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The Mapping of North America

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John Kirby (c.1690-1753) was a land surveyor and Suffolk topographer who was known for estate, road and county maps. Born in 1690 at Halesworth he was first a schoolmaster of Orford and later lived in a mill at Wickham Market. He married Alice Brown in 1714 and had two sons John Joshua and William Kirby. He published a small work entitled ‘The Suffolk Traveller; or, a Journey through Suffolk. In which is inserted the true distance in the roads, from Ipswich to every market town in Suffolk … By John Kirby, who took an actual survey of the whole county in the years 1732, 1733 and 1734’, in Ipswich, 1735. It included a small map of the county. The work is claimed to be the earliest single-county road book.

The following year 1736 Kirby published the first large scale map of the county at one inch to the mile. It is exceedingly rare, indeed only ONE RECORDED EXAMPLE could be located, that being in the King’s Topographical Collection, British Library (Maps K.Top.39.4.11 TAB.), forming the geographical and topographical collection attached to the Library of his late Majesty King George III. Those who subscribed to the 1736 map received the 1735 ‘Suffolk Traveller’ free. Although inaccuracies occur in the work it did correct many errors on earlier maps found in county atlases. This single sheet reduction was engraved by Isaac Basire (1704-68) the following year and is designed to go with it as the dimensions of the sheet are the same. Distances in miles are recorded on the main roads, this may account for the lack of a scale of miles. A note to the right of the title cartouche apologises for the mileage’s given outside the county specifically to Norwich: ‘The Travelling distances out of the County of Suffolk to that City were not Surveyed by the Author, but inserted in this Map according to the nearest Computations he could get.’ Finishing off the map are an ornate title cartouche, compass rose lower left and various sea going vessels offshore.

Kirby died on 13 December 1753, at Ipswich, and was buried in the churchyard of St. Mary at Tower, Ipswich. His portrait, by Thomas Gainsborough, R.A., was in the possession of the Rev. Kirby Trimmer in 1868. A new edition of the ‘Suffolk Traveller’ was published in 1764. In 1766 an improved four-sheet map to the same scale was engraved by John Ryland and published by John Kirby’s sons John Joshua and William. Dictionary of National Biography; Eden (1975); Rodger (1972) no. 412.

KIRBY, John

A Survey of the County of Suffolk

London, 1737
510 x 730 mm., in early outline colour, laid on old linen preserving a tear in the lower left corner just cutting across the map, another lower right extends 50 mm. in to the map, small area of loss lower centrefold, not affecting the image, light foxing and surface dirt, light loss at some of the folds and double folds, otherwise a good example of a very rare map.
Stock number: 7417

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