Clive A. Burden LTD. Rare Maps, Antique Atlases, Books and Decorative Prints

The Mapping of North America

Mr. Philip D. Burden‚Äč
P.O. Box 863,
Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks HP6 9HD,
Tel: +44 (0) 1494 76 33 13

The FIRST PRINTED PLAN OF BURY ST. EDMUNDS in its PREVIOUSLY UNRECORDED FIRST STATE. A fine important large scale separately published plan of the town of Bury St. Edmunds by Alexander Downing. The fact that a town plan of such quality was published of the town is a measure of the local wealth and value of Bury St. Edmunds to the region. The survey was undertaken by Downing about whom we have been unable to trace any information. Downing most likely lived locally as he dedicates it to ‘To the Right Worshipful the Alderman, Recorder, Capital Burgesses, and Common Council of the Borough of Bury St. Edmunds, in the County of Suffolk. This plan is humbly Inscribed by their Worships most humble Servant Alex: Downing’. It is engraved by William Henry Toms (c.1700-56) an engraver in Union Court, London and sold locally by Samuel Watson, a bookseller in Bury St. Edmunds.

The finished plan is oriented with north to the right. The title cartouche appears upper left and two large beautifully engraved vignette illustrations of ‘The Cross’ and ‘Abbey Gate’ are in the lower corners. The Market Cross was a three storey building complete with arcades which were demolished shortly after. The map is decorated with a compass rose, coat of arms upper centre and a scale of miles at roughly a quarter of a mile to 5 inches. There are two keys detailed 1 to 55 with street names and from A to W with other places of note. The wealth of detail is remarkable with the borders of individual properties outlined.

The map is dated 1740 in the title although all surviving examples traced are dated 1761 in the lower left imprint of Downing and John Rocque. It had been noticed that the imprint was engraved in two different hands indicating the probable existence of an earlier state. Its presence in Rocque’s Catalogue of 1754 priced at 1s. 6d. was further evidence. This unique first state bears the same first name of Alexander Downing, but does not bear Rocque’s imprint. In his place are the local bookseller’s Samuel Watson and the engraver William Henry Toms. A search of British and worldwide institutions only revealed examples of the later state at Cambridge University Library ( and the British Library (Maps K.Top.39.11). The latter’s example is in King George III’s Topographical Collection, a sign of how rare the first state must have been. Lobel, M. D. ‘The Value of Early Maps as Evidence for the Topography of English Towns’, in ‘Imago Mundi’ no. 22 pp. 50-61; Tooley (1999-2004) p. 384.

DOWNING, Alexander

A New and Accurate Plan of the Ancient Borough of Bury Saint Edmunds in the Country of Suffolk By Alexander Downing. 1740

Published by the Propieter Alexander Downing ... & Sold by J. Rocque, April 24th. 1741, London, 1741
515 x 690 mm., with a second fold near the edges to facilitate binding, printed on good thick paper in very good condition.
Stock number: 5915


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