61 Robert Rowe / John Fairburn 1798


In 1798 John Fairburn produced a game with a set of county maps engraved by Robert Rowe: ... with the principal Town in each County and the Distance from London. Intended to render Fairburn’s Game of English Geography clearly understood. The date is taken from the Rules Sheet which accompanied the cards. Each county is on a separate playing card with an extra card for Anglesey. Each county town is in Roman capitals and its distance from London noted. The object was by question and answer to capture an opponent’s card and match it to one in the player’s own hand to which the county joined producing a flush in a similar way to that in the card game Rummy1.

The set of rules included a general map of England and Wales and an introduction: The Game of English Geography being a set of county maps on cards, with rules for playing. Engraved by Robert Rowe. The design of these cards is to unite instruction with amusement: they are intended to display the geographical division of England and Wales, the positions of the principal towns, with their distances from the metropolis, an accurate delineation of the turnpike roads, the courses of the several rivers and navigable canals, together with every information the size could possibly admit.

Robert Rowe was responsible for a number of county maps over a period of eighteen years between 1798 and 1816. Two of his county maps of Devon were playing cards: the card described here; and a further card produced for Joseph Allen in 1811 (75). The later set is very similar but better executed and probably based on the set of cards produced for Fairburn. A third, larger, county map appeared in 1816 in his English Atlas (81).

This set of cards was possibly printed three times: Essex is known in an interim state, ie with the numbers added for the surrounding counties but no addition of new roads. It is possible that Devon also exists in this state.

John Fairburn (fl. 1793-1832) was a London map, chart and printseller. He was born c. 1769. In 1810 he was declared bankrupt but managed to recover. He died in February 1832; a son, also John, continued in business to 1843.2

 Size 90 x 62 mm.                                                                                                                                                        Scale of Miles (10 = 7 mm).

 DEVONSHIRE. The Rules Sheet has the imprint: Published Jany. 1st. 1798, by John Fairburn, 146, Minories, London.

1. 1798  The Game of English Geography Being a Sett of County Maps on cards, with rules for playing. Engraved by Robert Rowe. The Junction of the Counties in England and Wales with the principal Town in each County & the Distance from London.  
    London. John Fairburn. 1798. CB
2. 1798 Maps now have numbers to identify surrounding counties. Inner border has line added. Some roads added, eg Crediton to South Molton.  
    … a New Geographical Game with a set of County Maps on Cards 3  
    London. J Allen, R Ackerman, W Sams, J Sonter, Bowdery and Kirkby, J Izzard.(1798). CB.
    The Junction of the Counties in England & Wales  
    London. John Fairburn. 1798.    CB.

[1] Our thanks to Clive Burden and Philip Burden for providing texts and also illustrations.

[2] Updated 2013 with information from Worms and Baynton-Williams.

[3] This collection is complete (found June 2004, formerly in the collection of Tony Burgess); the next set has only 34 cards.