Octavo (200 x 130 mm.), full contemporary calf, double gilt ruled panels, rebacked with raised bands, blind ruled compartments, gilt calf title label affixed. With typographic title page, pp. 40 (5- 8 in roman), 271, with 55 (of 56) engraved maps, 3 of which are large folding, lacking the plan of London, as is often the case, small tear at fold in last map of the Roads, some light offsetting, otherwise in good condition.
Robert Dodsley was a successful writer, poet and publisher, born in Mansfield as the son of a schoolmaster. He published mainly literary material in his day including that of his friend Dr. Johnson from 1738. Indeed, it is believed Dodsley was one of those encouraging Johnson in the undertaking of the ‘Dictionary’. The maps for the ‘Geography of England’ began life as so many others of the period in a periodical. ‘The Publick Register: or, the Weekly Magazine’ by Robert Dodsley struggled to survive under the laws of the day. Stamp duty was required on all newspapers but it was interpreted variously between 1733 and 1743. Dodsley believed that by reporting it weekly it was not news but eventually lost the battle to the more efficient competition of Edward Cave’s ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’. Before it closed it had introduced a series of six topographical descriptions accompanied by maps. They ran alphabetically and included those between Bedfordshire and Cornwall. There is some evidence to suggest Cave went out of his way to destroy the Magazine.
At the demise of the Magazine it is safe to assume enough topographical material had been gathered to encourage Dodsley to continue and publish it collectively. The unidentified editor of the descriptive text has drawn on several works including those of William Camden’s Britannia and Hermann Moll’s ‘A New Description of England and Wales’, 1724. The original six county descriptions are expanded. The publication was announced to the public as the ‘Geography of England’ in November 1743. This is despite the title page recording a date of 1744, not an uncommon practice. Jointly published the maps are attractive to the eye and largely derived from the quarto work of Robert Morden first published in 1701. They are the work of John Cowley (fl.1733-44) was a political writer and geographer who became Geographer to the King in 1741. Provenance: private English collection. Carroll (1996) 26; Chubb (1927) 181; Hodson (1984-97) 194; Shirley (2004) T.Cowl 1a; Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).