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SMITH, William

1602 Essexiae Comitatus Descriptio

London, 1602
415 x 520 mm., in fine early outline colour, trimmed a little at the top not affecting the image, otherwise in good condition.
The EXTREMELY RARE FIRST STATE of William Smith’s map of the county of Essex. William Smith (1546-1618) was educated at Oxford and from an early age he was interested in maps as his first surviving work is a town plan of 1568. In 1572-73 he translated the text of the German edition of Abraham Ortelius’ ‘Theatrum Orbis Terrarum’ into English; this was sold at Sotheby’s in 1986. He was a resident of Nuremberg from c.1575-c.1584 where he worked as the landlord of the Golden Goose Inn on what is now the Winklerstrasse at a time when the town was the principal map-making centre of south Germany. He produced a description of Nuremberg with a mixture of views, town plans, regional maps and descriptive text of the town’s history, economy and constitution. It undoubtedly provided the inspiration to John Norden’s similar later works of the counties. In 1581 he provided George Braun and Frans Hogenberg with a plan of Bristol which was included in their third volume of the ‘Civitates Orbis Terrerum’. Upon his return to England he produced manuscript maps of Cheshire and Lancashire. A map of Staffordshire dated 1599 exists in the William Salt Library, Stafford. In 1597 he was appointed to the College of Arms as ‘Rouge Dragon Pursuivant’ which provided the means and encouragement for him to think of producing a county atlas.

This map of Essex is one of an unfinished series of twelve county maps that were engraved by Jodocus Hondius from 1602-03. The evidence for this comes from William Burton’s preface to ‘The Description of Leicestershire’ 1622 in which he states that the map of Leicestershire and Rutland dated 1602 “was graven at Amsterdam by Jodocus Hondius”. The group of twelve maps were intended for publication it is assumed by Hans Woutneel (fl.1576-after 1604) whose name is found on that of Essex and a manuscript of Worcester. Various reasons can be deduced for the demise of the series. Woutneel disappears in 1603 when the last is heard of him, we know he was dead by 1608. Woutneel was a Flemish refugee and bookseller living in St. Anne’s, Blackfriars, London. On 1 February 1580 he was admitted as a brother to the Stationers’ Company. This meant he had could operate under the Company but that there were restrictions on him including opening a shop. He had extensive dealings with Antwerp and the Plantin Press and corresponded with Abraham Ortelius in particular. He was almost certainly the financier of the intended county series of maps produced by William Smith and engraved by Hondius 1602-03. He travelled abroad extensively in 1582-3, 1587, 1591, 1592, 1596, & 1598. There were charges brought against him in 1600 for importing Popish books. Evidence shows though that he was a seller of books, not a publisher until 1601. The manuscript of Worcestershire bears his imprint and the date 1602 but interestingly the finished plate does not (Schilder VIII p. 165).

The maps bear no other names and were therefore known as being by the ‘Anonymous Mapmaker’. There similarity to the surviving Cheshire and Lancashire manuscripts had been noted but it was the chance discovery in 1958 of four drafts in Smith’s hand of Cheshire, Hertfordshire (1602), Warwickshire and Worcestershire which provided clear evidence of his authorship (BL Maps C.2.cc.2 [12-15]). This map of Essex is the first to show roads for which Smith drew upon the work of John Norden’s unpublished manuscript. It was published by Hans Woutneel whose imprint is seen re-engraved over that of Christopher Saxton after whom the map is drawn. It also displays a key to symbols. Provenance: Tooley, Adams & Co. ‘Catalogue 1983-84’ item 276; private English Collection. Barber (2007) pp. 1634-5, 1650-1; Delano-Smith (2007) p. 534; Delano-Smith & Kain (1997) pp. 72 & 75; Globe (1985) no. 346 pp. 7, 98-101 & 221; Griffiths (1998) p. 39; ‘Imago Mundi’ 36 pp. 90 & 92; Schilder (2008) pp. 164-6, 293, 342 & 507; Sotheby’s 11 July 1986 lot 359 (Smith translation of Ortelius).
Stock number: 5929

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