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The Mapping of North America

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OLIVER, John

The Actual Survey of the County of Hertford; Containing the Miles, Furlongs, and Poles, between Place and Place, on all the Roads in the Survey, exactly Measured and set forth in a Printed account, hereunto annexed. A work never done to any County before ... By John Oliver. Cum Privilegio. 1695

London, 1695
600 x 795 mm., in two sheets joined as one, in early outline colour, trimmed to the neat line, some minor restoration to lower folds, some tape show through lower left one, otherwise in very good condition.
One of the earliest two-sheet county maps ever published. Only those of Kent by Symonson in 1596 and the three by John Seller issued around 1680 of Kent, Middlesex and Oxford pre-date it. John Oliver (1616?-1701) appears to have been quite a character. The great scientist of the day Robert Hooke once described him as a ‘rascal, a villain, a dog and a devil” (Worms & Baynton-Williams). He also appears to have been multi-talented being at one time a builder, painter of glass, but a surveyor, mapmaker, printseller engraver and publisher. Born early in the century the second of his wives Susanna Speed was the grand-daughter of John Speed. Despite that Hooke did help Oliver with his map of London and he had a successful career. He owned several properties in London was named Master Mason to the King in 1686.

His earliest cartographic works appear about 1675 with maps for John Seller. He undertook a fresh survey of the county of Hertfordshire. Richard Palmer engraved the result for Seller and the map was separately published in 1676. In 1679 the three men joined forces again to announce the publication of an ‘Atlas Anglicanus’ to contain an ‘Actual Survey of all the Counties’. Only a handful of maps were produced and by 1693 the partnership was finished. The plates appear to have been sold to Philip Lea who included them in his edition of Christopher Saxton’s atlas of the same year.

The issue of the ‘London Gazette’ for 16-20 August 1694 carried an advert stating that “John Oliver having Engrav’d a large Map of the County of Hertford, carefully corrected, with an account of the measured Miles, Furlongs …; a Work never performed in any County before, to make the Map more compleat, he would print with it an Alphabetical Table of the Nobility and gentry of the said County, with References to their Seats, provided due Information of their several Names, titles, and Seats, be sent to him at the Ship in the Great Old-Baily, London, before the 10th of September next at farthest”. This was undoubtedly an attempt to gain subscribers to the work.

A comparison between this two sheet map on a much larger scale and the earlier single sheet one by the carto-bibliographer Donald Hodson identified that Oliver had gone back to his original survey notes. All surviving examples bear an unfinished dedication cartouche lower right. The example in the Hertfordshire Record Office bears the name in manuscript of John Holles, Duke of Newcastle, who only attained the title in 1694. Quite why his name was never engraved is not known, either he declined and no replacement could be found, or the map was never really published.

Printed to accompany the map was a sheet entitled ‘Alphabetical Table of the Nobility and Gentry’ keyed to the numbered and lettered grid on the map. A further sheet provides an account of the roads as referred to in the title. Only one example survives, again at the Hertfordshire Record Office. The map is very rare surviving in only five known examples, indeed Hodson noted examples at the British Museum, the British Library (2855.(24.)); the Lewis Evans Collection at St. Albans Library and the Hertfordshire Record Office. None could be traced in the auction records and only one example has appeared on the market. In 1984 Magna Gallery’s catalogue offered one for sale, that same example is the one offered here.

Hodson, Donald. (1974). The Printed Maps of Hertfordshire 1577-1900 no. 20; Hodson, Donald. (1985) Four County Maps of Hertfordshire (reproducing the accompanying tables); Magna Gallery (1984) Catalogue 1561-1845 no. 221 £750; Magna Gallery advert in The Map Collector no. 28 p. 26; Skelton, Raleigh A. (1970). County Atlases of the British Isles pp. 186-7; Tyacke, Sarah. (1978). London Map-Sellers 1660-1720 no. 265; Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).
Stock number: 8043

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