Countdown to Bartholomew Archive exhibition

Posted 6 July, 2012 13:04 by Karla Baker | Permalink

We are in the midst of preparing for a major exhibition of Bartholomew Archive material, due to run from December 2012-April 2013 (I will pass on dates when I have them).

The exhibition will focus on map production techniques at Bartholomew as seen through the eyes of its highly skilled staff and directed by its colourful managers. The exhibition will follow the life story of Bartholomew maps from the compilation of source material, to hand-made ‘graving tools, to the noise of the printing room floor. Visitors will have the chance to meet one of Bartholomew’s most influential characters, John George Bartholomew; to enter the upside down and back to front world of the copperplate engravers before reflecting on the ways in which modern technology may have altered our relationship with maps.

The exhibition affords us the opportunity to display some of the key treasures of the John Bartholomew collection of rare and antiquarian atlases as well as some of the unique manuscript maps that can be found in the Bartholomew Archive.

To mark the occasion, each month until December this blog will focus on items that directly reflect the theme of the exhibition. This month the focus is Bartholomew’s premises on Park Road.

draughtsman room

The firm of John Bartholomew moved to Park Road in 1889. It was arguably the pivotal point in the firm’s history. Between 1888-89, John George Bartholomew (1860-1920) took control of the firm from his father John Bartholomew Junior (1831-93); the firm went into partnership for the first time in its history with the publisher Thomas Nelson, becoming John Bartholomew and Co.; they moved to their first ever purpose built premises and they restyled themselves the Edinburgh Geographical Institute. This sequence of events was to have a profound affect on the future fortunes of what had hitherto been a relatively modest printing and engraving concern.

machine room

Thomas Nelson (an Edinburgh firm of even greater age than Bartholomew) built Park Road, with Bartholomew paying them back via rent, as well of course, via printing work. John George was never enthusiastic about partnerships and there are telling snippets in the archive about his dissatisfaction. In perhaps the most stark comment he privately reflects that he is,

“Determined to end the T. N. [Thomas Nelson] partnership at any cost. To continue would mean ruin to the business and a breakdown on my part – It is impossible to work with so much unpleasant friction & jealousy”

Relief finally came in 1911 when John George removed his beloved Edinburgh Geographical Institute to their most famous home on Duncan Street.

litho room

There were positives and negatives to working at Park Road. On the negative side was the attraction that the building appeared to have for rats. A former employee recalled,

“They [the rats] seldom appeared in the day time but one day, when we were all busy at work, one of the draughtsmen jumped up and knocked over his stool with a great clatter. Next we saw him standing with his hand behind his back clutching at the top of his trousers. A few moments afterwards he jerked out the back of his shirt and a dead rat fell out on the floor”

map mounting room

But on the other hand, its unusual floor plan did have some advantages,

“For weeks before the annual staff picnic there was practicing for the sports, the long corridor between the offices and the printing room being a favourite sprinting track”

There is far more to say about Park Road than can fit in a blog, so with appetites whetted, I look forward to seeing you in December!

floor plan

The Tufted Duck

Posted 3 February, 2012 13:04 by Karla Baker | Permalink

On the 24 December, 1895, Bartholomew printed 675 copies of the Map of Scotland to Illustrate Mr Harvie Brown’s Paper on the Tufted Duck, 1896. This highly functional map is no looker, but it is yet one more example of the interesting use Bartholomew were asked (and keen) to make of maps.


The Mr Harvie Brown named in the title was John Alexander Harvie Brown of Dunipace (1844-1916), a Scottish gentleman naturalist. As a man of independent means he has been described as ‘able to devote his life to the traditional highland laird pursuits with rod and gun and to ornithology’. These days this may be seen as rather pejorative but Harvie Brown was no ornithological light-weight. Amongst the accomplishments which may be credited to him are the first studies of bird migration to make use of lighthouse keeper’s records; the creation, ownership and joint editing of The Annals of Scottish Natural History (still in print as the Scottish Naturalist) and the receipt of numerous honorary awards and memberships of societies.

He was also a prolific author, on occasion going to extraordinary efforts to get material for pen to paper. Unquestionably, the most astonishing was that he built his own yacht, Shiantelle, on which he sailed the Scottish coast making observations. Such energetic escapades render all the more sad that at the end of his life, after extreme ill-health, he became confined to one room in his home and weighing 25 stone.


Harvie Brown and John George Bartholomew had previosuly worked together on the extremely impressive  Naturalists Map of Scotland (1893). This was the sort of project that John George really felt passionate about. John George would later collaborate with another naturalist, Marcel Hardy, to produce the equally striking Botanical Survey of Scotland (1906).


The scholarly work to which this map is the illustrative accompaniment is perhaps a little dry to my non-specialist mind so for me, it is the creativity behind this map that takes centre stage. It is perhaps useful to remember that using maps in this way was a social construct borne of imagination and at this time, a relatively new phenomenon.


Temporary stop of Bartholomew blog

Posted 14 September, 2011 13:04 by Karla Baker | Permalink

I would like to let subscribers and others know that the Bartholomew blog will be taking a brief holiday. I have been temporarily seconded to a new post within the National Library of Scotland which will prevent me from adding new content.

There are many more entries in the pipeline (including a First World War cheese cracker map of Europe) and I hope that normal service will be resumed in the very near future.

Thank you for your ongoing interest in this amazing archive.


The International Map of the World

Posted 14 July, 2011 13:04 by Karla Baker | Permalink

On the 31 March, 1910, Bartholomew printed a proof version of the ‘conventional signs and styles of type for the international map on the scale of 1:1,000,000′. But what exactly is the International Map of the World?

International Map proof conventions

The philosophy behind the idea reflected its late nineteenth century times. The venture was to be educational, edifying and essentially philanthropic; an international map of the world would ultimately benefit the common good of humanity.

The idea was proposed by German geographer and geologist, Albrecht Penck (1858-1945) during the 5th International Geographical Congress, held in Berne in 1891. There was a general feeling that the great period of exploration was coming to an end and that the time was right to consolidate the knowledge that had been gained. At its heart, Penck’s idea was simple - for the assorted national mapping agencies to work together to produce a map of the world, on a uniform scale, using common conventions and symbols.


A not inconsiderable time later, in November 1909, Penck’s idea finally began to creep closer to realisation. An Inaugural Conference was held, formally establishing the International Map Committee. Some 24 delegates met at the Conference, representing 11 nations. The United Kingdom contingent consisted of Lieutenant-Colonel C. F. Close, Head of the GSGS, Colonel S.C.N. Grant, Director General of  Ordnance Survey and Dr J. Scott Keltie, Secretary of the RGS.


Bartholomew may have lacked a presence on this committee but they were nevertheless called upon to produce the proof, and later the final copy, of the conventions and symbols that the International Map Committee had agreed upon.

The proof copy is slightly quirky, incidentally showing some of the pitfalls that could befall even Bartholomew during the printing process, but by the final copy the lines were straight, the problems fixed.


History shows us that the International Map of the World was not to be. Essentially, it proved too difficult for these agencies to collaborate effectively, the final straw coming when the United States abandoned the project and decided to go it alone. However, fragments such as this proof serve to remind us what might have been.

Just for fun, the conventional symbols for assorted landscape features are shown below. Can you identify them? Answers on a postcard!


Bartholomew’s Large Plan of Edinburgh and Leith

Posted 10 June, 2011 13:04 by Karla Baker | Permalink

In the summer of 1891, John Bartholomew & Co. launched a cartographic tour de force whose sheer magnificence continues to awe. Bartholomew’s Plan of the City of Edinburgh with Leith and Suburbs. Reduced from the Ordnance Survey and Revised to the Present Date by John Bartholomew, or the Large Plan of Edinburgh & Leith, as it’s more usually known (for obvious, laconic reasons) is a map of superlatives.

Edinburgh city centre

It is comprised of twelve sheets that when viewed together measure 6ft. 4in. high by 5ft. 2in. wide. Work on it began in 1880, coming to fruition a mammoth 11 years later. The printing alone took 250 hours, utilising a total of 45 lithographic stones and requiring a total of 25,000 pulls (a pull being the number of times the paper goes through the printing press, once for the outline and then once for each colour). The work was staggered, Sheet 1 went to the press on 10 June 1891 and Sheet 12 on 18 June 1891. A modest 500 copies of each were printed but even so, the final cost was an astronomical £125 (£75 to produce the map and £50 in royalties). To put that into perspective, this would equate to around £13,500 by today’s standards. And this doesn’t even include the engraving costs, essentially comprised of staff wages, which add a further £75 to the total.


The prospectus describes this map as ‘the finest and most elaborate Map of the City and Suburbs ever produced’, and whilst the stringency of this statement might be hard to support, it is unquestionably a gorgeous and engaging map. What strikes one at first is the pleasing overall effect that the map has; a minty green softens the predominance of business-like shades of grey, and it sprawls itself languidly across the sheets when seen in its entirety. When seen up close it is no less impressive. As Leslie Gardener writes best in Bartholomew 150 Years, ‘Every lamp-post is dotted…so are the flower beds in the gardens, the garden sheds, the stairways and steps of the courts and closes…You may trace the seating arrangements in the Surgeon’s Hall, count the stalls in the Court of Session…and study the display cases in the Science Museum’.

This level of detail derives from the fact that the map is based on Ordnance Survey’s 5ft. to a mile map of Edinburgh, a 56 sheet cartographic behemoth. Bartholomew shrunk this to a more manageable 15 inches to a mile, but without diminishing the detail.


The printed maps are supplemented by the original copper plates, seen here spun by the power of technology, to show the plate ‘the right way round’.

Copper plate

I am not alone in being an ardent fan of this map, it has recently been scanned, stitched, geo-referenced and overlaid onto Google Maps in a project funded by Visualising Urban Geographies, ‘a project that provides mapping tools for historians’. This painstaking work, a labour of love, allows the maps to be viewed as a whole for the first time (the removal of the margins allows for seamless travel from one sheet to the next) whilst the overlaying allows 1891 Edinburgh to sit in contrast with 2011 Edinburgh. Do have a look, you will find the map here.

Let’s go to Scotland, the holiday paradise

Posted 19 May, 2011 13:04 by Karla Baker | Permalink

On the 24 June, 1909, Bartholomew printed 20,400 copies of the Caledonian Railway Tourist Map. It is a handsome map with a pleasingly warm tone but what sets it apart is the superlative advertising that is printed on the reverse.

The twin demons of overseas travel, being expense and environmental ethics, have placed holidaying within the United Kingdom firmly back on the side of acceptable. Therefore, the remarkable assertions of this advertising somehow resonate with a modern audience, perhaps more than they might have done twenty years ago.

The advertising emphasises the benefits of the open air, the memories that you will keep, the promotion of travelling by public transport and not least of all, the overall frugality.

There is even a modern equivalent of the “Duchess of Argyll”, a sleek and nippy looking steam ship; the “Waverley” ferries enthusiastic time travellers down the Clyde from Glasgow to this day. Maybe recreating the experience of visitors in 1909 isn’t quite as hard as one might suppose.

Isolation in Thought

Posted 8 April, 2011 13:04 by Karla Baker | Permalink

Upon the commencement of John George Bartholomew’s tenure as director of John Bartholomew & Co. in 1888, there is a marked tendency towards the cartographic. The riotous miscellany which characterised earlier times was replaced by better and better mapping. However, there are always exceptions to this rule, with the subject of this entry being just such an exception.

On the 15 November, 1909, Bartholomew printed 260 copies of a diagram, tongue-twistingly entitled Isolation in Thought of the Antithetical Positions & Inter-Relations of the Forces of Nature Illustrating Synthetic Unity of World-Conception or Correlation of Physical Processes & Physical Functions in the Evolution of Substance and Spirit Based on the Principle of the Immutable Mean by Arthur Silva White.

So who was Arthur Silva White and what is the meaning of his diagram? It is perhaps natural to place Silva White amongst the number of the ‘now forgotten’ British philosophical corpus. Intriguingly however, this is certainly not the case.

Arthur Silva White (1859-1932) was the first Secretary, magazine Editor and key founder member of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. He is remembered in his obituary for his gift for language and his extensive knowledge of literature and geography. He had travelled widely, chiefly in diplomatic and official circles, and most especially in Africa. Other titles in his oeuvre include The Development of Africa (1892), The Expansion of Egypt under Anglo-Egyptian Condominium (1899) and On the Achievements of Scotsmen During the Nineteenth Century in the Fields of Geographical Exploration and Research (1889).

With credentials such as these it may come as no surprise that Silva White and John George Bartholomew were close friends. This friendship may go some way to explain the exception made by John George in terms of printing this highly non-cartographic item.

It is hard to say quite why Silva White produced something so far removed from his expertise. The work that this diagram was destined for, Logic of Nature: A Synthesis of Thought (1909), was privately printed and the limited run of 260 diagrams is suggestive of a project highly personal to Silva White as opposed to something intended for wider dissemination. Correspondence from Silva White to his old friend John George, sent in March 1909, reveals a man who is desperately keen to seek a more fulfilling life by following humbler pursuits. For five years Silva White had been Assistant Secretary to the British Association for the Advancement of Science but in this letter he writes that he has “chucked it in” and was thinking of starting a rose farm, despite knowing “nothing of rose-farming”. This is not to say that these events necessarily influenced Logic of Nature but nevertheless, the letter reveals glimpses of a man keen to express himself in new and startling ways.

So what of the diagram itself? Sadly the National Library of Scotland does not appear to hold a copy of Logic of Nature* but we do have a review, printed in Nature, volume 83 (1910). Luckily for me it corroborates my initial and continuing impressions of this diagram (and by extension the work), being that it is extremely complicated and nigh on impossible to understand. The review reads thus, ‘This is an attempt to “outline a system of thought by which unity of world-conception may be predicated”…the pamphlet…is very tough reading even for those who have spent much time and thought on the subject. The following “heads”, however, will suggest the general drift. There are four spheres or planes in the macrocosm: lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and ethersphere, which last-named is “the psychosphere of mind” – “the energy of thought”. Matter is the vehicle of energy. Intelligence is at the root of things; immanent Deity must be postulated. “Nature is the thinking-process of the God-head” – a striking and suggestive phrase…His conclusion is of course idealistic. “The ultimate reality of the sum of things cannot – so far as man is concerned – have existential import except in terms of thought; and therefore thought itself is the ultimate reality”. Perhaps in this there is a degree of concurrence and reference with the most famous philosophical statement of René Descartes “I think, therefore I am”.

The diagram is beautifully elegant, it hovers on the fringes of art; but the ideas that it conveys are extremely difficult. It seems to embody the culmination of fifty years of questioning and pondering and in so doing, illuminates an unexpected facet of a key member of the nineteenth century geographical cognoscenti.

*Update. Subsequent to the publication of this entry, a close relative of Silva White kindly donated a copy of Logic of Nature, to the Library. It can be found at this shelfmark, PB5.212.17/14.

The Emerald Isle Album of Dublin

Posted 11 March, 2011 13:04 by Karla Baker | Permalink

The Emerald Isle Album series consisted of eleven albums of photographs with descriptive text of assorted interesting places in Ireland. On the 25 June, 1897,Bartholomew printed 5,148 covers and maps for The Emerald Isle Album of the City & County of Dublin.

This ornate cover bespeaks of the general quality this publication aspired to. It positively oozes class. Indeed, the photographs contained within were of a type known as Platinotype, or Platinum Prints, regarded as providing the greatest tonal range of any chemical photographic process. An example of one of these albums, The Emerald Isle Album of Cork, Blarney & Queenstown can be found on the Fáilte Romhat website.

Whilst the cover demonstrates Bartholomew’s deftness with colour and technique it is probably the map which attracted the publisher who commissioned the work, William Strain & Son of Belfast, to them. In true Bartholomew style a pre-existing map was re-purposed for this publication, expediting the job and keeping down the cost. Indeed, the cost for printing 5,148 copies of cover and map was a surprising £7,10,0 or a paltry £631 by today’s standards.

In its sepia tone it is quite an unusual look for a Bartholomew map, although it retains the clarity that you would expect to see. But there is something old-fashioned about the look and feel of these items, even though they were capturing contemporary Dublin life. Could it be that this was a conscious effort to capture for one last time a world that was rapidly drawing to a close?

Touring Scotland with the Caledonian Railway

Posted 4 February, 2011 13:04 by Karla Baker | Permalink

As the railway grew, its initial functional nature was eventually surpassed by one of luxury. Mere journeys became holidays, trips became tours and the manner of getting there became just as important as getting there itself.

A leaflet printed by Bartholomew on the 15 March, 1906, concerning The Caledonian Railway, West Coast Royal Route from and to England, encapsulates something of this spirit. It is lavishly coloured with an arresting and engaging cover, which easily draws the eye and begs for closer inspection. Those that couldn’t resist were treated to luxuriant descriptions of the route, the train, the life and to an extent the glamour of the journey, through extensive descriptions, illustrations and photographs.

However, I have a suspicion that the Royal allusion in the title of this leaflet is in fact nothing more than a reference to the Royal Mail. Earlier advertising for the same route (also in the Bartholomew Archive) refers more humbly to the London & North Western and Caledonian Railways West Coast Royal Mail Route. By strategically dropping “Mail” a whole new connotation is created, a whole new impression. Furthermore, it appears that this was deliberately done in order to tempt the most lucrative market of them all – Americans.

At this time, overseas travel for the mere purpose of pleasure was becoming more of a reality for increasing numbers of people, albeit still small numbers proportionally. The American market quickly established itself and in fact, to this day North American tourists are still the predominant group of overseas visitors to Scotland, at around one quarter of the total. With this in mind it is perhaps unsurprising that the Caledonian Railway also marketed some of its own hotels to this particular group. It is interesting to note the pride which they felt in the electric lighting that this hotel boasted.

The Restless Life of Harry de Windt

Posted 7 January, 2011 13:04 by Karla Baker | Permalink

On the 23 October 1903, Bartholomew printed 2,040 sheets of maps destined for publication in the latest work by Harry de Windt. Harry de who? I hear you ask. Well, one of the best things about the Printing Record is that the maps it contains can reveal interesting but often forgotten stories of people, places and events, and Harry de Windt is no exception.

Harry de Windt was born in Paris in 1856, his full name being Harry Willes Darell de Windt. He occupied the higher echelons of French society, growing up in a villa that his mother had inherited from the Vicomte de Rastignac: his father was English. By the age of fourteen, both of his parents had died and due to the Franco-Prussian war, which was ravaging France, he was sent to school in England. It was not long before the restlessness, which would come to characterise his life, came to the fore. His sister had married Sir Charles Vyner de Windt Brooke (1874–1963), the last Raja of Sarawak, and at the age of 16, Harry set sail to join the party as aide de camp to the Raja.

He returned to England with the intention of taking up a military career. However, his education had been somewhat eccentric, leaving him with little chance of gaining a commission. He was not a good scholar, describing his preference for wearing loud check suits, gambling, drinking and smoking over studying. He turned his attentions to horse racing for a while, before finally settling upon a career devoted to his first loves of travel and adventure.

He largely travelled as a correspondent for assorted newspapers, undertaking his first trip in 1887, from Peking to France. He followed this with trips from Russia to India, extensive travels in Siberia and a journey across eastern Europe which formed the basis of his somewhat derogatorily entitled work Through Savage Europe. Arguably however, his most famous and ambitious journey was the overland route from New York to Paris.

His first attempt almost ended in disaster after he encountered difficulties in the Bering Strait. He underestimated local knowledge and attempted the crossing from America to Asia on foot, disregarding warnings about the inconsistent nature of the ice. He would have died were it not for the timely intervention of a passing whaling ship, although he later recalled this rescue with faint praise, condemning the ship for the smell of boiling blubber.

However, his spirit was indomitable and in 1901/02 he once again attempted the journey. He travelled in the opposite direction, from Paris to New York, and was successful. In the preface to the subsequent book of the journey (for which Bartholomew produced these maps) he cites two reasons for the trip, the first being to ascertain the feasibility of constructing a railway along the route, the second and more likely reason, simply that it had never been done before.

He was an enigmatic man, described as handsome, and possessed of a strong will. His travel books capture all of the excitement of travel in the hostile and little-charted territories that he chose to explore. They also paint interesting anthropological pictures of the peoples that he encountered, perhaps most famously his descriptions of the Tchukthis of the Siberian Arctic. His modest autobiography My Restless Life is a more sombre and pragmatic reflection of his life achievements. He died in a nursing home in Bournemouth in 1933 aged 77, predeceasing his much younger, third wife, the actress Elaine Inescourt.