30 John Cowley / Robert Dodsley 1744


Robert Dodsley (1703-64) of Nottinghamshire was a successful publisher, writer, poet and dramatist who also founded the Annual Register in 1758. He had premises at Tully’s Head in Pall Mall, London from 1735, in partnership with brother James from 1755. Among his publications were Roads of England and Wales, 1756, and England Illustrated in 1764 with maps by Thomas Kitchin (43). He was friendly with leading figures of his age such as Dr Johnson, Alexander Pope and Oliver Goldsmith. Dodsley was highly regarded and deserved the praise that admirable patron and encourager of learning.

John Cowley (fl.1733-44) was Geographer to His Majesty and engineer, cooperating with Dodsley on their atlas Geography Of England. Although dated 1744 the atlas appeared in 1743, being advertised in The General Evening Post November 24-26, 1743.1 Such post-dating was common when an atlas appeared towards the end of the year.

In January 1740 Dodsley began to publish The Publick Register: or Weekly Magazine and in March he introduced short topographical descriptions of the counties together with maps. Six, ending with Cornwall were issued, after which the magazine was discontinued largely due, he implied, to the costs of the Stamp Act. Determined to succeed, Dodsley went on to produce the Geography Of England. The texts and maps were revised and new maps were engraved by another hand. Devon was a crude copy of Morden (22) even to the misdrawn Dorset border. The map is poor with many incorrect roads. There is no “city” symbol, thus Exeter is shown as a borough as are Tavistock, Plymouth, Ashburton etc. Somerset has such a symbol.2

The maps, without the accompanying topographical texts, were also published in 1745 under R Dodsley and Mary Cooper’s imprint as a New Sett of Pocket Mapps. There were two issues of this with different title pages; with and without the folding plan of London and Westminster that appeared in the original volume. When Geography of England appeared again in 1765 under the imprint of James Dodsley, Robert’s brother, the text had been reset and the county maps were omitted.

Mary Cooper together with her husband Thomas, before his death, were important distributors of published material and were well-known in the London publishing trade. They acted as agents for the distribution of many of Dodsley’s books and periodicals.

Size 134 x 180 mm.  Scale of Engl. Miles (10 = 21 mm).

An Improved MAP of DEVON-SHIRE, containing the Borough and Market Towns, with those adjoyning; also its Principal Roads and Rivers by I Cowley Geographer to his Majesty.3

1. 1744    The Geography Of England  (NDL), (DevA).
    London. R Dodsley. 1744 (1743).  CLXXXI, H194, BL, RGS, W.
     A New Sett of Pocket Mapps Of all the Counties of England and Wales. Shewing, The Situation of all the Cities, Boroughs, Market-Towns ...  
    London. R Dodsley and M Cooper. 1745. CLXXXIII, H195, C.
    A New Sett of Pocket Mapps Of all the Counties of England and Wales. In which Particular Regard has been had to the Rivers and Roads ...  
    London. R Dodsley and M Cooper. 1745.   H196, [GL].
     A New Sett of Pocket Mapps Of all the Counties of England and Wales  
    London. R Dodsley and M Cooper. 1748.     AA.


[1] Donald Hodson; County Atlases of the British Isles Vol. II; Tewin Press; 1989; p.6.

[2] Our thanks to Dr Almond for pointing this out.

[3] According to some reports the maps were also available as separate sheets.