping at a national and colonial level. At the other end of the scale, estate maps are the subject of Maps, Land and Society (Bendall 1992) which includes a useful discussion of the practical value and cultural setting of this class of map.

There is no shortage of scholarly works on the English Enlightenment and on many facets of Georgian society however the cultural significance of maps receives little if any attention. Enlightenment, Modernity and Science: Geographies of Scientific Culture and Improvement in Georgian England (Elliott 2010) is concerned with scientific culture in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. Whilst the title is encouraging, the text makes no reference to the activity of mapping in either county.

There are several published works on the history of Georgian Nottinghamshire (Brook 2002), but despite the transformations taking place in the landscape there is little if any reference to Chapman’s map or to the significance of map-making either at the county level or the estate. Neither do they make any observations on the commercial or cultural significance of maps in local society. As in every other county, the landed gentry of Nottinghamshire were the subscribers who funded the county survey but there are no published works which examine their role in county map-making either collectively or individually. There are published works on the Dukes of Portland at Welbeck Abbey and the Dukes of Newcastle at Clumber Park, but the focus is on their political careers.


Whilst Chapman’s map of Nottinghamshire is not overlooked in published works, the references are few, brief, and often present only as footnotes. The articles by Mason and Lewis focus on Chapman’s maps of Essex and Newmarket. What does exist is a body of work on the history of large-scale county mapping in the late 18th century which provides a context in which to examine the history of Chapman’s map. What appears to be missing are accounts of the cultural and social significance of maps in general and county maps in particular.

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