John Cary (1755-1835) 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 born in Warminster in 1755 to a prominent family. At fifteen he was apprenticed to the engraver William Palmer and made free in 1778. His very earliest works were engravings for or publications in partnership with others. Many of these suffered bankruptcy or other ill fortune. Undeterred he opened his own premises at 188 Strand taking over from the bookseller Samuel Hooper. His first sole publication was a very rare road book displaying the route from London to Falmouth published in 1784.
At this point in time no fresh county atlases had been issued since the ‘Large English Atlas’ of the 1750s. Since then, between Robert Sayer and the Bowles family, now in the hands of Carington Bowles, the market had to make do with reissues of earlier works. However, during much of this period many counties had undergone fresh large-scale survey’s, a number of which had been published. Both individuals were as Hodson stated ‘now in their 60s, were wealthy, and furthermore quite uninterested in undertaking the compilation of a new English county atlas’. Having worked already on books to do with roads and canals Cary could see the rapidly transforming landscape and its use by the general public. The huge increase in the number of Turnpikes towards the end of the eighteenth century helped to ensure comfortable and relatively safe travel across the country.
In 1787-89 Cary published the ‘New and Correct English Atlas’ which proved immediately successful. This work was first published as a separately issued wall map in eighty-one sheets in 1792. An example of it is found in the British Library (Maps *1130.2). Although strictly a wall map, it is best known through its publication in 1794 as an atlas with all eighty-one sheets bound in. The whole measures approximately 1775 x 2235 mm. and is drawn on a scale of 5 miles to the inch. It is also widely recognised as the first English atlas to be published using Greenwich as the Prime Meridian. This was agreed worldwide at an international conference in Washington in 1884. It was John Seller who, with his map of Hertfordshire published in 1676, first popularized the use of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London as the Meridian. Some individual maps had been published prior to 1794 using Greenwich, but none of the whole country.
This map extends as far north as Edinburgh and gives extensive detail of the country at the time. It is dedicated to the Earl of Chesterfield and Lord Walsingham, the Post Masters General. An innovative feature he introduced was to place a letter at the exit point of a road from each map. This letter would correspond to that found on the neighbouring sheet. This was an early form of numbering the roads. Each sheet includes in the border a small square illustrating the numbers of the adjoining sheets for easy reference. The title, dedication, index map, explanation and scale bound at the beginning form sheets 80, 71, 62, 72 and 63 accordingly. All are to be found in the upper right of the whole. The top right sheet 81 is bound in order in the main part of the book.
Special attention was paid to the roads and fourteen additional pages found here were added at a later stage. This example also includes the place list in 88 pages, its second state as first issued in 1804 according to Fordham. The last leaf of which includes an advert dated at the foot May 1804. A brief look at watermarks finds the latest being 1802. Fordham (1925a) pp. 44-7; Smith, David (1988); Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).