Clive A. Burden LTD. Rare Maps, Antique Atlases, Books and Decorative Prints

The Mapping of North America

Mr. Philip D. Burden​
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Surprising as it may seem to us today, roads were not usually included on early maps. It was not until the second half of the seventeenth century that maps become commonly used as travel aids. Previously, ‘travailers’ venturing beyond their home territory would have hired local guides, asked for directions, or followed written itineraries which listed the places through which they needed to pass.

The first county map identified to include roads was by John Norden himself on that of Middlesex, 1593. The system of a graticule was also a first and that of London in the same work bears a scale of distance, the first English map to do so. It is interesting to note that in that same year the statute mile was set in law at 1760 yards. Although it was initially only adopted around London. A bigger problem for travellers was that there was little or no information on how far it was to get from place to place. These tables addressed that within each county, but still calculation across counties was not readily available.


John Norden (c.1547-1625) is noted as being the first person to undertake a complete series of county histories. In 1592 he was granted a ten-year privilege on his ‘Speculum Britanniae’ or Mirror of Britain, intended to survey the whole country. The first part was successfully published in 1593 which covered Middlesex. Hertfordshire followed in 1598. Both were published at Norden’s expense. Unfortunately, he suffered financially never quite achieving the support he desired and needed which limited the reach of the project. This is largely due to ‘the Puritan tracts he wrote to raise money and his flattering dedication to Essex shortly before the uprising of 1599 set him so far out of political favour that he never received the patronage necessary to finance expensive surveys’ (Globe). No others were published during his lifetime, but he left a few further county histories in manuscript form, some with manuscript maps.

Progress was slow and had been abandoned by 1605. The work fell on the 1607 edition of William Camden’s ‘Britannia’ by George Bishop and John Norton to include a series of maps, some of which derived from Norden. In the meantime, Norden became well employed surveying royal estates. James I inherited the debt of Elizabeth I and the crown estates needed proper surveying. Several surveyors were employed in the process. Peter Barber believes this was the main reason for the lapse in work on the ‘Speculum Britanniae’. As his advanced age he resumed writing more and more.

‘England an intended guyde’

In 1625 John Norden published a set of triangular distance tables under the titles ‘England an intended guyde, for English travailers’, ‘Inuented & collected’ as a guide for travellers. He states he has ‘not done this altogether by mine owne observation, though I have travailed most parts of the Kingdome’. He goes on to say that he has borrowed the help ‘as well of mine owne Maps which I have made, by travaile of divers Shires: now totally finished by the laborious travailes of Mr. Speede, whose Maps together with Mr. Saxtons and mine owne, have been the principall direction in this tedious worke’.

It is often stated that he claimed to have invented the triangular distance tables. I believe in the sense that he compiled the data, it is true. As for the idea of the tables, these were occurring in Germany half a century earlier. Norden’s friend William Smith (1546-1618) had lived in Germany, and it is believed mentioned this method to Norden. Another hypothesis is that Norden developed the idea from the ‘Tectonicon’ by Leonard Digges, published in 1556. Either way, the work involved in calculating it, is not to be underestimated. There are approximately 16,500 distances recorded. It would be another fifty years before a further innovation was made in the guise of the road strip by John Ogilby (1600-76) in his ‘Britannia’ of 1675.

Norden’s work contains 40 tables comprising 37 single page counties, Yorkshire, England, and Wales all on folding leaves. There was none of Monmouth and that of the small county of Rutland is combined with Leicester. Each included instructions on how to use the table. His design presented a triangular table with the list of towns repeated along a horizontal row and a vertical side, the distances between the two towns being shown at the co-ordinates. These were straight line measurements; no record was made of the actual road distance. The regular counties each contained twenty-seven locations, the folding leaves contained more.

The work was published by Edward All-de son of John Allde printer, likely just before Norden’s death in late summer of 1625. Otherwise listed as Edward Alday in the British Book Trade Index, a printer and given trading dates of 1584-1634? The idea gained popularity. Matthew Simmons (fl.1635-54) published the ‘Direction for the English Traviller’ in 1635 with copper engraved versions of the tables, each with miniature so-called thumb-nail maps derived from the earlier playing cards of William Bowes. There were three editions in short succession before Thomas Jenner (fl.1621-73) who enlarged the maps on the plates and issued two further works in eight editions culminating shortly after Ogilby’s revolutionary production.

This example came from the library of Cyril Ernest Kenney who as a chartered surveyor collected a fine library of books on the subject, including two examples of this work. This second example lacked the folding table of Wales. A survey of the known examples identified only 4 complete copies and five further substantially complete ones.

1 – British Library (G.15961)

2 – British Library (577.h.27.(1))

3 – National Archives, Kew (Rare Books 50)

4 – C. E. Kenney Collection, sold Sotheby’s, London, 19 October 1965 lot 889 (complete with a duplicate of Cheshire), present whereabouts unknown, not believed to be one of the above

5 – British Library (C.77.d.16) – England inserted

6 – Burden Collection – lacks Wales

7 – Bodleian Library, Oxford (Gough Maps 125) – lacks the two folding of England and Wales

8 – Bodleian Library, Oxford (Tanner 888) – lacks title and the two folding of England and Wales

9 – Winchester College, Fellows Library (Bk7111) – lacks England, ex E. G. Box Collection

An example at Cambridge University Library (Bbb.*8.31(B), lacks title, address, general plate and all after Lincolnshire).

Provenance: early manuscript initials? on the title page; Cyril Ernest Kenney (1898-73) F.B.A., F.R.I.C.S., chartered surveyor and bibliophile; collection sold at Sotheby’s, London, 19 October 1965 lot 890; acquired by Stanley Crowe; Donald Hodson collection (1933-2016), carto-bibliographer.

References: Barber (2007) pp. 1632-34; Bennett (1996) pp. 62-3; British Book Trade Index; Delano-Smith (1997) p. 179; Delano-Smith (2006) pp. 54-7; Delano-Smith & Kain (1999) p. 160; Elias (1981); Fordham (1924) p. 8; Hind (1952) I p. 30; Hodson (2000) T1; Kitchen (1997); Lawrence (1982); Lawrence (1989); Library Hub Discover; Lynam (1953) pp. 66-74; Ravenhill (1972); refer to Skelton (1970) 20; Smith (1988) p. 117; Taylor (1968) II pp. 45-50; Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).


England an intended guyde, for English travailers: Shewing in generall, how far one citie, & many shire-townes in England, are distant, from other

Edward All-de dwelling near Christ-Church, London, 1625
THE FIRST DISTANCE TABLES BOOK ON ENGLAND. Quarto (275 x 190 mm.), eighteenth century half calf, marbled paper boards, spine with gilt ruled compartments, red calf gilt title label affixed. With typographic title page set within an ornate woodcut frame, two-page address by John Norden, pp. (4), 39 (of 40) triangular distance tables (England with some repair, and Yorkshire both folding), lacking the folding Wales, waterstained on the outer edge, otherwise in good condition.
Stock number: 9488


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