Part 4: Creating the Map – Copper Plates & Copyright



On many of the county maps there are different names for surveyor, engraver and publisher, but that is not the case for any of Chapman’s maps, and we know from other evidence that he was an accomplished artist and engraver. It seems reasonable to believe that Chapman surveyed, drew, engraved and published the Nottinghamshire map. Having completed the survey the next stage was to prepare a manuscript for the engraver incorporating the information from the triangulation and the topographical survey. The scale of the map determined the number of sheets and the level of topographical detail. Decisions would be made about lettering and symbols, and embellishments such as the dedication cartouche and the legend. For copyright reasons it was usual to include the date and place of publication. The manuscript was the proof from which the copper-plates were engraved, and from these plates individual sheets were pressed by hand.

If the field survey was in progress in the summer months of 1774 and 1775, then Chapman could have begun work on the manuscript in the winter of 1774 and completed it the following winter. Work on the engraving probably commenced in the winter of 1775 and was completed in the spring of 1776. The map was published on 1st May.

The Manuscript Map

The information from Chapman’s notebooks and draft plans was the raw data from which he compiled the manuscript map. The scale had already been decided at the survey stage and as we have seen it dictated the level of topographical detail that could be represented on the map. Each county map was the product of the surveyor’s methods and the decisions he made about which topographical details would be included. However, whilst each map had an individuality, by the mid-1770’s there was some ‘standardisation’ in the use of symbols.


Symbols used on Chapman's Map of Nottinghamshire 1774 (Image courtesy of Nottingham Local Studies Library)
Symbols used on Chapman’s Map of Nottinghamshire 1774
(Image courtesy of Nottingham Local Studies Library)


On the Nottinghamshire map we find turnpike roads with milestones and toll bars, as well as other grades of road. There are symbols for coal pits , watermills and windmills as well as forges. Towns and villages are represented along with their churches. Until the introduction of contour lines on Ordnance Survey maps, high ground was generally indicated by the use of hachures, and these are used extensively on the Nottinghamshire map. By comparison with other Midland maps, they are used rather less emphatically on the Staffordshire map (Phillips 1984), and not at all on the Leicestershire map (Welding 1984). In order to attract, and satisfy, subscribers, all county maps included some representation of the estates of the Gentry. Enclosed stippled areas with small tree symbols or occasionally an avenue of tress are common representations with the position of the house is shown in plan. The Nottinghamshire map includes the names of the owners.

On the Nottinghamshire map we can see what symbols were used and what topographical information Chapman, as the surveyor and draughtsman, chose to include, but we cannot know what he chose to leave out. Neither do we know how long it took to create the manuscript, nor where he undertook the work: in Nottinghamshire to be close to those authorities who could give their approval to the quality of the work; or in the room he rented in the Royal Society building on Pall Mall, in London. Whatever the answer, an acceptable manuscript was completed and work began on engraving the four copper plates.

The Engraved Map

In the 18th century copper-plates were engraved by the intaglio process which had been in use for 300 years. Verner(1975) gives a detailed description of the process of engraving and printing maps. The final quality of the map was determined by the skill of the engraver. Many of the county maps were engraved by craftsmen in the London workshops of Thomas Kitchin, Thomas Jefferys and others, where it would be common for specialist engravers to work on particular features of the map: lettering, roads and rivers, hachures and symbols etc. We do not know where Chapman learned his craft, but by 1776 he had ably demonstrated his skill as both an artist and an engraver: the map of Newmarket (Lewis 1991); the illustrations for Muilman’s ‘A new and complete history of Essex …’ ; and later he engraved the Essex map in collaboration with Peter André. He also exhibited drawings and prints in exhibitions at the Royal Academy in London and produced two aquatints of scenes in Nottinghamshire (British Library).


Valentine'sl, Essex - John Chapman 'del et sculp, Muilman (1772)
Valentine’sl, Essex – John Chapman ‘del et sculp, Muilman (1772)


Bower Hall, Essex - John Chapman 'del et sculp, Muilman (1772)
Bower Hall, Essex – John Chapman ‘del et sculp, Muilman (1772)


Wansted House, Essex - John Chapman 'del et sculp', Muilman (1772)
Wansted House, Essex – John Chapman ‘del et sculp’, Muilman (1772)


Extract from Chapman's Map of Essex (1777) - Green (1911)
Extract from Chapman’s Map of Essex (1777) – Green (1911)


By comparison with the other maps of Midland counties, Chapman’s Nottinghamshire stands out, even compared to his own engraving of the Staffordshire map. The crispness of the lines, the quality of the lettering, and the artistry of the cartouches and other embellishments. Admittedly the comparisons are made between facsimile editions which may not give a true representation of the original maps. Nevertheless while the map of Leicestershire could be described as utilitarian and ‘sparsely detailed’ (Macnair & Williamson 2010 p.25), Chapman’s Nottinghamshire map is richly detailed and decorative.

Printing and Copyright

Whether the manuscript map was drawn in London or Nottingham, it is almost certain that the plates were engraved in London, and probably not at the Pall Mall address. Whilst the tools required by the engraver were readily transportable , the acid, inks and particularly the press were not. As we shall see later, after his death Chapman’s business assets and personal effects from the Pall Mall address were auctioned, and these did not include any surveyor’s instruments, engravers tools or a printing press. At various stages during the engraving process Chapman would have pulled proofs from the plates to check on progress (Harley etc. 1973). The plates could weigh as much as 40lbs each (Pedley 2005) and so it is likely that they were engraved in the same workshop as the press. An arrangement with one of the London workshops is the most likely answer. Sadly there is nothing on the map to identify the workshop and no written records have survived.

In common with other map publishers, Chapman recorded at the bottom of the map, that it was published ‘as the Act directs’. This was a reference to the Engraving Copyright Acts of 1735 and 1767 which gave protection to an engraver. Hunter(1987) gives a detailed account of copyright protection for maps in the 18th century. In reality ‘few cases of copyright ever came to court as a result of these Acts’ (Macnair etc. 2010 p.37).

In its simplest form the printed map was a set of black and white sheets on paper. As we have already seen, the extant versions of the Nottinghamshire map had been transformed in various ways some of which may have been closely contemporary with the purchase of the map. At a price colour washes or other forms of colouring were applied by hand and at the option of the purchaser the sheets could be mounted on linen or canvas and sold in a roll or attached to rollers for display and storage.

Time & Cost

The cost of producing a 1 inch county map was ultimately determined by the size of the area to be mapped. Yorkshire, at 6,000 sq. miles, was the largest English county and Rutland, at 152 sq. miles, the smallest. Nottinghamshire at 825 sq. miles, ranked 14th in size. There is no information on what it cost Chapman to produce his map all we know is that the work took no more than 23 months. That is comparable with many other 4 sheet county maps, but comparisons of the time taken are difficult because we have little information about the number of people involved in the surveying, drawing and engraving.

Examples of time taken from Proposal

Take Jefferys’ map of Yorkshire as an example: 3 years in the surveying and 2 years to draw and engrave. Yorkshire is about seven times larger than Nottinghamshire, but there were three surveying teams at work and the draughting and engraving in Jefferys’ workshop is very likely to have been the work of many hands.

Whether it was a collective effort or the work of one man, the cost reflected the resources employed at each stage of the process. One contemporary source of these costs, and the only detailed breakdown to have survived, is a list of Armstrong’s expenses for his map of Northumberland (Armstrong expenses): a total of £516 10s for a 9 sheet map which took 21/2 years to complete.

Based on Armstrong’s expenses we can make a crude estimate of the costs of the 4 sheet Nottinghamshire map. Nottinghamshire is 40% of the area of Northumberland so a pro rata cost would be £211 7s. That assumes a pro rata print run of 200 maps. The number of subscribers for Chapman’s map is unknown but we can make some assumptions based on the Essex map. This records the names of 216 subscribers, a few ordered more than one map giving an average per subscriber of 1.11 maps. Only 40% of subscribers had their names engraved on the map. Using these figures and working backwards from the names engraved on the Nottinghamshire map we arrive at an estimate of 141 subscribers, 157 orders and a print run of say, 200 maps, which validates the pro rata figure. All highly conjectural, but all we can do to get some feel for the costs of the Nottinghamshire map. What income Chapman may have received from the map, we will consider later.


Chapman’s map is a detailed and decorative depiction of the landscape of late 18th century Nottinghamshire. It reflects his skill as a surveyor and engraver, and endorses Gough’s observation (1780). Apart from the transformations discussed in Part 1, the map printed in 1776 remained unchanged. That is not the case for the copper-plates from which it was ‘pulled’. Before we consider the fortunes of the map in the marketplace we look at what happened to those four engraved plates.

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