An Improved Map of the County of Somerset

  • About the work

    To the lower left of this large-format map of the county of Somerset two men, who have just carried a woman in a sedan chair, wait as she alights from her compartment.

    The Royal Manor of Cheddar is mentioned in lettering to the far right of the map: ‘Chadder [sic] near Axbridge is noted for excelent [sic] Cheese made there, not Inferior to the best Parmesan.’

    This map was made between 1750 and 1760 and published as part of the Large English Atlas, drawn and engraved by Emanuel Bowen and his son-in-law Thomas Kitchin (1718-1784). Each of the maps which formed the atlas were relatively large in scale and included illustrative vignettes and paragraphs of text, describing the towns and economic activities of the county.

    Bowen’s maps were seen as the best examples of cartography of the time and he was instrumental in developing maps from merely functional objects, to minor art forms in themselves. The success of his designs was substantiated by the numerous editions published.

    This is one of 20 similar maps by Bowen, acquired by the Government Art Collection in 1949.

  • About the artist
    Emanuel Bowen was born in South Wales. He began his career as an apprentice to globe and instrument maker Charles Price. During his apprenticeship, he engraved maps for an ‘Atlas of the World’ (1717). In 1729 he produced his own ‘New and Accurate Map of South Wales’ and five topographical views of Welsh towns. He later drew 70 maps for his ‘Complete System of Geography’ (1744-47) and made a set of county maps for the ‘Large English Atlas’ (1760), in collaboration with map-maker Thomas Kitchen. Despite achieving the distinction of becoming geographer to George II in around 1747, Bowen’s obituary of 1767 stated that he died in ‘reduced circumstances’ - the result of ‘family extravagances’. His son, Thomas, was also an engraver and map-maker.
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  • Details
    Title
    An Improved Map of the County of Somerset
    Date
    Medium
    Coloured engraving
    Dimensions
    height: 57.80 cm, width: 76.20 cm
    Acquisition
    Purchased from Francis Edwards, November 1949
    GAC number
    991