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LAURIE, Robert & WHITTLE, James

Laurie and Whittle's New and Improved English Atlas, divided into Counties: shewing Their Respective Situations, Boundaries, and Extent, Produce, Mines, Minerals, Trade, and Manufactures

Robert Laurie and James Whittle, No. 53, Fleet-Street, London, 1806
Oblong quarto (230 x 295 mm.), early half red calf, paper boards with ornate printed panels, spine with gilt ruled compartments, each with central gilt floral design, gilt title, light wear. With finely engraved vignette title, typographic title, Advertisement, Contents, engraved Explanation in early colour and 48 engraved maps consisting of a general one, 44 maps of the counties (West Riding in 2 sheets), Isle of Wight and maps of north and south Wales, all in fine early outline colour with wash borders, each accompanied by a leaf of descriptive text, paper fold to final leaf of text, otherwise in good condition.
FIRST EDITION, ONLY KNOWN EXAMPLE. Most of the plates for this atlas were first issued in the ‘Universal Magazine’, published by William Bent from 1791 to 1798. They are engraved by Benjamin Baker (1766-1841), who was particularly active through 1824 as an engraver for the Ordnance Survey. These early Surveys are highly prized for their detail. In 1804, the plates appeared in a rare atlas entitled ‘Maps of the Several Counties and Shires in England’ by William Darton (1755-1819) and Joseph Harvey (1764-1841). Then they were acquired by the firm of Laurie and Whittle. Often thought of as mere publishers Robert Laurie (1755-1836) was a noted craftsman. He was a talented mezzotint engraver who invented a method of mezzotint printing in colour, an achievement that won him an award from the Royal Society of Arts in 1776. In the early 1790s he entered the publishing business with James Whittle (1757-1818) as his partner. The acquisition of Robert Sayer’s stock catapulted them into the major league.

In 1806 they published a road book entitled ‘Laurie and Whittle’s New Traveller’s Companion’ which included road maps. It was originally thought that in the following year this work was published having clearly just acquired the Baker plates of the English counties. The two were clearly meant to complement each other in their stock. Then in 2003 this example dated 1806 appeared at auction. It remains the only traced example. Three further maps were supplied including the general map dated 1801 by Laurie and Whittle, an apparently new plate of the Isle of Wight engraved by Baker dated 1806 and a general map of Yorkshire to complement those of the Ridings also dated 1806. The accompanying typographic descriptions include a wealth of information such as population data gathered by the Government in 1801, the very first census. An interesting note on the Explanation states ‘The connection of the Turnpike Roads from one County to another, are shown by Reference Letters a. b. c. &c.’. This feature was of course first introduced by John Cary in 1793. Provenance: pencil inscription inside upper cover from 1961 with price £12 12s; Dominic Winter 2 October 2003 lot 739; private English collection. Refer Beresiner (1983) p. 50; Carroll (1996) 53; Chubb (1927) 294; Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).
Stock number: 10216

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