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CARY, John

Cary's New English Atlas; Being A Complete Set of County Maps, from actual Surveys, Corresponding in Size with his General Atlas

Printed for J. Cary. Engraver and Map-seller, No. 181 near Norfolk Street, Strand, London, 1809-[29]
Folio (565 x 355 mm.), contemporary half calf, marbled paper boards, gilt ruled, rebacked preserving original spine with raised bands, gilt and blind ruled compartments, gilt title. With double page title and 42 maps on 46 sheets in early outline colour (Warwickshire in early wash colour), pp. 40, in good condition.
By the turn of the century the quarto sized ‘New and Correct English Atlas’ by John Cary (c.1754-1835) had proven to be a runaway success. He was well established and set about producing two folio atlases. Cary’s New Universal Atlas of the world was begun in 1799 and completed in 1808. Cary’s New English Atlas was issued in parts from 1801.

The general title highlights Cary’s role and inclusion of the roads surveyed for the Postmaster General. It was priced at £8. 8s, half bound and in full colour or £7. 12s in outline colour. The beautifully engraved maps are largely derived from his earlier folio maps produced for Richard Gough’s edition of Camden’s Britannia in 1789. They were updated to incorporate new survey work including several recent large-scale maps which had been published. The atlas contains a large Index to the cities, towns and ‘Places as are chargeable with Poor Rates’. For each location the number of houses and population are recorded. Similarly, the sum of Poor Rates paid as recorded to Parliament for the year ended Easter 1803.

The Poor Law’s in England at this point date from the 1601 Act empowering parishes to raise money for the relief of the poor. It began as a tax based on ability to pay, a form of income tax. Over time this became a system of property tax based on the value of real estate. The Napoleonic Wars were raging at the time, and the price of grain was high. This created a great deal of poverty in the country and had brought the issue to the forefront of public debate. Hence, most likely, the inclusion of this data in the atlas. It would culminate in the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. The Index states the total population of England at the time at 8,331,434, the Poor Rate tax amounted to £4,113,164.

Following the first edition of John Cary’s New English Atlas in 1809, further editions appeared in 1811 and 1818. The next phase of publication is both complicated and fascinating. It was John Cary who produced William Smith’s (1769-1839) landmark Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales published in 1815. Following that Cary and Smith had the idea of producing a county atlas displaying the geological strata in a similar, fully coloured manner. It was to be produced in parts and utilised the same plates that Cary had engraved for the New English Atlas in 1809. Smith however was struggling financially and in June 1819 he was imprisoned for ten weeks. After his release Smith went into exile in northern England to get away from the stresses of London and the lack of recognition of his work.

He continued to correspond with Cary but the project was never completed. A total of twenty-one counties were published between 1819 and 1824. Three further maps were engraved with geological content but were never published coloured. These are Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Somersetshire. Each map bears above the neatline Geological Map of …, by W. Smith Mineral Surveyor. Outside the county boundaries are legends identifying each stratum and their characteristics. They are accompanied by a small rectangular area coloured the same as the stratum on the map and a number corresponding to those found on the Geological Table, c.1817. The colours are as close as possible to their actual strata. The maps were also available separately and are today extremely rare.

The ‘New English Atlas’ was reissued in 1821, 1824, 1828 and 1834. All these editions are very rare. They contained the same county maps retaining their geological engraved information, but they were not coloured geologically. Instead they were coloured according to their parliamentary divisions. The Cary issues of the county maps have the Smith title above blanked out, but evidence of this can be readily seen if held in the correct light.

Although the title page of this atlas still records 1809 the date of the contents varies. A total of 14 maps have dates ranging from 1827 to 1829. The table below lists them along with identifying the 5 which contain geological information. All others bear their original publication dates and are likely remaining stock. This is evidenced by their earlier dated watermarks. Those listed below are largely with watermarks dated 1826.

Cornwall 1828
Cumberland 1829 geological
Derby 1827
Gloucester 1828 geological
Hereford 1828
Monmouth 1828
Oxford 1828 geological
Shropshire 1828
Somerset 1829 geological
Stafford 1828
Sussex 1828 geological
Warwick 1827
Worcester 1828
Wales 1827

Carroll (1996) no. 57; Chubb 333; Davis, A. G. (1952) ‘William Smith’s Geological Atlas and the Later History of the Plates’, in ‘The Journal for the Bibliography of Natural History’; Eyles, Joan M. (1969) ‘William Smith (1769-1839): A Bibliography of his Published Writings, Maps and Geological Sections, Printed and Lithographed’, in ‘The Journal for the Bibliography of Natural History’; Fordham (1925a) pp. 82-5; Henry, John. (2014). ‘The First Geological Map of a Country. William Smith’s ‘A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales’, in IMCoS Journal no. 139 pp. 16-30; Nicholson, Tim. (2003). ‘G. F. Cruchley and ‘Maps for the Million”, in IMCoS Journal 93 pp. 21-38; ODNB; Smith, David (1988); Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).
Stock number: 9787

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