Collins Bartholomew Historic Map Archive
Collins Bartholomew Archive Collection
By the late 18th century the city of Edinburgh was well established as the centre of Scotland’s flourishing publishing industry. Indeed many of today’s publishing houses can trace their origins back to the city. However, it was in the specialised field of cartographic publishing that Edinburgh gained a worldwide reputation for quality and excellence, and without doubt, one of the company’s responsible for this enviable reputation was John Bartholomew & Son. From humble beginnings the Bartholomew firm became the world’s pre-eminent publisher of maps and atlases, an enviable reputation it maintained throughout its existence, and one which its present reincarnation in the form of Collins GEO still maintains with great pride to this day.
It was George Bartholomew (1784-1871), an engraver for Daniel Lizars of Edinburgh that initially set the Bartholomew family on the road to cartographic fame and fortune. He was the first of five generations in the Bartholomew map making dynasty. However, it was his son John Bartholomew (1805-1861) that really established the reputation of the Bartholomew firm. Setting up in business as a map engraver in 1826, he soon gained recognition as a skilled cartographer and businessman and by the 1840’s with the company’s reputation going from strength to strength, the order books were full.
By the 1860’s they were publishing under their own name rather than simply producing maps for other firms, and over the years there have been many cartographic milestones, including: the first half-inch to one mile Reduced Ordnance Survey Maps of Scotland published in 1875, the introduction of hypsometric layer colouring in 1880, the Survey Atlas of Scotland in 1895, receiving the Royal Warrant in 1910 as suppliers of maps to King George V, and in 1922 the publication of the monumental Times Survey Atlas of the World.
During the war years (1939-45) the company was heavily involved in the production of maps for the military, which was just as well, for the war had seen restrictions placed on the production and sale of medium and large scale maps.
The post-war years saw the company returning to commercial map publishing on a scale that they could not have imagined just a few years previously. By the late 1940’s and early 1950’s the number of motorists on Britain’s roads was growing rapidly and motoring maps and atlases were purchased in huge numbers. These good times were made even better by the growing number of people escaping to the country at weekends to cycle and walk, and the popularity of walking, cycling and youth hostelling in particular meant that Bartholomew maps were being consumed as quickly as the company could print them.
History of the Bartholomew Mapmakers
I: GEORGE – (1784 - 1871) Engraver
The Scottish Enlightenment brought about a sudden increase in publication of scientific, technical and other books needing high quality illustration for which steel engraving was the best medium. George Bartholomew was the first direct ancestor of the famous Edinburgh family to enter the engraving trade. Apprenticed in 1797 to Daniel Lizars, the well known engraver (at “The Backstairs”, behind Parliament House) George thus succeeded to the tradition handed down from Andrew Bell, and before him by Richard Cooper, and his predecessors of the graver.
Following experience in botanical illustration, he turned his skills to map-engraving, notably identified with Lothian’s Plans of Edinburgh (1825) and of Leith for Wood’s Town Atlas (1828)
II: JOHN (Senior) – (1805 - 1861) Map Engraver
On his father’s advice, John chose his independent status as a map—engraver, after completing his apprenticeship with William H. Lizars in April 1826. He worked from home, but many of his works for Lizars are only identifiable from his surviving work-books, until he realised that his reputation as an industrious young engraver would be enhanced if he displayed his name as advertisement to his craftsmanship. Besides Lizars, other regular customers included A. & C. Black, Blackie, Blackwood, Chambers, Collins and W. & A. K. Johnston. He also engraved town plans: GPO Directory Plan of Edinburgh (1832), and World atlases: Lizars – Edinburgh General Atlas (1835), and Black’s General Atlas (1846).
III: JOHN (Junior) – (1831 – 1893) Geographer & Map Engraver, FRGS
Having trained as an engraver with his father, John Jr. gained experience of other map-making processes by spending 2 years in Germany with A. Petermann of Justus Perthes in Gotha. Realising the romance and potential of map making he installed 3 new steam presses in extended premises at North Bridge for lithographic printing of multi-copies in colour. He also travelled to North America to create new businesses, thus widening his reputation for accurate and painstaking cartography. His major works included: Black’s Tourist Map of Scotland (4 mls./in.) (1862).Fullarton’s Royal Illustrated Atlas (1863) 6-inch Directory Plan of Edinburgh (1868). District Maps of Scotland (2 mls./in.)(1876). Baddeley’s Lake District Guide (1880). First layer-coloured map Edinburgh, Large City Plan (15 ins./mile)
IV: JOHN GEORGE – (1860 – 1920) Geographer & Cartographer Royal – LLD. FRSE. RGS Victoria Medal. Hon. Sec. RSGS (1884-1920)
John George joined his father in the early 1880’s while studying at Edinburgh University, succeeding him in 1888 (age 28), when the business was moved to shared premises in partnership with Thomas Nelson at Park Road. He named his office “The Edinburgh Geographical Institute”, and shaped the future of the firm with foresight and boldness. He issued a wide range of unique and remarkable productions, and the business prospered with its rising status. John George’s sense of colour harmony was appreciated in the innovative layer colouring of the “Reduced O.S.’ of Half-Inch Map of Great Britain, and by the scientific works which he produced in collaboration with academic colleagues: The Survey Atlas of Scotland (1895), Geological Map of Scotland (1893), Physical Atlas: Meteorology (1899), Zoogeography (1911) Bathymetrical Survey of Scottish Fresh-Water Lochs (1907) Chronological Map of Edinburgh (1919)
V: JOHN (1890 – 1962) Geographer and Cartographer Royal – CBE. MC. MA. LLD. FRSE. FRSGS. RGS Founder’s Medal. Hon Sec /President RSGS (1920-54)
His years of study in Leipzig, Paris and Edinburgh were followed by distinguished war service, but not without lasting damage to his health. He inherited the task of completing and updating, for post –war changes, his father’s edition of The Times Survey Atlas (1922). He subsequently designed and edited a wide range of world reference atlases, regional maps and road maps. He took advantage of modern technical advances, and the installation of offset litho printing presses. He devised several innovative projections to show improved spatial relationships for air-age geography and modern geopolitics: “Nordic”, “Atlantis”, “Regional”, and the “Lotus” projection for ocean distributions.
But, his ultimate task was to mastermind the “Mid-Century Edition” of The Times Atlas of the World 95 volumes, 1955-60), which achieved pre-eminent status as a reference atlas, - a fitting memorial to a life of dedication.
VI: JOHN C. (1923 - 2008) Cartographer MA. FRSE. FRSGS
PETER H. (1924-87) Chairman MC. CA
ROBERT G. (1927 - ) Robert – Production
After war service and Edinburgh studies, this generation had developed complementary skills, which enabled them on joining the firm in the early 50’s to provide a strong support team for the 5-volume Times Atlas, leading to the subsequent production of its Comprehensive and Concise editions for a wider market. The conversion of the “Half–Inch” to the 1:100 000 National Series was an important design task, and the Atlas of Europe and Family Atlas were innovative productions. Under Peter’s caring leadership, collaboration with “Reader’s Digest” in the Great World Atlas led to their eventual buy-out of the firm in 1980.
Postscript: In 1985 control passed to “News international”, who were responsible for setting up the International publishing group of “Harper Collins” Incorporating Bartholomew. At this time the “geographic information system” was developed to produce The Times Concise Atlas (7th Edition, 1995) from the digital database. In October 1995, the Edinburgh operation was moved to Bishopbriggs, Glasgow. Today the business continues as the award winning Collins Geo, part of HarperCollins Publishers, upholding the authority quality and excellence, so highly regarded by ‘Bartholomews’.
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