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A splash of colour

Few things in my corner of the rare booktrade seem to cause as much confusion and consternation as the colouring of maps: when, by whom and why? Commercially viable colour-printing didn’t really take off until the mid nineteenth-century, and there’s a transitional period of at least thirty years or so when hand-colouring of maps was […]

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Dawn of the folding world

The presentation of maps – how they were bought and sold and how they were first used – is something I think about rather a lot (far too much?) It’s important to recall that virtually all early map-makers were businessmen first, artists and scientists second. There was little state-sponsored map-making, no requirement to map stuff […]

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British Map Engravers: a new dictionary

Forty copies of the new Dictionary of British Map Engravers (Laurence Worms & Ashley Baynton-Williams; Rare Book Society 2011, £125) were wheeled into my shop on Friday afternoon – after I’d explained that a forklift with a wooden pallet wouldn’t make it onto Cecil Court, let alone through the shop door! The distributor wasn’t being needlessly […]

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“You are always welcome in a bookshop”: discuss

My friend Angus O’Neill (Omega Bookshop) found this gem of a bookmark tucked into a 1936 pocket edition of Norman Douglas’s South Wind, an outré title which – at that time – carried with it certain connotations. It rates an appearance inClouds of Witness, the second of Dorothy L. Sayers’s Peter Wimsey novels (old favourites […]

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Mapping the Great Binge

I threatened to come back to thematic and statistical cartography in an earlier post. It does sound like a threat – dry as dust – but actually the development of this sort of map-making in the second half of the nineteenth-century is a real eye-opener. I’ve been leafing though a copy of Bartholomew’s Atlas of […]

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From the Great Rebellion to the Great Game: playing for India

Cartographic games – often using a map as the board (like Risk) – are a genre in their own right, and one which has attracted ever increasing amounts of scholarly interest. Take Jill Shefrin’s detailed study of a particular publisher of juvenilia, published last year: The Dartons. Publishers of Educational Aids, Pastimes & Juvenile Ephemera, 1787-1876 (Graaf, […]

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Europe as a Lady, England as George and the Dragon

I’m often asked about satirical maps (really! but I do spend all day in a map shop) and it’s a fascinating field: the maps are decorative and entertainingly inventive, and by their nature they are highly revealing about the societies which produced them. Unfortunately, from a collector’s point of view (not to mention mine) one […]

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London Labour & Mayhew’s Maps

THOSE THAT WILL WORK, THOSE THAT CANNOT WORK, AND THOSE THAT WILL NOT WORK … Henry Mayhew identified a fourth class too – those that need not work – not his chief concern and they don’t make it onto the title-page of London Labour and the London Poor (first edition, London, 1851). I’ve found myself leafing […]

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A cadger’s map of Kent

Keeping on with the theme of Victorian social history, in a recent house-call I picked up a latish edition of John Camden Hotton’sSlang Dictionary, 1885. Not of great commercial value, but irresistible. Hotton himself is fun – a bookseller, publisher (and pornographer) who founded Chatto & Windus. There’s a peculiar English fascination with slang and […]

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