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That’s not my name! An unfortunate error on an important map

A guest blog by Huw Thomas, Curator of Maps at the National Library of Wales

On May 17 our annual Carto-Cymru map symposium will be held at the National Library. The theme this year is ‘Maps and their Makers’ and we’ll be discussing cartographers – the people who make the maps.

There are many interesting stories to tell about mapmakers, such as one that involves an unfortunate slip-up with the cartographer’s name.

On St David’s Day 1803 the London mapmaker John Cary published a new detailed survey of the county of Cardiganshire at a scale of one inch per mile. This was some thirty years or more before the Ordnance Survey published maps of the county on the same scale.

The map is exquisitely executed and contains far more detail than any other previous maps of the county. This black and white photostat copy of the map made in the late 1960s gives some idea of the level of detail and care taken in creating it.

1st edition March1803 - one inch per mile map of Cardiganshire.
Image courtesy of the National Library of Wales (NLW)

This is the only known example of the map in this state, with this photostat taken from a copy in private hands.

However, there is a problem with this map. The author’s name is given as John Singer, but it was actually Joseph Singer. That this wasn’t a simple typo, but an actual case of misidentification can be seen in this advertisement from The Cambrian, 27 October 1804, where his name is again rendered incorrectly.

Advert in The Cambrian, October 1804,  for a map of Cardiganshire by Singer.
Image courtesy of the NLW

On the 1st of November in 1803 a second edition of the map was published by Cary, with Singer’s name corrected, as can be seen from the image below.

2nd edition map of Cardiganshire, November 1803, published by John Cary.
Image courtesy of the NLW

A zoomable version of the map can be found here: http://hdl.handle.net/10107/1445593

The confusion over the name seems to have continued beyond the November re-issue as shown by the advertisement.

So, who was Joseph Singer, and why did he create a map of Cardiganshire?

Unfortunately, we know very little about him apart from the fact that he was a land surveyor active in the West Country. He may have been born around 1760 and possibly lived in Littletown, Devon. Precious few other maps by him are known about.

We do know, however, that Singer was employed as a surveyor by John Cary, and this could explain why Singer mapped Cardiganshire for him.

If you would like to learn more about cartographers both past and present then do come and join us on the 17th, either in person, or online. Tickets cost £25 in person and £15 online (£5 student rate).

In person: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/llgcnlw/t-rpdpdek

Online: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/llgcnlw/t-nogoeje


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