14 Richard Blome 1673


Heraldic writer and cartographer, often financing his publications by subscriptions, Richard Blome (1635-1705) flourished in the latter half of the seventeenth century. He was a prolific, but not an original worker and was frequently accused of plagiarism. Bishop Nicholson in 1696 complained A most entire piece of theft out of Camden and Speed; a rather unfair criticism as all contemporary map publishers had made use of one or the other. Quality is another matter and the maps are considerably poorer than the maps of Blaeu and Jansson; although, according to one modern writer His maps were attractive and quaintly designed and they still retain their charm1; this is not a view shared by all. According to Hodgkiss: The maps were of indifferent quality and their popularity with present-day collectors is hard to understand. ... poor in execution with crude lettering and ornamentation.2 But maybe it should be kept in mind that except for the large (and presumably expensive) volumes still being printed and sold of Blaeu, Jansson and even Speed there had been no new atlas of county maps for 25 years, since Van den Keere´s contributions to the Atlas minor, and no English-produced maps since Thomas Jenner´s miniature maps of 1643.

Richard Blome was the son of Jacob Bloome (spellings as usually used by both) who was a member of the Stationers´ Company. He was baptised in July 1635 at Blackfriars. Jacob Bloome was a stationer but who had also joint-published at least one work. Richard was freed by patrimony in 1660 and A Geographicall Descripcon of the World was registered in 1663. In 1670 A Geographical Description Of The Four Parts Of The World appeared with 24 maps (by Francis Lamb, Thomas Burnford and Wenceslas Hollar): the first atlas of the world produced in England and the first folio world atlas published in England since 1627.3

Britannia was originally intended to be one in a series of four volumes, the first two being a translation of Bernhard Varenius’ Geographia Generalis with 100 maps, and A Geographical Description of the Four Parts of the World. The third volume was the English Atlas. A fourth volume of sea charts was probably shelved with the announcement of John Seller’s forthcoming work on the same lines.4

The maps of the Britannia, arranged in alphabetical order, are closely copied from Speed (in later states) reduced to roughly two-thirds the scale but reproducing virtually all names and symbols. The titles, in elaborate cartouches, are followed by Blome’s name, generally with the addition by His Matys Especiall Command as in Devon. Each has, also within a florid cartouche, the coat-of-arms of the person to whom it is dedicated. Devon was dedicated to John Greville, Earl of Bath, the Lord Lieutenant of Devon and Cornwall. This dedication was an instrinsic part of the sales strategy. Subscriber´s were encouraged to pay half the cost of the book in advance in return for a dedication and/or their coat of arms to be included.

The maps were printed by Thomas Roycroft but only six maps were signed, including two (Scotland and Ireland) by Richard Palmer, who engraved the later map of Devonshire (17): other maps were engraved by Wenceslas Hollar and Francis Lamb. This first series of county maps (folio, 50 maps) was not a success; it was followed by the issue of smaller maps entitled Speed’s Maps Epitomiz’d. These are embellished, like those in Britannia, with dedications to county dignitaries, often the same person, which were amended or sometimes erased in later editions.

Skelton lists one atlas in a private collection printed for John Wright in 1677, but as he points out this was probably made up of remainder sheets and only a very limited number of copies would have been issued.5

Size 255 x 310 mm.       A Scale of 10 Miles (10 = 43 mm).

A MAPP of DEVON SHIRE With its Hundreds. Imprint: by Ric: Blome by His Matys Especiall Command. Dedication: To the Rt Honble Iohn Earle of Bath.

1.  1673   Britannia: or, A Geographical Description of the Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland (DevA), (DEI).
    London. Richard Blome. 1673. XCIX, S90, BL, B.

[1] Moreland and Bannister; Antique Maps; Phaidon; 1986 (89).

[2] A G Hodgkiss; Discovering Antique Maps; Shire Publications; 1977 (88).

[3] See Richard Blome by Ashley Baynton-Williams in MapForum issue 6, summer 2005. The information about Blome´s early life being provided by Laurence Worms.

[4] R A Skelton; County Atlases of the British Isles; Carta Press; 1970; p.140.

[5] R A Skelton; ibid; p.156 - S100.