106 William Cobbett 1832


William Cobbett (1763-1835) was a publisher and author with premises at 11 Bolt Court, Fleet Street. Cobbett served in the army but bought his discharge in 1791 and went to the United States. On his return he at first attacked the radicals Tom Paine and Priestly, but slowly changed his outlook and became the champion of Radicalism. He initiated the publication of the Parliamentary debates which were later taken over by James and Luke Hansard (see also 104). He became a well-known author and among other books published his Political Register and Rural Rides.

Cobbett, hopeful, of winning Honiton for the radicals, persuaded his friend Thomas Cochrane to stand for the seat in 1806. After initial defeat and a little bribery Cochrane was successful at his second attempt. Although Honiton had a very large electorate of about 500 (while Tiverton at one time had only 24 votes) it was not uncommon in those days for votes to be bought and Cobbett claimed that Honiton lived by its votes.1 After the Reform Bill in 1832 Cobbett himself entered parliament as member for Durham.

In 1832 Cobbett published an atlas with very simplified maps. Although an edition of this atlas, A Geographical Dictionary,was published with Langley’s maps (84) it could be that Cobbett intended to insert his own maps and used the Langley maps until his own were finished. Alternatively he may have used them without permission and hurriedly had to produce his own for a second printing; this, at least, would explain the poor quality of the maps. His own maps then appeared in a second issue of 1832 (8vo, 52 maps).

This map of Devon is rather extraordinary being a very basic somewhat kidney-shaped map of the county with 32 towns named and no rivers or hills depicted. The north-west/south-east dimension is halved. This gives the anomaly that although Plymouth to Exeter and Exeter to Bideford are roughly equal at 36 miles, the former distance is 75 mm and the latter only 40 mm. To complete the triangle Plymouth to Bideford (45 miles) measures 87 mm.

According to Chubb a second edition appeared in 1854 (CCCCXLa; these maps are recorded as being larger than the originals2) but no atlas has been recorded.

Size 172 x 100 mm.                                                                                                                                                        Scale is irrelevant.

DEVONSHIRE. Imprint: Drawn & Engraved for Cobbett’s Geographical Dictionary of England & Wales (CeOS).

1. 1832  A Geographical Dictionary of England and Wales ... by William Cobbett  
    London. William Cobbett. 1832.   CCCCXL, BL, RGS, W, C, BCL, KB.


[1] R R Sellman; Aspects of Devon History; Devon Books; (1962) 1985; p. 104.

[2] Yasha Beresiner; British County Maps; Antique Collectors’ Club; 1983.