45 Benjamin Donn / Thomas Jefferys 1765


Thomas Jefferys (1719-1771) was one of the most important engravers of the eighteenth century. His considerable output covered the entire field of printing from maps to satires and to portraits. Jefferys was born in Birmingham and baptised 10th July 1719.  He learned his trade as an apprentice with Emanuel Bowen (apprenticed in 1735) and started on his own as both engraver and publisher in 1744 when he became a freeman of the Merchant Taylors Company. He joined with Kitchin to produce The Small English Atlas in 1749 (33). He was appointed Geographer to Frederick, Prince of Wales in 1748 and later to George III. In 1749 he acquired and published the Philip Lea/Saxton plates from George Willdey (19). In 1750 he moved to premises on the corner of St Martin´s Lane and the Strand and in the following year he married Elizabeth Raikes at Maisemore near Gloucester. During this period he also produced a number of very fine maps of manufacturing towns of the Midlands.1

Jefferys devoted much of his time after 1760 to large-scale maps of the English counties. The prize-winning map of Devonshire, surveyed by Benjamin Donn (see previous entry 44) was followed by others on a scale of one inch to the mile including Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire and Oxfordshire and culminating in that of Yorkshire in 1771. The expenses he incurred in the preparation of these maps were probably the cause of his bankruptcy in 1765. Robert Sayer came to his aid but only on condition that he became a partner and associate in some of his works. They must have got on fairly well as in 1768 they went to Paris together on a selling expedition. Faden joined forces with Jefferys in 1769, assisting him in his financial recovery, and took over a portion of the business after Jefferys’ death in 1771. When Jefferys’ American maps were later published the West Indian Atlas was published by Sayer (1775) and the American Atlas by Faden (1776).

Included with the 12-sheet Donn map is a General View of the County, on One Sheet, added when it was published in bound form in a book. Each square on the general map corresponds to the corresponding sheet and is numbered I - XII. The hundreds are shown in capitals and there are points at sea with Variation followed by Roman numerals; one at Start Point; the other off Morte Point in the Bristol Channel. Lundy is shown, Said to be part of the Hundred of Branton; although a part of Hartland Hundred in the thirteenth century, by the nineteenth Lundy was part of Braunton Hundred.

In 1799 William Faden also issued a reduced copy of Donn’s map engraved by Benjamin Baker on one sheet (62).

Size 485 x 535 mm.   A Scale of Statute Miles (10 = 61 mm).

A MAP of the COUNTY of DEVON abridged from the 12-Sheet SURVEY By Benjamin Donn. Engraved by Thos Jefferys Geographer to His MAJESTY. Imprint: Entered in the Hall Book of the Company of Stationers and Published according to Act of Parliament February 1st. 1765. (CeOS). Published as first map in the bound volume of Benjamin Donn’s 12-sheet map of Devon.

1. 1765 A Map of the County of Devon ...  
    London. B Donn. 1765. BL, B, C, BCL, (DevA).2

[1] Information on Jefferys´ early life is taken from: Thomas Jefferys – Beginning the world afresh; by Laurence Worms in MapForum issue 3, Autumn 2004 which recounts Jefferys´ life and also includes a good bibliography of further reading.

[2] The Westcountry Studies Library, Exeter has a set on vellum. Torquay Museum has an incomplete set of the twelve-sheet map on vellum; sheets 1, 5, 6 and 10 are missing.