John Wood was a surveyor from Edinburgh. Prior to his work the list of published plans of Scottish towns is patchy and very limited in scope. His date of birth is unknown but presumed to be around 1780-85. The earliest record of him is his marriage to a Margaret Norris in Edinburgh 27 September 1811. Two years later he acquires a house in Greenhill near Edinburgh, now absorbed within the city, and is described as a surveyor. The house called Canaan Grove stood on the corner of Canaan Lane. In 1818 he began to survey the towns of Scotland starting with Ayr and Dumbarton. He continued this work until by 1826 he had a total of 50 plans. An advert in the ‘Carlisle Patriot’ of 6 June 1821 sheds light on his early life. It states that he was brought up a farmer in Yorkshire and then served an apprenticeship with Alexander Calvert, a noted land valuer, in Richmond, Yorkshire.
In 1828 he published the sum of his work which is the FIRST TOWN ATLAS OF SCOTLAND and is the result of some excellent detailed surveys. Not all are the results of Wood’s work, Aberdeen is after the Smith survey of 1809, Edinburgh is after that of Thomas Brown in 1820, Lothian is the Bartholomew plan of 1826 and Glasgow is after Smith. All of the individual plans were available in the local towns.
But Wood did not stop surveying in 1826, he continued across the border. In 1820 he had done Durham, Carlisle as the advert indicates in 1821 and Berwick in 1822. He worked the north of England first before extending it to the west of England and Wales in the early 1830s. His work slowed from the late 1830s and his last finished plan is of Northampton in 1847, he died 11 July of that year at Portobello near Edinburgh.
Collations do vary but usually contain 47 plans, ours bears 48. The maps include plans of Aberdeen, Annan, Arbroath, Ayr, Banff, Berwick, Brechin, Cupar, Crieff, Dalkeith, Dumbarton, Dundee, Dumfries, Dunfermline, Dingwall, Dunkeld, Edinburgh, Elgin, Forfar, Forres, Glasgow, Greenock, Haddington, Hamilton, Hawick, Inverness, Irvine, Jedburgh, Kelso, Kilmarnock, Kircaldy, Kinross, Lanark, Leith, Linlithgow, Montrose, Nairn, Paisley, Peebles, Perth, Portobello, Rothesay, Selkirk, St. Andrews, Sterling (on two sheets joined), Stonehaven and Stornaway.
Most examples of the atlas call for three lithographed maps. That of Inverary is omitted from our copy. Those of Dundee and Paisley are represented however the plan of Dundee appears to be unrecorded. Moir calls for a large plan of 736 x 1206 mm. in size being issued in 1821. For the atlas a lithographed reduction is called for. In our example there is an engraved plate of normal atlas dimensions dated 1821 and engraved by W. & A. K. Johnston of Edinburgh. It is recorded in Moir (p. 256) with an example in the Dundee Central Library but the connection with Wood has not been made. That of Paisley is also described as being a lithograph and yet here it is a similarly engraved map by the Johnston firm, undated. Moir goes on to cite that the lithograph is possibly drawn from a Wood original, most certainly this map. Provenance: with the bookplate of Mactie of Dreghorn pasted inside front cover; manuscript ownership mark of William Mackie, the same of the bookplate? Fordham ‘Town Plans of the British Isles’, in ‘Map Collectors’ Circle’ no. 22 p. 16; Moir pp. 244-5, 282-3.