56 John Aikin 1790


Dr John Aikin (1747-1822, sometimes spelt Aiken) was born at Kibworth Harcourt in Leicestershire and went to school at the nonconformist academy at Warrington where his father was a tutor. He studied medicine in Edinburgh and practised in Chester and Warrington. He travelled to Leiden where he earned his doctorate (1780) before settling in Great Yarmouth in 1784. He retired after a stroke in 1792. A friend of both Joseph Priestley, a theologian and scientist famous for his making chemistry a modern science, and Charles Darwin (a visitor to Stoke Newington) Aikin devoted much of his time to writing. He wrote a number of pamphlets for dissenters and it was because of the hostile reception to his work that he moved to London in 1792. Together with his sister, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, he published a popular series Evenings at Home. Aikin’s other cartographic work The History of the Environs of London was published by John Stockdale in 1811.

Aikin first published his England Delineated in 1788 without maps (although one example is reported as having maps). The second (1790), and four subsequent editions, contained 43 simplistic maps probably intended for school-children: for the use of young persons. Considering the amount of information on a Cary or similar map from this time Aikin’s map is very plain and austere. The map has no border. Maps of other counties later had lettering strengthened and/or modified but this is not apparent on the Devon map. The map of Devon was usually bound in opposite the page on which the account of Devon begins. There is an interesting report of the goods sold in Exeter at this time. The seventh and final edition of 1818 contained no maps.

At least two separate manuscript maps of Devon exist which are close copies of the Aikin map. The paper of the second copy is watermarked Whatman 18341 and the map came from a manuscript atlas signed by Ebernezer Homann.

Joseph Johnson, the publisher, came from Liverpool and specialised in medical works. He was well-respected in the book trade but was imprisoned briefly for selling a pamphlet by Gilbert Wakefield. It is generally believd that he engraved the maps in this work. The printer, Thomas Bensley (junior), specialised in fine well-illustrated volumes and was something of an innovator. He printed the Antiquities of Westminster using the first recorded British use of the lithographic process and was an early investor in a steam press.2


Size of map area 105 x 130 mm.                                                                                                                           Scale approx. 1M = 1.5 mm.

Size including page number 120 x 165 mm.

DEVONSHIRE. Plate number 39 (Ea, when present).


1. 1790  England Delineated, Or, A Geographical Description Of Every County In England And Wales. ... 2nd Edition, With Additions And Corrections.  CCLXXXVI
    London. J Johnson. 1790. BL, C, BCL.
    England Delineated 3rd Edition. Considerably Improved  
    London. J Johnson. 1795. CCLXXXVII, BL, W.
    England Delineated 4th Edition. Considerably Improved.  
    London. J Johnson. 1800. CCLXXXVIII, BL, C, KB.
    England Delineated 5th Edition.  
    London. J Johnson. 1803. CCLXXXIX, BL, RGS
    England Delineated 6th Edition.  
    London. J Johnson. 1809. BL, RGS.


[1] The authors are grateful to Malcolm Woodward for drawing these maps to their attention.

[2] Carroll; 1996; p.132.