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An exceedingly scarce collection of the parts issue of Cole and Roper’s ‘British Atlas’. Until the discovery of this example, it could only have been presumed based on the dates of the individual maps. This subscription copy was that of the Earl of Malmesbury (1746-1820). The library was first formed by James Harris (1709-80), a trustee of the British Museum.

Very little is known about either George Cole or John Roper (1771-1810). The latter appears to have engraved the plates to the atlas from the drawings of Cole. Two however, were not engraved by him, Cheshire, and Caernarvonshire. The publishers were the established firm of Vernor, Hood and Sharpe who began publishing the ‘British Atlas’ in parts from 1 October 1804. An example in parts survives at the Bodleian Library, Oxford (Map C.17.c.5) apparently lacking part 13. Thomas Vernor was the senior partner having been a bookseller since 1766. Thomas Hood joined him in partnership in 1794, followed by Sharpe in 1806.

The maps were originally produced to accompany J. Britton and E. W. Brayley’s ‘Beauties of England and Wales’ issued 1801-16 in twenty-five volumes, a statement to which effect is found on most of them. The maps and text were however never issued together. The maps were announced in part 32, issued in May 1804. The first part of ‘The British Atlas’ is dated 1 October 1804, each would contain two maps and one town plan, or three county maps.

The Prospectus printed inside the front cover of first part states that the maps may ‘either bind up with the Beauties of England, or, at the Option of the Purchaser, form a handsome Quarto Atlas of British Maps and Plans.’ The parts were issued in two formats, one small paper matching the octavo ‘Beauties of England’ and the ‘large Paper Maps will be full coloured or stained, marking the Divisions of Counties into Hundreds, Wards, & c.’ The large paper was priced at 4s. each part, the small paper 2s. 6d. The Prospectus also states that the maps were reduced from ‘original Surveys published by Mr. Faden, whose Permission for that Purpose has been exclusively granted for this Work.’

Initial publication was every two months but by the end of 1805, part 8 slipped to three months. The next issue was in April 1806, but the following was delayed until January 1807. This no doubt reflected Sharpe joining the partnership in 1806. From that date regular production resumed. This set contains only the first 19 parts. With a further 21 maps remaining at the rate of 3 per part, the final issue was likely in late 1809. The complete work was published under the same title in 1810 by a conglomerate of ten different publishers.

Provenance: Earl of Malmesbury, Hurn Court Library, Christchurch, Hampshire, name inscribed on each; Library sale at Christie’s, London, in three sales in the spring of 1950; Cyril Ernest Kenney (1898-73), chartered surveyor and bibliophile; Sotheby’s 6 June 1966; acquired by Stanley Crowe, bookdealer; Donald Hodson collection acquired pre-1974, (1933-2016), carto-bibliographer. Beresiner (1983) pp. 88-90; Britton (1849) part 2 ‘A Descriptive Account of the Literary Works’ pp. 63-4; Carroll (1996) 62; Catalogue of British Town Plans; Chubb (1927) 339; Eden (1975); not in Fordham (1925); Hodson (1974) 64.i; Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).

COLE, George and ROPER, John

The British Atlas; comprising A Complete Set of County Maps, of England and Wales

Vernor, Hood, and Sharpe; Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme; J. Harris; J. Cuthell; J. Cundee; W. Faden; J. and A. Arch; Crosby and Co.; J. Richardson; and J. M. Richardson, London, 1810
Folio (390 x 280 mm.), Parts numbered 1 to 19 in roman, in original publisher’s paper wrappers, with printed titles and adverts, uncutn. Each with 3 maps, usually two county maps and a plan, sometimes 2 plans and a map, in total 37 (of 56) further maps of the counties all in early outline colour and 20 (of 21) town plans, each with original tissue, omitting 2 general maps of England and Wales, Rutland, Staffordshire, Wiltshire, the 4 quartered maps of Yorkshire, 12 Welsh counties, and the plan of St. Albans, otherwise in excellent condition.
Stock number: 9531

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