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Topographic Topley


Michael McKimm describes the latest ornament to the Society’s apartments – a raised relief geological map by Topley and Jordan.

Geoscientist 21.09 October 2011

The latest addition to the maps and paintings which adorn the walls of the Society’s apartments in Burlington House is a Geological model of the South East of England and part of France including the Weald and the Bas Boulonnais (1873) by William Topley and J B Jordan. This raised relief map was presented to the Society by Topley’s great grandson, Mr Keith Topley, in October 2010. After reframing by the Royal Academy it now takes pride of place above the mantelpiece in the William Buckland Room.

William Topley (1841-1894) was an important figure in late 19th Century geology: from positions in the Geological Survey and Council of the Geological Society, to editor of the Geological Record and President of the Geologist’s Association, ‘his services were in constant demand’1. He was principally noted for his interpretation of the geology of the Weald, the results of which were published as a memoir of the Geological Survey in 1875.

Topley produced the Geological Model in collaboration with J B Jordan of the Mining Records Office; the topography was charted by John Bartholomew and embossed by Henry F Brion. On a scale of four miles to the inch horizontally and 2000 feet to the inch vertically, the map measures 25” by 17”. It was published by Edward Stanford, of Charing Cross, and sold for £1 10s2.

Though the Society’s copy shows some discolouration in un-coloured areas such as the sea (possibly a shellac coating has degraded) it is in good overall condition for its age, with the geological tints and printed detail well preserved. The Library thanks Mr Keith Topley for this generous donation to the Society’s antiquarian map collection.


  1. ‘Obit. Topley, William.’ Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, Vol. 51, 1895.
  2. Kirkaldy, J.F. ‘William Topley and the “Geology of the Weald”’Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, Vol. 86, 1975, pp 373 – 388
  • The Library operates a sponsorship scheme to help preserve and restore its rare books. For more information, contact Michael McKimm in the library, or see the Sponsor A Book page on the Society’s website: