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The Mapping of North America

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A fine tall paper copy of John Ogilby’s seminal work ‘Britannia’, EXTRAVAGANTLY RULED IN RED; the first edition. It “remains unchallenged as the greatest advance in the mapping of England between the sixteenth-century surveys of Christopher Saxton and the county surveys of the second half of the eighteenth century” (Harley). It was the first national road-atlas of any country in Western Europe and a landmark in the mapping of England and Wales. Ogilby (1600–1676) had a remarkable life and this is arguably his finest achievement published just before his death the following year.

The 100 double-page engraved road maps were composed of seventy-three major roads and cross-roads, presented in a continuous strip-form. For the first time in England, the atlas was prepared on a uniform scale, at one inch to a mile. In the Preface Ogilby justifies his employment of 1760 yards to the mile, later named the Statute Mile. It was the influence that the ‘Britannia’ was to have through this work and others that made the Statute Mile the standard. Ogilby claimed that 26,600 miles of roads were surveyed in the course of preparing the atlas, but only about 7,500 were actually depicted in print. “In its comprehensiveness, its incorporation of new devices of computation and delineation, and its opulence of paper, design and decoration, it immediately set a new standard for map-making in England … this volume was an attempt at a scientific study not only of the roads but also the terrain and habitations on either side of the roads” (Eerde).

This example is according to Hodson’s intensive study issue number 4 of 12. The first two being issues for the King and for dedication copies. Here the general map is in its second state (only the King’s example bears state 1) and the road strips are in their first unnumbered state. The introductory descriptive text of London is in its revised 8 page form. This particular issue was in reality the first finished version of the atlas available for the wider public. The next phase of development was the updating of details on the majority of the plates closely followed by the addition of plate numbers to allow the maps inclusion in the ‘Itinerarium Angliae’. The ‘Britannia’ was first advertised as being available in November 1675. The ‘Itinerarium’ was advertised in the ‘London Gazette’ for 13-17 January 1676. This indicates the speed at which these alterations were introduced and supports the thought that this is indeed a very early issue.

The presence of red-ruling liberally throughout the book is a wonderful addition to this work. It is indeed one of the great books on which this curious form of ornamentation was utilised. Carter’s ‘ABC’ describes red-ruling thus “Red lines ruled with pen and ink … round the text page and extending into the margins, were a mark of distinction added, especially to a fine paper copy, from the 16th century onwards; it is rare after 1740.” Ruling did not necessarily emanate from the publisher as a passage in Samuel Pepys’ diaries talks about spending an evening treating some of his own books in this way. It is generally considered a means by which a book could be made more attractive, a fashion which reached its peak in the second half of the seventeenth century.

Six examples of the ‘Britannia’ are known to us with red-ruling the most famous of which is the Arthur Duckham copy reproduced in 1946. Interestingly all but one of them is of this particular issue which again supports it being thought of as one of the very first made available to the public. It also lends weight to the fact that these are most likely publishers ruled examples. Of further note is that no example has yet been recorded in this issue which does not have red-ruling! It is most likely that this issue dates from December 1675 and was on sale for £5, a normal example of the atlas cost £2. It is tempting to think that this example has a superb provenance as it bears the engraved name of ‘Sir Isaac Newton Kt.’ pasted on the recto of the engraved frontispiece. Although acquired in Cambridge, Newton’s adoptive home, and a fine example which one might expect Newton to acquire, we are unable to prove this provenance.

Provenance: The Blathwayt copy from Dyrham Park, Wiltshire, acquired by William Blathwayt 1675; sold with a portion of the library by the Trustees of J. R. W. Blathwayt at Sotheby’s 4 November 1958 lot 478 for £58 to Charles Traylen, Guildford, Surrey, for Lord Wardington; sale of the Wardington Collection Sotheby’s 10 October 2006 lot 325. Bennett (1996) pp. 12-13; Black (1975) ‘The Blathwayt Atlas’ pp. 5-8; Chubb (1927) no. 100; Eerde, K. S. (1976) p.137; ESTC R2945; Harley (1970); Hodson (2000) pp. 401-520, no. 3 (p. 482); Shirley (2004) T.OGIL-4a; Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).


Britannia, Volume the First. Or An Illustration of the Kingdom of England and Dominion of Wales: by A Geographical and Historical Description of the Principal Roads Thereof

London, 1675
EXTRAVAGANTLY RULED IN RED. Folio (440 x 285 mm.), full contemporary mottled calf, gilt ruled with ornate corner decoration, rebacked ribbed spine with ornate blind decoration and gilt central feature to each panel, red calf gilt title label, with later blank endpapers, upper joint with slight insect damage. With frontispiece engraved by Wenceslaus Hollar on verso; typographic title page as above printed in black and red, verso blank; dedication to Charles II pp. (3), blank verso; Preface pp. (5); Post Roads pp. (3); London description pp. (14); General map; Catalogue of the roads pp. (4), pp. 1-200 with 100 strip maps interspersed, A Table directing to the Cities … pp. (4). Occasional small rust marks, corner torn away from last leaf of the table.
Stock number: 7567


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