The Mapping of California As An Island An Illustrated Checklist.

By Glen McLaughlin with Nancy H. Mayo. 
California Map Society Occasional Paper no. 5. Saratoga, Ca: California Map Society, 1995. 
ISBN 0-1-888126-00-0. 
Pp XXVI, 134, xvii. £36. Paper.
Reviewed by the Editor
One of the most famous and long-lasting cartographic misconceptions, was that of California as an island. The first printed map to show this error appeared in 1622, the last, long after most geographers had reverted to the peninsula form, appeared in 1792, a remarkable longevity.

The author introduced the work thus: "The goal of this work is to organise, describe, and display all the printed maps that record California as an island (excepting world maps) ..."

McLaughlin is the third author to write on this topic. The first, R.V. Tooley (California as an island, Map Collectors Circle Series, no 8, 1964) was a preliminary sampling, listing 100 maps (with later states numbered separately).  The second foray, John Leighly's California as an island (1972), listed 182 maps, including world maps. McLaughlin's listing, based primarily round his own collection (which is probably the largest on the subject in private hands), details 249 separate maps (with later states described under the main entry), 17 title-pages, 6 celestial charts, a commemorative silver medal, and five Asian world maps. As noted before, this listing excludes world maps; if variant states are added to his total, he has described more than twice the number of maps found in Leighly, a remarkable increase, and a tribute to the thoroughness of his approach.

While described as a checklist, the entries have been compiled to AACR2 cataloguing principles, so the entries are uniformly and clearly laid out, and models of succinct presentation of relevant information.  Many of the entries are accompanied by photographs of the map concerned.  While the images are, in some cases, smaller than one might like, in the main, they are of a high standard.

McLaughlin wrote "[the book] is designed for frequent use", and to facilitate this there are several very useful indices, including two tables of concordance relating the McLaughlin number to both the Tooley and Leighly number, and in each section, a title index, name index and dedication index.  Admirably conceived, these are a great aid in locating particular maps, even when no author is given.

The author pointed out "This is a work in progress. It will likely never be complete, as the quantity of material to be searched is so vast, varied, and dispersed that unrecorded maps will continue to turn up. It is useful nonetheless to publish the research results achieved to date ... in the hope that they will bring forth corrections, additional information, and unrecorded maps ..."

Despite this reservation, the work is a very comprehensive study, and a valuable addition to the literature, but not just to the mapping of the California region.  This feature is most frequently encountered on general maps of the America and North America, so this volume has a useful secondary role as an illustrated checklist / guide to more general maps of the Continent from 1622 onwards, and is highly recommended on both counts.

The Printed Maps of Ireland 1612-1850.
By Andrew Bonar Law.
Dublin: The Neptune Gallery, 1997.
ISBN 0 9532241 0 4
Pp. 334, illustrated. IR £70 (cloth).
Distributed by:
The Neptune Gallery

Reviewed by R.S.J. Clarke

Here at last is the book on Irish maps that collectors and students of the subject have been waiting for.  It is not that Ireland is a particularly difficult area to study, but that the research requires a lifetime's familiarity with about two thousand individual maps and until now no one has been prepared to devote himself to the subject.  In addition, it has been necessary to hunt through the major libraries of the world to find atlases which may be the sources of the maps.  Finally, one has to have the energy to complete the book and not simply talk about it.

The author states his aim as "to enable anyone with a map of Ireland to find out when, where and by whom it was published" and to make the book as user friendly as possible.  His decision to illustrate most of the maps in the text gives it a great advantage over many of the earlier studies of the British Isles, for no description can match even a small picture, for identifying a map.  It is definitely not a "coffee table" book, since its detailed text is completely devoted to its practical objects - to identify a map.  However, it is beautifully produced on high quality paper and with much general information and a very readable style.  One should add that it is produced, printed and published by the author, in itself an indication of his very diverse talents.

There is no ideal way of arranging a map catalogue, for what pleases the scholar bibliographer will not suit the collector and no method is easy for the true novice.  One problem is that only rarely is the cartographer's name given on the map and where there is a name it is more likely to be that of the printer or editor - which may indeed be more relevant.  Maps before about 1800 were usually printed on copper plates and it was too expensive to update them with each geographical discovery.  More often a new publisher's imprint was added when a plate changed hands, to claim it as his own work.  This applied to the beautiful map of Ireland by Allard, complete with figure of Hercules, fighting ships and an active volcano, the plate for which was taken over by Covens and Mortier.  Sometimes the map and its plate remained unchanged for most of a century, but the text on the back of the page shows a great variety of editions and languages.  To distinguish between these the author has devised his own shorthand, which has been well tested in his earlier booklets and allows the reader to identify one map without needing another for comparison.  However, basic identification of most maps depends on the title and there is an excellent index of these, sub classified by map size.

The scope of this book is clearly defined by its title - that is, it is limited to printed maps and covers essentially the period 1612 - 1850. No one will criticize the terminal date, but the decision to omit such cartographers as Speed, Ortelius and Mercator is hard on the new reader.  On the other hand, descriptions of their maps are available in the author's earlier booklets on the subject and the present volume already runs to 334 pages.  It is also restricted to maps of Ireland and its provinces - that is, county maps and town plans are not included, which again is sensible because of their large number, also because they are relatively simple to identify.

Having identified one's map there is a strong temptation for the reader to browse and explore all sorts of side issues - for instance, how could such disparate pictures of Ireland appear at the same time (1712/3) as those of Senex and van der Aa, illustrated on pages 96 and 97.  Both, of course, are exaggerated in different directions, according to modern measurements.  Another question answered from the book is "For how long did the primitive shape of Ireland (without the Connaught bulge) continue to be shown?" The map by Nolin on page 148, published in 1783, must be one of the latest - and it was for use in schools!

Finally, one must read the appendices for some idiosyncratic and challenging comments on collectors, librarians and map dealers.  They are probably not intended to be taken too seriously but one hopes that they may persuade more of these to be, like the book, user friendly.

[Richard Clarke is a prominent collector of antique maps of Ireland, and a leading authority on charting of the Irish coasts]


County Atlases Of The British Isles Published After 1703

A Bibliography Volume III Atlases published 1764 to 1789 and their subsequent editions.
Compiled by Donald Hodson. London: The British Library, 1997. ISBN 0 7123 4524 8 Pp xv, 208, 7 pl.. £35. Cloth.
Reviewed by The Editor
In 1969, Donald Hodson was invited to assist R.A. Skelton, author of County Atlases Of The British Isles 1579-1850 A Bibliography 1579-1703, to collaborate on the continuation of that volume, from 1703 onwards.  Unfortunately, Skelton died the following year, before much progress could be made, and the task devolved to Hodson.  An important change made by Hodson was to change from the strictly chronological scheme employed by Skelton, to a system whereby the atlases were arranged in chronological order by first appearance, and later editions described in successive notes.

This is the third volume compiled by Hodson to appear, and covers the relatively short period from 1764 to 1789.  For that period (by my count), it includes 14 separate sets of maps (including several first described in Skelton).  On the face of it, a very short span.

However, this period is a nightmare for the carto-bibliographer.  The majority of the English publishers of county atlases of this period quite simply conducted their business without any regard to the trouble their haphazard approach to atlas compilation would cause subsequent carto-bibliographers!

This was a period of loose trading alliances forming to finance particular county atlases (but often not above combining with other publishers to publish rival atlases), with partners and partnerships emerging and disappearing, share-holdings being inherited or disposed of, and of individual partners in a project using their own title-page, and maps to make up copies for sale in their shops.   When you add the tendency of these publishers to re-use existing printed stock, existing map-plates, and outdated source material - often shamelessly described as 'New and Improved' - one starts to get a measure of the problem.

If one excludes the late printing of Morden's playing cards by Turpin, Meijer's county atlas published in Amsterdam, and two atlases of Ireland and Scotland, the remaining ten county atlases appeared in 46 editions (not including frequent variants), spread over some 64 years, with Joseph Ellis' county atlas alone being published in 15 editions.

It is to Hodson's great credit, in the face of such an array of problems, that he is able to bring order, sequence and sense to the chaos.  The principal strength of his work is his preparatory research.  He has assiduously scoured contemporary newspapers, journals and publisher's catalogues for advertisements and references relating to these many atlases.  These reveal, in the publisher's own words, not only the aims and intent behind a particular atlas, but also give important evidence for the dating of particular editions, for changes of ownership, the prices and such like.  Having gathered this information, Hodson again proves his mastery in interpreting the evidence, and applying it judiciously to his argument.

A second strength is a deep understanding of publishing practices of the period, of how the publishers worked, how they thought, and how they did business with each other, and this is most particularly reflected in his analysis of share-holdings in several of the atlases, for example Bowen and Kitchin's Royal English Atlas.

For each entry, there is a full transcription of the title (although the long and overblown titles favoured by Hogg are rightly abbreviated), a list of examples - evidence of how widely Hodson has ranged in his quest - followed by a description of the atlas, and the maps it contained.  For brevity, where atlases employed a standardized title, or imprint, for the maps, the title is given once in full, and abbreviated form elsewhere.  Similarly here there are multiple states of the maps, the different states are described in one location, and reference letters used to reflect their appearance in editions of the atlas. Another useful feature, introduced by Hodson, is the use of a table to analyze the composition of 37 different examples of Cary's New and Correct English Atlas, on the basis of 18 observed variations, ten textual, and a sampling of eight maps.

A slim, short and unprepossessing volume, this volume (and its two predecessors) is an outstanding contribution not just to the study of county atlases of the British Isles, but also to an understanding English publishing in the graphic arts in the latter part of the eighteenth century.

Order from:
The British Library Publishing Office, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB

Volumes I & 2 are also still available.


The Shadow of the Moon

by Geoff Armitage. 
Map Collector Publications, 1997.  ISBN 0-906430-17-8.  48pp, 28 illustrations. £22.00
Reviewed by Derek Allen
On the morning of 11 August 1999, the southwest of England will be crowded out with visitors come to witness a “most spectacular and striking astronomical event” — a total solar eclipse. But it was not always so rare an event.  In the past three hundred and fifty years eight solar eclipses have been total over some part of the British Isles, and of those, five occurred between 1715 and 1764, that is within the span of a single lifetime.  This grouping is not, in fact, particularly unusual, and has provided the impetus for an engaging and timely study by Geoff Armitage of the British Library Map Library, The Shadow of the Moon.  British Solar Eclipse Mapping in the Eighteenth Century.

By a  happy coincidence this cycle of eclipses came at a time when, if some of the population retained their ancient superstitious awe, the scientific community was at last able to explain and predict the eclipse phenomenon with accuracy.   Although this had been achieved in Classical times, it was the work of the distinguished British astronomer Edmond Halley in improving the tables of solar and lunar motion which was crucial.  His important discovery was that the rate of the moon’s motion around the earth was not constant, but gradually accelerating, and this new knowledge was first applied to the eclipse of 1715.  The eighteenth century was also notable for the emergence of a series of popular periodicals such as The Gentleman’s Magazine and The London Magazine, which catered for a burgeoning public interest in “arts and sciences”, and naturally provided material on the eclipses, alongside scientific publications and separately published broadsides — all of which sources have been carefully explored by the author.

Geoff Armitage clearly traces the evolution of the eclipse map after its “invention” by Halley in the form of a band of shading superimposed on  a normal map to mark the path of the eclipse, with the umbra, or shadow of the moon, shown by a darker ellipse.  He also clearly explains (to this lay reader at least) the contributions of others such as William Whiston,  who produced a “geometrical” map which was much less accessible as it had no geographical foundation; Robert Browne, who apparently introduced the double circle to demonstrate the extent of the sun’s obscuration; and Thomas Wright of Durham, a polymath who produced a very accurate map of the 1737 eclipse.  Many of these maps were in fact published by the same man, John Senex, a prominent London globemaker and atlas publisher, and are thus prey to the common vices of English map-making — re-used plates and variant states of those plates.

The survey includes the attempts by George Smith and others to illustrate the global track of an eclipse on an innovative skewed map projection, and the contributions of French (then the leading scientific cartographers in the world) in the maps by Desnos and Madame Le Paute Dagelet, and is briefly brought up to date with references to the eclipses of 1858 and 1927.  The author, however, rightly regards the eighteenth century as the “Golden Age” for this particular type of map, and the culmination of the series as the map of the 1764 eclipse by George Witchell.  Witchell was then Master of the Naval Academy at Portsmouth and produced a broadside notable for its accuracy: the eclipse starts just 1 minute 33 seconds to early, ends only 21 seconds early and is plotted to within six miles of its true track.  The sheet is based on the Halley model and incorporates Browne’s double circles, but also shows restrained use of decorative features which pleasingly combine the artistic and the scientific.

The second part of the booklet is devoted to a comprehensive cartobibliography of eclipse maps.  Twenty two items are listed, and most of them illustrated in the course of the book, with the list referring to each of the series of eclipses, divided in each case into “predictive” and “retrospective” maps.  This section will be of particular interest, since, as the author says in his Introduction, “eclipse maps are highly collectable as they form a distinct specialised group and are usually reasonably priced.”  Given the ephemeral nature of such publications, it is always possible that the list will be extended in the future.

This is certainly a by-way of mapmaking, but by no means an uninteresting one, and Geoff Armitage is to be thanked and congratulated for providing such a pleasing introduction to it.  The book is well produced, and comprehensively illustrated, and although the market for such a study cannot be great, the cover price of £22 seems a high one.  In the end, one must agree with the judgement of Patrick Moore, who writes the Foreword, “I have no doubt that Geoff Armitage’s book will remain the standard reference.  There is nothing else at all like it.”


Miniature Antique Maps: An Illustrated Guide for the Collector.

By Geoffrey L. King. 
Tring, Herts: Map Collector Publications Ltd., 1996. 
ISBN 0-906430-16 X. Pp.200, 272 illus. £40. Cloth.
Reviewed by The Editor
One of the most neglected areas of map production has always been miniature maps.  Even fundamental reference works, such as Dr. IC. Koeman's Atlantes Neerlandici, preferred to take short-cuts rather than deal with the multiple editions of such atlases, published in the Low Countries.

Today, editions of miniature or pocket-sized atlases can be among the rarest of any atlases. Clearly, they did not have the antiquarian cachet that their taller relatives had, and seem often to have been readily disposed of by their owners, while folio atlases were more likely to be preserved, long past their useful life-span.  Evidently, however, there was great demand for such editions among contemporary atlas-purchasers - as shown by the large number of editions of the miniature Ortelius atlases, with two Antwerp and one Italian publisher publishing parallel editions, with Barent Langenes adding his own atlas to the field.

So, how then does the author define his topic: "The definition of 'miniature' as very small would not suffice with regard to this guide. It being necessary to be specific and draw the line somewhere, the same formula has been used as that adopted in 1968 for my own collection: an area including the border of up to twenty three square inches, or 150 square centimetres. However, because the small maps of John Seller are commonly referred to as miniatures, this has been relaxed to the extent that an appendix ... has been added for these and very similar small ones" (p.10).

Unfortunately, confusion almost in the first breath, though one suspects the author would have excluded Seller, while received advice was to include his maps.  A quick sampling by the reviewer found a group of Seller's "small maps" to be in the region of 180 square centimetres, not a huge increase above what seems a relatively arbitrary definition.

The book commences with a thirty-one page introduction as the author sets the field, discussing such subjects as appeal, history and importance, the problems of attribution and so on, before addressing the types of miniature available, such as county maps, town plans, and maps on playing cards .  The text is readable, and very much aimed at the novitiate collector.

The scene set, the author then embarks on a survey of miniature maps, in chronological order, from Benedetto Bordone (1528) to Domenico Lovisa (1697).  Subsequent miniature maps, from 1700 to 1834, are dealt with, on a very selective basis, in an appendix.

Here again, the text is nicely set out, and readable, although the descriptions, and list of editions of the atlases, are necessarily abbreviated. Each source is illustrated with examples of one or more maps.  As the text is not lengthy, it becomes important for the illustrations to be of high quality - they are, after all, intended to help identify, by stylistic similarities, the particular series from which a map comes.  Some of the illustrations are very good, some are poor, and too many are very poor.

As a more important point, however, if one is seeking to assist in identifying origins, it would have been sensible to include sizes, both approximate for the series, and more precise of the maps illustrated. The note that, as often as possible, the maps are reproduced at life size will not suffice in this kind of work.

The book is nicely designed and, with the exception of some of the illustrations (and the dust jacket), nicely produced.  However, at £40, it seems expensive, particularly in view of the market that it is aimed at.  Invaluable, as the publisher describes it, it is not. Nonetheless it is a worthwhile foray into the subject, and I am sure will prove "an enormous aid to collectors, librarians and dealers" as Graham Franks, perhaps the foremost dealer-expert in miniature maps, puts in the Foreword.