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An example of the earliest town plan of London amongst early maps at auction

21st August 2019.

A large selection of maps from the 16th to 20th century is set to go under the hammer in Tennants Auctioneers’ Book Sale on 11th September, with a mixture of examples from some of the most well-regarded map makers such as John Speede, John Cary and James Pigot.

Amongst a selection of maps focusing on London and Essex is the earliest town plan of London by Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg, first published in ‘Civitates Orbis Terrarum’ (the first printed collection of town maps) circa 1580. The hand coloured Londinium feracissimi Angliae Regni metropolis uses a viewpoint perhaps unique to maps; the city is shown tilted at a strange angle, disregarding perspective, allowing the major buildings to be shown. The map was produced by the Hanseatic League, perhaps to woo Mary Tudor and secure rights and privileges for the merchants; indeed, the Steelyard headquarters of the league is described to the lower right corner of the map and the Royal Barge is given prominence on the Thames. This is a hugely significant source on early modern London and its development. It is entered into sale with an estimate of £2,000-3,000 (plus buyer’s premium).


Amongst unusual maps in the sale are examples from Michael Drayton’s collection of poems to the English countryside Poly-Olbion and Reuben Ramble’s Travels through the Counties of England.  Of note is John Chapman and Peter André’s A Map of the County of Essex from an Actual Survey, published in 1833 and first published in 1777 (estimate: £1,000-1,500). The unusual scale of two inches to the mile allowed for a staggering wealth of detail in this monumental survey of Essex. The map featured details previous efforts did not even attempt to capture and was the first of the county that allowed a subscriber to potentially pinpoint their own house amongst the features shown.


Turning away from British shores, of interest to collectors of Polar Exploration is E.P. Bayliss and J.S. Cumpston’s Handbook and Index to Accompany a Map of Antarctica, alongside said map and both published in 1939 (estimate: £1,000-1,500). The handbook is rarely found complete with the map. This map was purchased directly from the Commonwealth of Australia Department of External Affairs in London on 7th October 1940 and is sold with an accompanying letter apologising for the delay in sending the map and handbook as they were awaiting fresh stock from Australia.


Elsewhere in the sale comes two ornithological lots; Capt. W. Vincent Legge’s A History of the Birds of Ceylon, published by the author in 1880 (estimate: £2,000-3,000) and Thomas L. Powys, 4th Baron Lilford’s Coloured Figures of the Birds of the British Isles of 1891-7 (estimate: £800-1,000). An impressive 39 volume edition of J. Clarke and J. M’Arthur’s The Naval Chronical are on offer with an estimate of £2,000-3,000. A thirty-nine volume contemporary source on the Napoleonic navy, the information for which was given frequently to the editors by serving officers, such as Nelson. It features battle reports, biographical sketches, accounts of voyages and court martials, butcher’s bills, post engagements and even poems and drawings sent in by naval personnel. It is the premier source of information on Nelson’s navy, with hundreds of plates.


Finally, a first edition of Sir Francis Bacon’s The Two Bookes of Francis Bacon. Of the proficience and aduancement of Learning, diuine and humane of 1605, a hugely important text in the development of Western Scientific thought is on offer with an estimate of £1,500-2,500. Bacon's hugely influential work inspired the taxonomic structure of Diderot's Encyclopedie and is recognised as a founding essay in empirical philosophy. Bacon himself was a pioneer of experimental science (his death being attributed by Aubrey to the attempt to freeze meat), a courtier to the glittering Elizabethan age, and a prolific writer.


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