57 Benjamin Baker 1791


Benjamin Baker (1766-1824) was born in London into a family of instrument-makers. At the age of fifteen or sixteen Baker was briefly apprenticed to a local watchmaker, but after two months transferred to the workshop of the map and lettering engraver William Palmer (1732-1812), a close neighbour of the Bakers, in New Street Square. Palmer’s reputation was considerable. From his workshop came a number of engravers who were to make a name for themselves in the field of mapmaking - John Cary, John Russell, Robert Rowe, John Lodge, and Benjamin Baker.1 After his apprenticeship, Baker worked for fifteen years from premises in Islington. In 1804 Baker was appointed principal engraver to the Ordnance Survey. For the remainder of his career he led the team of engravers assembled, initially at the Tower of London, to work on the original series of the famous one-inch maps.

John Hinton produced the The Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure with the first, and arguably more attractive, series of maps between 1747 and 1766 (32). This was followed from 1791 by a second series of English and Welsh county maps. Benjamin Baker engraved most of this series of maps for the Universal Magazine and published by William Bent, at the Kings Arms, Pater-noster row before they were published in atlases. Devon first appeared in November 1791.

Robert Laurie and James Whittle acquired the plates some time between 1804 and 1806 and reprinted the maps with two pages of text giving a description of the county, antiquities, seats and a list of fairs and markets in 1807. This atlas maps were reissued in 1816 and 1821, however, Robert Laurie had retired by then and was replaced by his son, Richard Holmes Laurie (fl. 1814-d. 1858). R H Laurie took over the firm in 1818 on the death of James Whittle and traded under his own name. He must have begun to re-engrave the imprints on the plates but have discontinued before all were amended. The 1846 atlas mentioned below has a title page naming both James Whittle and Richard Holmes Laurie but although Devon now has an imprint naming Laurie alone, nine other counties still have the original imprints.2

Size 180 x 227 mm.                                                                                                                                                 Scale of Miles (15 = 34 mm).

DEVONSHIRE with signature Engrav’d By B. Baker. Islington. In border Longitude West from London. (BeOS).   (DevA), (DEI).

1. 1791  The Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure CCXCIII, Jolly UN15
    London. W Bent. 1791.   C, P, MW.
    Maps of the Several Counties and Shires in England  
    London. Darton and Harvey. 1804. C.
    Atlas with no title-page             B.
2. 1806 Longitude West from Greenwich (Exeter is now 3o31 not 3o33.). Compass star around title oval, signature just legible. Plymouth Dock and the intended lines of the Grand Western canal and Tamer Navigation added. Imprint added: Published 12th. October, 1806, by LAURIE & WHITTLE, No 53, Fleet Street, London. (CeOS).  
    Laurie & Whittle’s New and Improved English Atlas  
     London. Robert Laurie and James Whittle. 1806. AY.3
    Laurie & Whittle's New and Improved English Atlas  
    London. Robert Laurie and James Whittle. 1807. CCXCIV, BL, RGS, C, B, W.
    A New and Improved English Atlas  
    London. James Whittle & Robert Holmes Laurie. 1816.   B.
    An atlas with no title page  
    London. Richard Laurie. 1821.4  P.
 3.  1846  Imprint: Published by R H LAURIE, No 53, Fleet Street, London. (CeOS).        
    A New and Improved English Atlas   
     London. James Whittle and Richard Holmes Laurie. 1846.   KB.


[1] Laurence Worms; Some British Mapmakers in Ash Rare Books Catalogue and Price List; 1992.

[2] The imprint has been amended (no date) to read R H LAURIE on most of the 48 maps and Explanation page included. Ten plates still have the original Laurie and Whittle imprint (dated 1806); these are Explanation Plate, Berkshire, Cornwall, Cumberland, Dorsetshire, Durham, Hampshire, Huntingdonshire and both maps of the West Riding of Yorkshire. The map of the Isle of Wight is dated 1820 (RICHD H LAURIE), North Wales is dated 1821 and the General Map of England and Wales is dated 1824 (all with R H Laurie's imprint alone).

[3] Our thanks to Alan Yates for bringing this atlas to our attention. All maps except the map of England and Wales (1801) are dated 1806 as well as the title page.

[4] Imprint on map of Wales.