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The Mapping of North America

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William Tunnicliff (fl.1784-96) was a land surveyor and cartographer. In 1786 he began publishing a series of ‘Topographical Surveys’ of individual counties. In that year he was also advertising for employment and it seems that the series was a stop gap to further employment. Those of Staffordshire, Cheshire and Lancashire were all issued with maps dated 1786 and bearing ‘Price 7 Shills.’ in the title. These three were then brought together under one title in 1787. Clearly successful he decided to expand the work with three further neighbouring counties, namely Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, and Somerset. The six appeared as ‘A Topographical Survey of the Counties of …’ in 1789.

Two years later this further volume was issued covering six south-western counties. The county of Somerset appeared in both works although here it is represented by an entirely new map and reset text. The structure is broadly the same except each now bears a triangular distance table. A more detailed ‘Travelling Index’ or table now accompanies each one also. At the beginning is a folding map of the whole.

The work was supported by subscription a list of whom is provided for each county. Many are encouraged by the plates of coat of arms, here bound together at the end of the volume. This is followed by a six-page index to the market towns. A large amount of industrial information is included including a focus on canals, a feature which was dramatically changing the landscape at the time. This was a time that the industrial revolution was rapidly changing the country.

The six new maps are all oversized for the work and engraved in the new plain style being popularized by Cary. They are also now in early wash colour. This was the last of the surveys. We do not know what happened to Tunnicliff beyond this publication, certainly no further publications appeared. A clue might be found in a letter at the National Archives in America addressed to Thomas Jefferson. An attached note records that this may be the same gentleman who was a surveyor back in England. If so, he arrived in Washington in 1796 under the employ of Robert Morris, a land promoter. The city was at the time being developed to become the capital of the newly independent United States of America. ‘He operated the Washington City Hotel near the Capitol on A Street, 1799–1804. Tunnicliff later became a merchant in Washington, in which capacity he imported books, maps, scientific instruments, two globes, a telescope, and London porter for Thomas Jefferson’ (Bedini).

Batten & Bennett (1996) no. 58; not in Beaton (2001) Dorset; Bedini, Silvio (2000) ‘With Compass and Chain: Early American Surveyors and Their Instruments’, p. 574; Fordham (1924) p. 39; Needell (1995) Somerset no. 107; Quixley (1966) no. 46 & (2018) no. 55; Smith ‘The Maps of William Tunnicliff, Reluctant County Map-Maker’, in IMCoS Journal 39 pp. 19-27; Upcott I p. xxvii; Whittaker (1942) Cheshire no. 260 & 266.

A Topographical Survey of the Counties of Hants, Wilts, Dorset, Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall, Commonly called the Western Circuit

Salisbury, 1791
Octavo (230 x 140 mm.), recent half calf, marbled paper boards, uncut, spine with gilt ruled compartments and gilt titles. Six parts bound as one, pp. (xii), 256, with 7 folding maps comprising one general map of the region and large folding ones for each of the six counties, all in early wash colour, each with a double page Index Table of Distances and 48 plates of the Arms of the Nobility for each county, in good condition.
Stock number: 9835


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