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Map cover art

Map cover art

Have you ever bought a map for its cover? I’m not immune to vintage marketing, and I’ve bought one or two really dull maps because the cover design was simply irresistible. There are one or two map series with uniform (and uniformly tedious) cover art, but often just as much thought went into the design of the cover as into, say, the design of dustwrappers or paperback cover art. I have a feeling I’ll be coming back to this topic, but here’s just a taste.
Cover art has a long history. Walker’s New Geographical Game exhibiting a tour through Europe was published in 1810 by William Darton and his son Thomas. The cover shows Europeans - including, of course, an Ottoman Turk - seated on crates and barrels (trade) in front of a strategically placed rock (for the title; a bit of foliage spilling over, all quite wild and romantic) and with ships in the background. The date of engraving is given as September 1809, but the engraver himself remains anonymous. Surveyor Thomas Dix’s map of Bedfordshire, published in 1830 by William Darton (working on his own again), has a fine printed label on the slipcase: an engraved template derived from the royal coat of arms which could be overprinted in red with the name of the correct county. It would do for the whole series.
By the mid nineteenth-century cover designs were more likely to be blocked in gilt directly onto cloth covers, rather than appearing on separately applied paper labels. On the left is an 1856 example of A & C Black’s Road and Railway Travelling Map of England, with steam engine and mail coach (and price) worked into the design. On the right is a locally published map of Cornwall, of similar vintage, engraved by W.W. Rundell of Falmouth and published by W. Wood, Devonport; St Michael’s Mount appears on the cover.
Paper covers/labels seem to have made a come-back later in the century - both of these county maps date from the 1880s. Again, they are standard cover desgns (I can just about envisage someone riding a penny farthing in Bedfordshire, but there’s precious little mountain walking to be had in those parts).
I rather like these turn of the century maps by G.W. Bacon. No solitary cyclists here. A great way to meet the opposite sex, but beware of danger hills.
This is an 1895 edition of J.F. Bennet’s Map and ABC Guide to the River Thames (I have had 1880’s editions with the same artwork). A sturdy gentleman in striped jersey is gallantly rowing two ladies with parasols. Despite the gender differences, this is real Three Men in a Boat stuff: just the sort of map a Harris or a George might have the forethought to purchase, with details of locks, fishing rights, inns and train fares, as well a general places of interest.
This is an 1898 issue of the District Railway Map of London (1st state of the 6th edition). Not really convenient for commuters, it’s a huge folding map with the new underground railways (completed, under construction and proposed) overprinted on a detailed street plan of the capital. The cover shows places of interest (the Monument, Cleopatra’s Needle etc) but I particularly like the steam engine emerging from a tunnel beneath the legend ‘Time is Money’. One could avoid the congested streets above - a major draw - though straplines like this are conspicuously absent from modern TfL advertising. Early underground locomotives were indeed steam, and I have read early c.20 accounts by people who resented electrification because they missed the smoke and sparks - must have been truly alarming in a confined space.
The Ordnance Survey art is particularly well documented (see John Paddy Brown, Map Cover Art, OS, 1991), and already collected in its own right. These, OS and AA, date to the 1920s and actually show maps in use; all three OS covers are by Ellis Martin:
The map of the Lake District shows Derwentwater from Skiddaw.
On the left are 1930s British railway maps, LNER and LMS, by Frank Newbould and ‘Bell’ respectively, and by way of contrast the map on the right is from 1940s L.A. A bit late forMetropolis, but still very Art Deco, and American Art Deco at that. It makes me start thinking of Raymond Chandler novels rather than P.G. Wodehouse (although, famously, they both went to Dulwich College).
And finally (for now), a cover from British Mandate-era Jersualem, drawn by F.T. Treitel and published by the Commercial Press c. 1942. Possibly one of the most ingenious covers we’ve looked at so far.
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