John Cary’s VERY RARE FIRST ATLAS. John Cary (c.1754-1835) and descendants were possibly the most prolific publishers of cartography around the turn of the nineteenth century. Cary is noted for the clarity of detail in his maps and was the first to use the Greenwich meridian. Cary was apprenticed to William Palmer from 1770-77. His very earliest works were engravings for or publications in partnership with others. His first sole publication was this very rare road book displaying the route from London to Falmouth published in 1784. An exquisite book of the roads from London to Falmouth. The surveyor as stated on the title page was none other than Aaron Arrowsmith who undertook the work in 1782. He was the first in a family line of noted mapmakers. Here working initially as a surveyor, he would eventually start his own map publishing business in 1790.
John Cary became a significant and popular mapmaker active over the next fifty years. In 1794, he was commissioned by the Postmaster-General to survey the roads of Great Britain. The route from London to Falmouth was of some significance at the time as Falmouth was the first mainland port along the English Channel and of strategic importance bearing in mind the ever-present threat of the French. The title outlines the detail illustrated on the plates. The first is an unnumbered general map of the route from London to Falmouth. This is followed by 50 numbered plates illustrating roughly 10 mile sections. Each bears a north point and a list at the foot of Inns in the principal town illustrated. Distances are recorded on the roads in both directions and the rise and fall of the land is illustrated by hachuring. The plates are engraved on one side only and are arranged so that they face each other in pairs. It was issued both uncoloured and coloured and is offered here in the more desirable coloured format. Although dated 4 April 1784 on the title the earliest advertisement we can find was in the ‘Whitehall Evening-Post’ for 17-20 July 1784.
This example bears the trade plate inside the front cover of James Heskett of No. 13 Sweetings Alley, Royal Exchange. Trade plates are rare and highly desirable. They often include a wealth of information about the proprietor’s activities. Heskett offers ‘Prints & Drawings neatly Framed & Glazed. Maps Beautifully Colourd and adapted for Librarys or Travelling. Globes & Mathematical Instumts. Books, Gunters-scales, Compasses, Pencils and India Ink’. He also offered ‘Charts properly fited-up for Navigators. Drawing Books & Reeves’s superfine Colours. Atlases, East & West India Pilots’. A charming, very rare work. Provenance: with trade plate of James Heskett pasted inside front cover. Bennett (2007) pp. 82-3; Beresiner (1983) pp. 80-2; Fordham (1924) p. 36; Fordham (1925a) pp. 17-18, Hodson (1984-97) p. 173 n. 3; Shirley (2004) T.Cary 1a; Smith (1988); Sotheby’s Wardington sale 18 October 2005 lot 93.