The Map Book
My grandfather was a builder. In the 1930’s, he was helping demolish an old house in the middle of Leicester. The house contained a library, and they piled up all the books and put them out for rubbish collection. My grandparents had a family of nine children and lived in a tiny house, so they didn’t have much room to keep things, but my mother held on to one of the books.
Screaming yet? Yes, I know. The story makes me shudder. My grandfather saved a few books he thought were interesting, and one of them was one my mother still treasures. We call it the Map Book, yes, with capital letters. The cover has fallen off, and the pages for Leicestershire are more worn than any of the others. The book is a mess, and we keep it in a portfolio these days.
I scanned it. Yes, I did. But I badly wanted a copy for research, so that was my only option. A few years ago I shared it with some authors, and I like to think that it’s helped in research.
The book is a comprehensive map of England and Wales, with each county having a separate section. One of the prints is labelled 1815, but the actual book was produced in 1819. The title page says it’s for coachmen and it would have been hugely useful
One of the appendices in the book lists routes through England and Wales, with the names of all the coaching inns and the places where respectable travellers can stay. It has each stage of the journey, so that when I want to plot a journey for my characters, I can follow one of these, and have them stay at the actual inns. Since I write books set in the 1750’s, I have to double check, but once I have the route, that’s relatively easy. For instance, turnpike roads made travel faster and more comfortable, so I’d check that the road existed in “my” era, and when it became a turnpike. And the inns that were there in 1819 might not have been there in 1754. They usually were, but not all inns were venerable institutions!
The separate sections for each county gives the county town, what it’s like, when market day is, and the other principal towns, as well as the large houses of note.
I’ve read it from fallen cover to fallen cover, and I can lose myself in this book. Apparently there were many other books like this, and they were produced regularly, some of them annually. Coachmen on the large coaches would have them as part of their kit, and interested travellers could plot routes and have them in their libraries, like the unknown person who owned the library in Leicester.
I thought you might like to look at a couple of plates, so I’ve picked the rather more battered Leicester ones.