The FIRE MAP, as it is known is the first of the British Isles published by John Overton (1640-1713). Shirley recorded this as a first state, with only one example surviving in the Royal Collection, Windsor Castle. The map and printseller Peter Stent (1613?-1665) died from the plague 29 September 1665 and bequeathed his estate to his wife Susanna, shortly after it was sold to John Overton the printseller. Stent’s stock was arguably the largest collection of prints on the market at the time. Overton set up shop in 1665 and his earliest known cartographic work dates from 1666.
The year after the Great Fire Overton published this map of the British Isles. It is unsigned by the engraver although we recognise the hand of Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-77) for all the insets. Off the coast of East Anglia is a scene recording the battle of Lowestoft with the legend ‘A great victory obtained by the English against ye Dutch June 3. 1665’. Pepys wrote of it that ‘A great[er] victory never known in the world’. The map contains several insets. To the left side are town plans of York, Edinburgh, Dublin, Oxford and Cambridge. The first three each containing their own key. Likewise. the plan of London and Westminster ‘Before the Fire’ upper right is so keyed. Below is a fine ‘Prospect of the Citty of London, as it appeared, in the Time of its Flames’. It has its own legend beneath recording details of the fire:
‘On the 2 of September … in the morning, there hapned a deadfull Fire, in ye house of one Mr. Farmer a Baker in pudding lane, which continued till about 5 at night the Wednesday following; in which time it burnt 89 Churches, thirteene thousand & two hundred houses, 636 acres, of 97 Parishes within ye Walls, there was but 11 left entire, One Robert Hubert of Roane in Normandy; upon examination, Confessed he was one that fired the first house (viz.) Mr Farmers in Pudding lane, for which fact he was Shortlie after handed at Tiburne’.
The Great Fire did start at a Baker’s, that of a Thomas Farriner, but Robert Hubert did not start it. He claimed to have been recruited in Paris to set fire to the city. It was later proven that he had not even arrived in the city until two days after the fire had begun.
Shirley recorded three states, a previous one with imprint address ‘in little Brittaine 1667’ was discovered in the Berlin Staatsbibliothek. This is an example of the current second state in which the address is altered to ‘without Newgate’ whilst still retaining the date. The later undated states are noted by Shirley as being ‘very weak impressions’; not so here. Provenance: acquired pre-1978 for a private English collection. Baynton-Williams (2006); Darlington & Howgego (1964) 14; Pennington (1982) 648; Shirley (1988) Overton 1 st. 1 (recording only 1 example); Tyacke (1978) pp. 130-3; Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).