THE EARL OF ROSEBERY’S COPY OF AN EARLY STATE OF ROCQUE’S FAMOUS 16 SHEET SURVEY OF LONDON, NOT RECORDED in either Darlington & Howgego or Baynton-Williams. Jean Rocque (c.1704-62), to use his native name, was a Huguenot émigré who with his family settled in England by about 1709. By 1734 he was a surveyor, engraver and publisher and worked first in the region of Soho, a known centre for French emigrants. His next move was to the outskirts of London at the time in Piccadilly. His early work appears to be related to garden design as his brother Bartholomew was a landscape gardener. Indeed, the region of Piccadilly at the time was renowned for its gardens, and suppliers of material for them. The connection to engraving possibly came about due to their cousin, also Bartholomew who worked as one in Mannheim, Germany. John Rocque’s earliest works reflect these beginnings many of which were of gardens or estates. The first was of Richmond Gardens, now Kew, in 1734.
He progressed towards town plans as he noted these were poorly mapped, and with the burgeoning wealth of the time there was a growing demand for them. In conjunction with John Pine, he began in 1737 work on a plan of London, obviously an enormous task it would be 1744 before it was finished. By then it appears that he had sold his partnership in the project to John Tinney. The finances were clearly strained; the final work in 24 sheets was published in October 1746. In 1741 Rocque began work on a further London survey this time taking in the environs. It is possible to surmise that it was about 1741 that Rocque relinquished his share in the 24-sheet plan. The environs would be of more value to Rocque as it covered many estates which would likely bring further business. The work for this map was completed in 1745 although the first sheet was published 13 February 1744. The remaining were issued over a period of months and completed around May of 1746 in 16 sheets, a few months prior to the 24-sheet map. Although this map is not to the same scale as the 24-sheet which is focused more on the city. It is in some ways more interesting as many of the present-day inner suburbs are here fields and farms with small villages. These are all depicted at the large scale of five and half inches to the mile. The whole work measures 1450 x 1800 mm.
‘It is hard to understate Rocque’s importance. While other mapmakers had issued such large-scale maps before, no individual had attempted such a broad range. Perhaps more importantly, Rocque began work at a time when English mapmaking was at a low ebb, with much of the material being published being long out of date. His work made an enormous contribution to the impetus for what has been termed the ‘Remapping of England” (Baynton-Williams).
The map extends from Canonbury to Mile End, St. George’s Fields and Osterley. This state of the map is not recorded in Darlington and Howgego or Baynton-Williams. Neither reference work cites an example lacking the Latin and French titles which would later flank the English title above the map itself. However, the map itself conforms to Darlington & Howgego’s (D & H) second state, the first edition with the addition of Whitechapel Mount etc. This example bears a revised title dated 1748. It is not uncommon to find such a variation of content. The Earl of Rosebery (1847-1929) was a lifelong bibliophile and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1895-95. A good example of one of the first and finest plans of London in the Georgian era. Provenance: with the bookplate of Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery. He built ‘one of the most remarkable book collections of his day, distributed amongst his libraries at Dalmeny, Barnbougle, Mentmore, the Durdens, Villa Rosebery, near Naples and his London residence in Berkeley Square’ (Sotheby’s Introduction to a catalogue of his books 29 October 2009). Barker, Felix & Jackson, Peter. (1990). ‘The History of London in Maps’ pp. 54-65; Barber (2012) London pp. 110-11; Baynton-Williams, Ashley 26 (this state not listed); Darlington & Howgego (1964) no. 94 (this state not listed); ESTC N4897; ODNB; Varley, J. (1948). ‘John Rocque: engraver, surveyor, cartographer and map-seller’, in Imago Mundi, 5, 83–91.