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A list and brief history of London Atlases

INTRODUCTION

This website is focused on late Victorian to early 20th century London because that is when my ancestors lived there and maps and books of this period are out of copyright and not all of them are prohibitively expensive or impossible to obtain. But I have looked at what happened before as a part of understanding that period and list atlases produced up to the 1960's.

In 1791 the Board of the Ordnance Survey began to map England using scientific methods, since when and arguably still, the UK has the most accurate printed maps available. No map is (or can be) 100% accurate, as anyone who has tried to follow a Google map printout home from Leeds, or find their rented holiday villa in Spain using a locally purchased map, can verify. In 1898, J.G.Bartholomew complained in the introduction to the first edition of his magnificent Citizen's Atlas of the World that " ...almost the whole of Europe has been mapped by its various States in beautiful and elaborate detail. Turkey, and its neighbours in the Balkan Peninsula, alone rest in a state of geographical torpor and inactivity, and in Spain, although there is progress, yet it is characteristically slow".

Many London street maps are based on the Ordnance Survey's work with more, or less, original ground work and information gathering but Hyde (see below) is scathing about the accuracy or antiquated nature of some that claimed to be new or up-to-date. He also remarks that the use of the word "Ordnance" in the title of a map is no guarantee of anything. I do not list or use any that are not produced by reputable cartographers, even though some are motivated more by profit than a love of the subject.

The two best known works that discuss and catalogue London maps are :-

"Printed Maps of London circa 1553-1850" by Ida Darlington and James Howgego, Philip, 1964 and

"Printed Maps of Victorian London 1851-1900" by Ralph Hyde, Wm. Dawson & Sons Ltd, 1975

I can highly recommend "London in Maps" by Philippa Glanville, The Connoisseur, 1972, a more general work with many illustrations. Beautifully produced, it covers the whole subject up until 1971. Ironically, she ends the book by expressing the opinion that the vitality of the city is due to the persistence of its wholesale markets, all of which have since moved elsewhere.

All three works concentrate on sheet maps. I am more concerned with London atlases, pocket sized, like an A-Z and up to the larger reference works, "library atlases". I find these easier to use, they all have an index and do not split and fall to pieces, losing information at every fold. Best of all, by virtue of their structure, they lend themselves to scanning and electronic reproduction.

If you want to look at the history of roads in general the finest work I have found is "The Highways and Byways of England - Their History and Romance" by T.W.Wilkinson, Iliffe and Sons Ltd., 1898. Here is the closing sentence of this remarkably prophetic book. "A pleasing vista thus opens out - a vista of a transformed countryside, of the decline of railways, of their relegation to very fast and very heavy traffic, of the road as the dominating feature in internal communication and as the greatest factor in the affairs of the nation."

Charles G. Harper produced a series of fascinating books on the history of various British roads, all illustrated with old prints and his own charming drawings.

The, sometimes ferocious, rate of change to London's streets is discussed briefly on this page and I have produced a time line of events from the introduction of Postal Districts in 1857 to the abolition of the County of London in 1965 as an aid to dating London Maps of this period. Below this History is a list of London Atlases that are known to me. If anyone has information to add please contact me.

HISTORY of LONDON ATLASES

The first reference to a London Atlas I can find is in 1720. "An Atlas of London, containing a general map and thirty-six maps of the Wards, Parishes and Liberties, with twenty-five views of the principal institutions and buildings." Based upon an earlier survey by William Leybourn and Richard Blome. Published by A. Churchill and J. Knapton

The first Victorian library atlas was James Wyld's "An Atlas of London and its Environs" published in about 1849. The first A-Z style pocket atlas was Henry George Collins' "Illustrated Atlas of London with 7,000 References in 36 plates of the principal routes between St. Paul’s and the suburbs, from a survey made expressly for this work, by R. Jarman", first published in 1854. The plates were sold to Thomas Hodgson who re-issued it as "London at a Glance" in 1859. In 1857 the Post office issued a second edition of "Principal streets and places in London and its environs", printed by George E. Eyre & William Spottiswoode. This edition contained one folding and ten single page maps of the newly introduced Postal Districts.

Judging by the amount of information provided on the subject, the main purpose of Victorian pocket folding maps was to avoid being overcharged by unscrupulous Cab drivers. Various ingenious methods of measurement were used including attached tape measures, grids, circles and tables. The introduction of Taximeters in 1907 reduced the effort needed to calculate the correct fare but the practice of including official rates continued for many years. In contrast, the main purpose of an atlas is to find your way around or to have a guide to interesting places. London, as hub of Empire and the largest City the world had ever seen, was besieged by tourists. They travelled there in ways unimaginable only two generations before, on time-tabled Steamships and on reliable Railways. They were eager for information and even locals would be hard pressed to negotiate the ever expanding network of overground and underground railways without a current map and guide.

Guide books, such as those produced by Ward Lock, Collins, Muirhead or Black etc., are not included, interesting as they are, because they contain few maps. There are many, folding, pocket or waistcoat maps but very few new atlases were produced after 1857 for nearly 30 years. By the closing years of the nineteenth century London had become so large and travel options so complex that mapping it on one sheet at a reasonable scale made for a very unwieldy document. Atlases start to come into their own.

The "District Railway Guide to London" became "Boot's District Guide" with at least eight editions between 1888 and 1898 and then vanishes. Philips' Handy-Volume Atlas of the County of London was first issued in 1891. Imitators followed. In the 1880's G.W.Bacon produced various editions of a library atlas of 4 inch or 9 inch (or sometimes both) scale maps with a variety of supplemental pages depending on the target audience. Then, in 1896 he produced his first pocket "Up-to-Date Atlas & Guide". Philips' ABC Pocket Atlas-Guide to London appeared in 1902 and Bartholomew's Handy Reference Atlas of London & Suburbs in 1908. The Geographia Authentic Atlas & Guide to London & Suburbs arrived in 1922 with what became the market leader, the Geographers' A to Z Atlas to London, being first published in 1936.

Atlases seem to be the poor relation of the cartographic world, almost ignored by collectors. Although some are dismantled and individual pages framed, not many are hung on a wall as works of art. However they cannot be beaten for convenience and ease of use if you are trying to find a particular street. All maps are fascinating to me and I consider many atlases to be beautiful as well.

As far as I am aware there is no catalogue of London atlases so I have started to compile the following list. The information comes from my own collection, the British Museum and Guildhall Library collections and various auctions and bookshops. Geographers A-Z maps are the hardest to date and find as they do not even have an edition number. Like me, I suspect most people scribble all over them and buy a new one every few years, throwing the old one away.

LIST of LONDON ATLASES

This is very much a work in progress, not a definitive list, entries will be added or amended as and when. As mentioned above, contributions of additional information are welcome.

Every scrap of available information is included because sometimes just knowing the cover price or the address of the publisher can help sequence an edition.

The main publishers of long running series are Bacon, Bartholomew, Philips', Geographers' Map Co. and Geographia. I have included a potted biography/history of each. There are some others at the end of the list, including significant series published under different imprints or smaller series by the main publishers.

George Washington Bacon (1830-1922) an American was a prolific map maker. Amongst his other enterprises he wrote medical booklets and sold sewing machines and portable gymnasiums. He went bankrupt in 1867 but opened again in 1870 at 127 Strand and soon prospered.

From 1883 until at least 1918, maybe later, he published a series of thick Library Atlases under various titles such as

Bacon's New Large Scale Ordnance Atlas of London and Suburbs

Bacon’s New Ordnance Survey Atlas of London and Suburbs

Bacon’s New Ordnance Atlas of London and Suburbs

Bacon's New Large-Scale Atlas of London

These contain either or both 4 inch and 9 inch scale maps, a street index and various and varying supplemental maps, often with a "copious letterpress". Ralph Hyde describes these atlases as "a nightmare for the bibliographer whose hope it was to describe their contents methodically." So I will leave it at that, save to say that the level of detail is a joy to behold.

Bacon never produced 'the best map', he always sold 'the cheapest'. I have recently seen several early editions of these atlases overprinted with postal district numbering. Therefore, they must have been printed after 1917, when numbering was introduced.

Be careful when you look at examples of his maps and atlases on eBay. Sometimes it is possible to pick up an early 'Up to Date' for £10, (or less in poor condition) which might sell for £30 on another day, or a large atlas could go for £150, when you could buy a much earlier edition elsewhere for £50.

Bacon's Up to Date Atlas and Guide

Small Paperback with Blue Cloth Cover and rounded corners
(some fade over time to Grey or Green)


The title remains the same but the spine on early editions reads Pocket Atlas of London, changing in about 1913 to Bacon's Atlas of London and again after WW2 to Bacon's Atlas & Guide to London.

1896 20 maps with guide 1/- 127 Strand
This edition called "The Up To Date Pocket Atlas & Guide To London"

1904 20 maps with guide and photo views 1/- 127 Strand

1906 20 maps with guide and photo views 1/- 127 Strand

1907 20 maps with guide and photo views 1/- 127 Strand
"Showing Latest Tubes"

1910 20 maps with guide and photo views 1/- 127 Strand
"Showing Latest Tubes" Red lettering on cover.

c 1913 28 maps with guide and photo views 1s 3d 127 Strand
"Showing Latest Tubes"

c 1915 26 maps with guide and photo views 1s 9d 127 Strand
"Showing Latest Tubes"

c 1919 26 maps with guide and photo views 2/- 127 Strand
"Showing Latest Tubes"

c 1920 26 maps 2s 6d Norwich Street, Fetter Lane
"Showing Latest Tubes"

c 1923 34 maps 2/- Norwich Street, Fetter Lane
"New and Enlarged edition" "Showing Latest Tubes"

1928 45 maps 2s 6d Norwich Street, Fetter Lane
"Enlarged (1928) edition"

1929 45 maps 2s 6d Norwich Street, Fetter Lane
"Enlarged (1929) edition"

c 1930 45 maps 2s 6d Norwich Street, Fetter Lane

c 1932 45 maps 2s 6d Norwich Street, Fetter Lane

1933 45 maps 2s 6d Norwich Street, Fetter Lane
Includes notes on formation of London Passenger Transport Board

c 1938 45 maps 2s 6d Norwich Street, Fetter Lane
Includes List of Streets renamed by LCC Jan 1936 – May 1938

1947 43 maps 6/- 30 Museum Street, WC1

1948 43 maps 6s 6d 30 Museum Street, WC1
Includes reference to newly formed London Transport

c 1950 43 maps 6s 6d 30 Museum Street, WC1

c 1956 43 maps 7s 6d 30 Museum Street, WC1

Then became

Bacon’s Atlas of London and Street Index.
Published by W. & A. K. Johnson & G. W. Bacon

Hardback size with soft cover (plastic wallet on deluxe editions)

First Enlarged edition 1959 7s 6d 47 Maps

Reprinted 1960

Second edition 1963

Reprinted 1968

George Bartholomew (1784-1871) from Edinburgh started the worlds foremost map dynasty by training as an engraver. His son John (senior) (1805-1861) became a map engraver. John (Junior) (1831-1893) earned a reputation for accurate and painstaking cartography, printing his own maps. The fourth generation under the inspired leadership of John George (1860-1920) produced a huge range of maps and atlases. He named his office "The Edinburgh Geographical Institute" and became the Cartographer Royal. John (1890-1962) introduced offset litho printing presses and devised innovative projections to show improved spatial relationships for air-age geography. The last generation to run the firm, John, Peter and Robert eventually sold it to Readers Digest in 1980 who re-sold it to News International in 1985 which set up Harper Collins. Their cartographic imprint, Collins Bartholomew, now sells reproduction prints of many historic Bartholomew maps.

Address of Bartholomew's Edinburgh premises

1859 - 1870       4a North Street
1870 - c 1875     17 Brown's Square
c 1875 - 1889     31 Chambers Street
1889 - 1911         Park Road
1911 - 1995         12 Duncan Road

Bartholomew's Handy Reference Atlas of London & Suburbs

Thin Red Hardback covering a wide area
Some printings of the first edition are not dated and some are not priced


First edition 1908 2s 6d 64 Plates 68 page index

Second edition 1913 2s 6d 64 Plates 68 page index

Third edition 1917 64 Plates 68 page index

Fourth edition 1921 6s 64 Plates 68 page index

Fifth edition 1925 6s 80 Plates 74 page index

Sixth edition 1930 6s 80 Plates 134 page index

Then became

Bartholomew's Reference Atlas of Greater London

Thick Red or Blue Hardback covering a wider area

Seventh edition 1940 128 Plates 264 page index (Red)
specially extended by Aerial Survey

Eighth edition 1948 130 Plates 264 page index (Red)
provisionally revised

Ninth edition 1954 156 Plates 324 page index (Blue)

Tenth edition 1957 42/- 156 Plates 324 page index (Blue)

Eleventh edition 1961 50/- 156 Plates 300 page index (Blue)

Twelfth edition 1963 50/- 156 Plates 300 page index (Blue)

Thirteenth (last) edition 1968 164 Plates 337 page index (Red)

George Philip (1800-1882) born in Aberdeenshire, started his first map selling business in Liverpool in 1834. His son, also George (1823-1902) joining the firm in 1848. They did not survey and engrave their own maps, instead using cartographers such as Bartholomew. His name is still used on a huge range of street atlases produced by the Octopus Publishing Group, with the apostrophe now moved before the s.

Published from 32 Fleet Street between at least 1896 and 1930

Philips' ABC Pocket Atlas-Guide to London

Small Paperback, more guide than atlas. Some are green and yellow, others red. Later editions are larger, more atlas than guide and yellow/tan.

First "Coronation" edition 1902

Second "Coronation" edition 1903

Third Revised edition 1905

Forth Revised edition 1908

Fifth edition c 1910

Seventh Revised edition c 1915 1/- 25 maps Strangers guide & Photo views

Eighth Revised edition c 1917 1s 6d 25 maps Strangers guide & Photo views

Tenth Revised edition c 1920 25 maps Strangers guide & Photo views (With New Postal Areas)

Eleventh Revised edition c 1921

Twelfth edition 1923 25 maps, gazetteer etc.

Thirteenth Revised edition 1924 (Includes a Plan of the British Empire Exhibition)

Fourteenth Revised edition

Fifteenth Revised edition c 1930 25 maps gazetteer etc.

Sixteenth Revised and Enlarged edition 1934

The Sixteenth was also issued in a "Centenary Edition" as a slightly larger red hardback with 31 sectional maps. Including for the first time the "Outer Districts" as far as Stanmore, Ilford, Chislehurst and Thames Ditton.

Seventeenth Revised and Improved edition c 1937

At about this time became

Philips' ABC Pocket Atlas-Guide to London and its Outer Districts

Nineteenth edition with New Enlarged Street Plans c 1939

Twentieth edition c 1950

Twenty-first & improved edition, containing new enlarged maps of central London c 1951

See G.I. Barnett & Son, below

Philips' Handy-Volume Atlas of the County of London

Small Red Hardback

First edition 1891

Second edition 1896 55 sectional maps 12 special maps

Third edition 1902

Forth Revised and Enlarged edition 1904

Eighth and Revised edition c 1918 55 sectional maps 13 special maps
Index t0 15,000 places

Ninth and Enlarged edition c 1922 64 sectional maps 13 special maps
Index to 16,500 places

The ninth (? last) edition was designed so that some of the special maps, including Railways and Cinemas, could be over printed in red. My copy has these updated to 1929 although the sectional maps remain unchanged.

The Geographers' Map Company was founded by Phyllis Pearsall (1906-1996), the daughter of Alexander Gross, in 1936 after she famously got lost going to a party. She is often wrongly credited with inventing the pocket London atlas. What she did is take an existing good idea, improving its usability and accuracy so that it became the best seller. It was also cheaper and lighter than most rival products, being printed in black and white on thin paper. The company continues to make a large range of excellent maps, atlases and electronic mapping products. In particular, the Greater London A-Z for iPad is an absolute joy to use.

Geographers' A to Z Atlas to London

Paperback with distinct typeface

1936 First edition

1939 1/- Index of 23,000 places 24-27 High Holborn

None published during the war
Post-war editions printed in Holland until the move to Kent in 1962


1948 2s 6d Index of 27,000 places 24-27 High Holborn

1950 2s 6d Index of 27,900 Streets etc. 24-27 High Holborn

1956 3s 6d Index to over 30,000 Streets etc. 28 Gray's Inn Road

1962 3s 6d Index to over 30,000 Streets etc. Vestry Road, Sevenoaks, Kent
New typeface, cover Red White and Blue. Underground map now on rear of cover.

In 1972 became Geographers' A-Z Map Co. Ltd.

Geographers' Atlas of Greater London

Thick Red Hardback

First edition 1947-48 edited by A Gross

Second edition 1956

Third edition 1959

Forth edition 1963 edited by P Pearsall

Fifth edition 1964 now called Geographers' London Atlas. Includes new GLC borough boundaries

Later became the

Master Atlas of Greater London

Large Blue Hardback

Still on sale today

Geographia Ltd., was founded in 1911 by the Hungarian Alexander Gross (1879-1958). Originally "Geographia" Designing & Publishing Co. Ltd., of 33 Strand the firm produced street maps of towns and cities all over the world until being absorbed by Collins Bartholomew in about 1987. From 1923 to at least 1925 the company was called "Geographia (1923) Ltd.".

Some of their maps use a code where the letters in CUMBERLAND correspond to the numerals 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 in the format MM.YY e.g. E.MC = 5.31 = May 1931. This is usually found in the bottom left hand corner of the first map in an atlas.

Geographia Authentic Atlas & Guide to London & Suburbs

Medium Paperback sized
Blue Limp Cover 2s 6d, Red Cloth Boards 3s 6d, De Luxe Edition 6/-


First edition c 1922

1923 71 sectional maps plus plans, guide and index
"Geographia (1923) Ltd.", 55 Fleet Street

1927 72 sectional maps plus plans, guide and index
"Geographia" Ltd., 55 Fleet Street

1936 72 sectional maps plus plans, guide and index
"Geographia" Ltd., 55 Fleet Street

1937 88 sectional maps plus plans, guide and index
"Geographia" Ltd., 55 Fleet Street

(Geographia) Authentic Map Directory of London

Large Green Library Atlas in card slip case or plastic slip cover

1925 First edition "Geographia (1923)" Ltd., 55 Fleet Street

1929 Second edition "Geographia" Ltd., new and revised, 55 Fleet Street

1932 Third edition "Geographia" Ltd., revised and enlarged, 50/- 55 Fleet Street

1936 Fourth (last prewar) edition "Geographia" Ltd., 50/- 55 Fleet Street

1964 First (only) post-war edition published as Geographia London Map Directory 114 Fleet Street

(Geographia) A1 Guide and Atlas to London and Outer Suburbs

Soft Paperback. Prewar editions contained a folding, coloured "pictorial map"
Early editions Pink and Black then Red and White with some editions Red, White and Blue


1935 1/- 55 Fleet Street

1937 1/- Coronation Edition 55 Fleet Street

Becomes A1 Atlas of London and Outer Suburbs

c1942 1/- The War Time edition 167 Fleet Street

1951 2s 6d Latest Revised edition 167 Fleet Street 256pp

3s 6d Tenth Latest Revised edition 167 Fleet Street 256pp

A1 dropped from title

c 1959 256pp

c 1965 256pp

Geographia Greater London Atlas

Thick Hardback

First to Fourth editions 55 Fleet Street 6/-

Fifth new and revised edition 1937 7s 6d

Eighth edition c1950 12s 6d

Ninth edition 12s 6d

Tenth new and revised edition 143 sectional maps 114 Fleet Street

Eleventh edition 1964 213 sectional maps 114 Fleet Street

Other Atlases

ABC Guide to London. Chas. Baker & Co. Ltd.

also A.B.C or A-B-C or Chas. Baker & Co's. Stores Ltd.

Soft Paperback. A hybrid guide with sectional and fold out maps produced primarily as an advertisement for his clothing stores with the Head Office in High Holborn and expanding between about 1864 and 1939 to at least eight other stores. They contain many fascinating illustrations of late Victorian and Edwardian men's fashions.

1882 and 1887 edition of the folding map sold separately in the shops at 1d

1890 edition 15 sectional maps and one fold out map
1893 edition 16 sectional maps and one fold out map
1897-98 edition 3d 16 sectional maps and one fold out map
1905 edition 3d 16 sectional maps and 1 fold out map of the environs of London 98 page guide and many advertisements
1914 edition 3d 16 sectional maps and 1 fold out map of the environs of London

Bacon's "Portable" Atlas of London and Suburbs. G.W.Bacon
with alphabetical indexes to streets, squares, railway stations

Small Green or Blue or Red Hardback

First edition 1897

One or two possible further editions 1901/02

Pocket Atlas and Guide to London. John Walker & Co.

Small Red Stiff Paperback

16 editions between 1899 and 1920, usually dated

1899 Statistics, guide, index, 16 maps, 9 street plans and 12 pages of adverts

1908 30 page guide, 18 maps

1914 24 page guide, 18 maps, 8 other maps and plans, 18 page index

Then became

Bartholomew's Pocket Atlas and Guide to London

Small Red Stiff Paperback

1922 18 maps and guide

1924 18 maps and guide

1929 18 maps, 24 page guide  2/-

1939

1946

Then became

Bartholomew's Pocket Atlas Guide - London Central Area

Small Red/Mauve Stiff Paperback

1951 40 page guide 32 map pages. Festival of Britain edition 4s 6d

1956 Last edition 4s 6d

The Comprehensive Atlas and Guide to London & (Outer) Suburbs

Stiff Tan Paperback from the 1920's on

Produced by Geographia Ltd. for H.J.Ryman Ltd., Manufacturing Stationers & Printers

c 1926 71 sectional maps, gazetteer and index

1932 71 sectional maps, guide and index

c 1935 71 sectional maps, guide and index
Including L.C.C. changes of street names

1937 96 sectional maps, guide and 108 page index
Including L.C.C. changes of street names

1939 Greatly enlarged and revised edition 123 sectional maps 112 page index
Including L.C.C. altered street names

Stanford’s Indexed Atlas of the County of London
With parts of the adjacent Boroughs and Urban Districts.

Red Hardback

First edition c 1911

Second edition 1920

Michael Barnett for G.I. Barnett & Son whose folding street maps are now ubiquitous was founded in 1951

Red, white and blue paperback with gazetteer, sectional and folding maps. First appearing just after the last edition of Philips' ABC that I have seen.

ABC Atlas of Greater London early 1950's on

ABC Atlas of Middlesex early 1950's on

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