The origin of this series of copper plate county maps was unknown until 1983. Joseph Allen was a publisher and engraver of 3 Hampden Str., Sommerstown, London. When originally uncovered, Yasha Beresiner identified the author as John Allen. It was in 1993 that Eugene Burden reported in private correspondence that he had looked up the 1811 Directory and identified him as Joseph Allen (fl.1798-1821). His major work appears to be the co-engraving with Robert Rowe (c.1775-1843) of a plan of London entitled ‘… London, Westminster and Southwark’, first published in 1804. Allen was apprenticed to William Palmer in 1791, as was interestingly Robert Rowe (apprenticed 1789). Allen was identified as being the son of a farmer from Wallop, Hampshire.
Rowe had already engraved one series of county cards as a game for John Fairburn in 1798. Clearly encouraged, he persuaded Joseph Allen to produce another. Indeed, it appears from the second example of Fairburn cards, that Allen may already have been a partner or owner of that series. It is worth noting that the wording of the rules on the cover of the case are identical to that found on the cover of the second set of Fairburn cards in the Burden Collection. The maps are derived from the 1806 issue of John Cary’s ‘Traveller’s Companion’. There are now three known examples of the first state. Only two known examples of the second state survive.
The ensuing history is even rarer. Only two examples are recorded of John Thomson’s ‘New English Atlas’ 1823. These reside in the Bodleian Library and a private collection. Their final issue is this exceedingly rare work by Orlando Hodgson and it is engraved throughout. The plates were unaltered, and the title is very similarly worded. The main difference is that here the title calls for a ‘Copious Topographical Account’. None of the surviving examples bears any text so the likelihood is that it was a separate publication for which this was an accompaniment. Undated, the work is now believed to have been published between 1826 and 1828, the years during which Hodgson is recorded at the Maiden Lane address in the Post Office London Directory. Orlando Hodgson was a part of the family firm of Hodgson and Company at 10 Newgate Street, London, in 1825. It seems he then operated under his own name from 21 Maiden Lane, London, from where he published this work. Only three institutional examples are known. The British Library (Maps 2.aa.4), Aberdeen University (Lib R 912(42) Hod) and the Bodleian Library (C.17.f.9) which lacks the title page and preliminaries. Provenance: manuscript inscription inside upper cover of J? Briggs; private English collection. Carroll (1996); Chubb (1927) 371; Smith, D. (1991d); Tooley’s Dictionary (1999-2004).