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BOWEN, Emanuel & KITCHIN, Thomas

The Royal English Atlas: Being a Nwe[sic] and Accurate Set of Maps of all the Counties

John Bowles, and Henry Parker, Carington Bowles, Henry Overton, Thomas Kitchin, Robert Sayer, and John Ryall, London, c.1764
Folio (460 x 315 mm.), early nineteenth century half calf, marbled boards, with blind ruling, raised bands with gilt ruled compartments, red calf gilt title label. Typographic title page inserted, printed in red and black and 44 engraved maps all in early outline colour, with nineteenth century? manuscript contents list in the same hand as the manuscript numeration on the maps and the ownership label affixed inside upper cover. Gloucester with small ink stain, Northampton trimmed along the bottom to plate edge, that of South Wales backed on paper to support small tear into the map, occasional folds to some maps, otherwise in good condition.

An UNRECORDED variant of the FIRST EDITION of the ‘Royal English Atlas’. Following the success of the ‘Large English Atlas’ the publishers Robert Sayer and the Bowles family believed that there would be a market for a more manageable edition. The atlas was ‘Large’ and must have been cumbersome for many. The ‘Royal English Atlas’ would be printed on ‘Royal’ sized paper and although reduced, is still a good-sized folio atlas. The cartographic work had been done; all that would be needed was a fresh set of plates reducing the maps of Emanuel Bowen and Thomas Kitchin.

The atlas is known with three variant title pages, all differing in the order in which the owners are named. They are all printed with a common type except the imprints. As Hodson describes ‘It has already been demonstrated (the Large English Atlas) that by 1760 the order of names on the maps in a jointly owned atlas was perceived to have commercial importance, and now this notion had been extended to title-pages.’ Hodson concludes that as sixteen shares were extant in the atlas by 1825 it is safe to assume the same number were issued at the beginning. Examining the imprints on the maps leads him to believe that Kitchin had four shares and all the remaining partners had two. Of the surviving examples three bear the imprint of Kitchin first, two with Sayer’s and one with Overton’s. This previously unrecorded title page bears that of John Bowles first. It can also be concluded that this example uses an early title page off the press as ‘New’ is misspelt.

The atlas however proved to be unsuccessful and only eight examples of the atlas survive today. There could be several reasons for this but price is quite probably one. Given the choice of the larger atlas at 3 guineas or this smaller version at 2 guineas most clients opted for the more opulent work. Interestingly at about the same time, 1765, the even smaller ‘New English Atlas’ by Joseph Ellis appeared on the market and was a runaway success. Hodson cites evidence that the work was thought about as early as 1761. Its exact publication date is not known; no advert having been discovered. We can however glean some idea from the imprints found on the maps and again Hodson goes into this in some detail. He concluded that the engraving began in 1762 and was completed in the middle of 1763. The atlas may have been ready by the end of the year but is given a date of c.1764. Catalogues of Sayer in 1766, John Bowles in 1768 and Sayer and Bennett in 1775 all list the atlas for sale.

This is a fine example of one of the great rarities in English county atlases. There are only three other known examples in private hands. The five other recorded examples are: British Library; Bodleian Library; Cambridge University Library (x2) and the Whittaker Library. Provenance: with manuscript ownership label in Latin pasted inside front cover dated ’12 Decembris 1850′. Chubb 218; Hodson 233; Shirley BL T.Bow 4a.
Stock number: 9730
£ 14,950
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