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Greenough's World - England and Wales

EW 1st edition
Detail from the 'Geological Map of England & Wales', first edition, 1820. [LDGSL/979/A/1]. Click to enlarge

To mark the 200th anniversary of its first issue, we are fundraising for the digital preservation of a number of maps connected to the production of George Bellas Greenough's 'Geological Map of England & Wales', (1820, 1840 and 1865).

The Society's or Greenough's 'Geological Map of England & Wales', 1820

The origins of Greenough's map lie in the project set out in the newly-formed Geological Society’s first publication, ‘Geological Inquiries’ (1808). The pamphlet was a call to the general public to send in information on what was known about the geology and mineralogy of Britain.

As data poured in, a map committee was formed in 1809 “for the purpose of forming maps by consolidating and arranging all such topographic information they may be able to procure relative to the extent and boundary of the different formations of which the British Isles are composed”. William Smith (1769-1839), of course, had been working on a geological map of the country but as progress had apparently stalled by this date, the most obvious solution for the Society was the preparation of its own geological map of England and Wales.

Although a first draft was ready by 1812, publication was delayed due to issues with the base map. The plan had been to use Aaron Arrowsmith’s existing map, but Greenough was unhappy with its topography. The cost of having Arrowsmith re-engrave it was £900, but the total budget, raised from Members, was only £1,000.  Therefore a new base map was commissioned. It took over five years to construct and was substantially more expensive, costing £1,720 to produce.

  GBG log 3a  
Map 1 - Earliest surviving proof copy of Greenough’s 'Geological Map of England and Wales', c.1816
An outline version of the new base map, drawn at a scale of six miles to the inch by Thomas Webster (1772-1844), was complete by the end of 1814. The cartographer Samuel Neele (1752-1824) undertook its engraving from June 1815. This map shows the first state of the engraving process, with the coastal outline, rivers and major cities recorded. Only the east half of the map is extant. 2 sheets, each measuring 80.5cm x 95.7cm. [LDGSL/947/5/1/4]

Uncoloured proof
Map 2 - Uncorrected proof copy [without mountains] of Greenough’s 'Geological Map of England and Wales', c.Apr-May 1818
This proof, with far more detail than that above, was probably produced in the spring of 1818. It is likely to have been the last proof provided for correction before the mountain topography was added. 4 sheets, each measuring 80.5cm x 95.7cm. [LDGSL/947/5/1/6]

Wallis map
Map 3 - Draft geological colouring on Wallis' 'Map of England and Wales from the latest surveys', before 1820?
Greenough drafted out his map colouring using various county and country topographical maps which were available. In this case he has used a 'Map of England and Wales from the latest surveys', published by James Wallis, Berwick Street, Soho, [n.d.]. Only five of the sheets covering central England have been coloured geologically. 19 sheets (from an original 20) extant, each measuring 63cm x 73cm. [LDGSL/947/6/B/3]

Extract from Smith map
Map 4 - Greenough's copy of William Smith's 'A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales...', 1815
William Smith’s map is the first geological map of a nation ever produced, but the publication of the Society’s version following on so closely from it inevitably led to accusations of plagiarism on the part of George Bellas Greenough. Greenough’s ‘crowd sourced’ approach involved individuals sending him geological data from their local areas, but he also consulted existing published sources – one of which he admitted was Smith’s map. The annotations bear this out, as most have short comments in pencil, generally along the lines of 'This sheet can be of no further use to the Geol Map, Nov 1818'. 15 sheets, each 51.5cm x 60cm. [LDGSL/947/6/B/4]

This map has been conserved twice in its lifetime, the first as a result of severe water damage sometime in the 1970s or 1980s. It has recently been conserved again in an attempt to rectify some of the poor workmanship of the previous attempt. The map is therefore extremely fragile but extremely important to the history of geological mapping.

EW 3rd ed
Map 5 - Greenough's 'Geological Map of England & Wales' 3rd edition, 1865
This is the third and final edition of the map which was published in 1865 under the authority of a new Map Committee. The legend cites a number of sources and authors, but notably modifies the map’s title to 'A Geological Map of England & Wales by G B Greenough F R S, on the basis of the original map by Wm Smith, 1815'. Greenough would not have approved, but by then he and the majority of his close collaborators were deceased. The revised legend may have been influenced by the Committee’s first chair, President John Phillips (1800-1874), who was, of course, William Smith’s nephew. 6 sheets, each measuring 83.5cm x 66.5cm [LDGSL/979A/3]

  Total required
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  Alternatively call +44(0)20 7432 0999 to pay by card, or send a cheque payable to 'The Geological Society' to Library, Geological Society of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BG.
   Fundraising regulator  

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