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The Mapping of North America

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This very rare work appears to vary in collation from one example to the next. We first note James Edwards (fl.1787-1820) in 1787 when he began producing maps and plates. He was a surveyor, engraver and publisher who started out in Dorking, Surrey. He focused on local material relating to Surrey, Sussex and Kent.

The bibliography of this book is complicated. The first clear evidence for the project appeared in January 1788, when William Bray described it as ‘a work which he is now publishing in numbers, being a map and description of the road from London to Brighthelmstone, taking in a good deal of the adjacent country’ (Archaeologia 9 (1789) p. 106). Kingsley states that it was published in parts from 1796. It appears that it can consist of three different publications. ‘A Companion from London to Brighthelmston, the Description of Southwark, Lambeth, Newington …’ and sometimes the ‘Tabulae Distantiae’, 1789. The ‘Companion’ is made up of two Parts. Both are present here as is the ‘Description of Southwark …’ The whole is completed by a six-page list of subscribers including many notable individuals such as Sir Joseph Banks, the original promoter of the scheme.

The plate collation is even more varied. The ‘set’ of 9 numbered plates of the route from London to Brighton are here found with mixed imprints. They are all orientated to the east and the original issue bears dates between 1790 and 1800. Where identified the engraver is Edwards himself. Here in some cases duplicates or replacements are found from the later edition c.1820. These four later plates date between 1817 and 1820. They are all updated with new information most notably the new iron railway on the second plate.

These are supplemented with plans of South London, New Shoreham, Lewes and Steyning. The latter two are later states dated 1817, again with new information added. A folding Trigonometrical Land Chart dated 1817 displays all of the points mapped by the Ordnance Survey drawn from General Roy’s original base line, drawn in red, at Hounslow Heath. A ‘General Map of 1400 Square Miles’ dated 1817 covers the whole region from London to the south coast. According to Kingsley it was originally published in 1800 and is found with imprints of 1816 and as here, 1817.

The title page doubled as an advertisement for the work and calls for an additional section: ‘Tabulae Distantiarum’ containing ten pages of distance charts. The detail of that found on the roads is truly amazing. Page 11 of the second part describes the home of Henry Cavendish, the scientist, on Clapham Common as ‘the seat of Hon. Henry Cavendish. It is a tolerable good house, built with red brick. In a paddock at the back of the house is a mast of a ship, erected for the purpose of making philosophical experiments.’ The figures in the columns to the left side give the exact distances which Edwards gives for each property. This gives the distance from London, in miles, quarter-miles and rods. A rod is 5½ yards and there are 320 rods in a mile, making 80 in a quarter-mile. The miles are recorded in roman numerals, with Arabic recording the quarter-miles and rods.

The work was republished from 1817 in parts according to Kingsley, with the title ‘Edward’s topographical survey through Surrey, Sussex, and Kent’. He goes on to record an advertisement stating, ‘an original Survey … was, after Twenty Years Labour, and nearly two Thousand Pounds Expense, in completing, unfortunately destroyed by the great Fire which happened at the Printer’s, Bolt-court, Fleet-Street, in November, 1807, and nothing recovered from the loss.’ It appears as if some of the plates at least survived. This example is an amalgam of the two issues, the ‘Description of Southwark, Lambeth, Newington, & c’. in 32 pages was printed for the latter work, the typeset being clearly different. Many of the maps are in fine original outline colour. They are supplemented by seven engraved plates including six views.

Provenance: inscription on front free endpaper ‘Mr Brown with Miss Tates kind Regards 8th March 1867’; Sotheby’s 28 April 1992 lot 1142; Bow Windows, Sussex, 2016; private English collection. Fordham (1924) p. 45; Giles, Phyllis ‘The Last of the Warrens: Sir George Warren, K.B.’ (1735-1801); Kingsley (1982) App. VII no. 3; Tooley’s Dictionary (1999-2004); Upcott (1978) pp. 1217-9; Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).


A Companion from London to Brighthelmston, in Sussex; Consisting of a Set of Topographical Maps from Actual Surveys, On a Scale of Two Inches to a Mile

For the Author, No. 23, Belvidere Place, St. George, Southwark, London, 1801-[20]
Folio (295 x 245 mm.), recent half calf, cloth boards, blind ruled, spine with raised bands, gilt ruled, gilt titles, light wear. With typographic title page, List of Subscribers, Companion in 2 parts, Description, pp. xiii, 16, 86, 24, with 11 maps from the series, plates 2 and 8 duplicated in later impressions, 4 plans, 7 plates, 4 further plates, 1 trigonometrical chart and a general map, eleven in early outline colour.
Stock number: 10339


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