Camden’s Britainia

By CAMDEN, William, 1772 

Britannia or a Chorographical Description of Great Britain and Ireland, together with the Adjacent Islands, Written in Latin by William Camden, and translated into English with Additions and improvements by Edmund Gibson DD., late Lord Bishop of London, This Fourth edition is printed from a Copy of 1722 left corrected by the Bishop for the Press.

British Isles
  • Author: CAMDEN, William
  • Publication place: London
  • Publication date: 1772.
  • Physical description: Folio, two volumes (430 x 280 mm), fourth edition. Engraved portrait of William Camden, printed title-page in red and black, dedication, preface and 51 double-page engraved maps and plates of coins, interleaved in the text. Full contemporary calf, joints cracked, slight loss at head and foot of back-strip, gilt decoration.
  • Inventory reference: 2218

Notes

Despite the success of the 1695 edition of the Britannia’, there had been much criticism of the deficiencies in its text and inaccuracies of its maps, thus justifying Gibson’s own misgivings. By 1708, he was already considering a new edition and accordingly wrote to all his friends in various parts of the country, requesting access to any information missing from the previous edition, whilst a note in the Daily Courant at the end of 1717 requested all persons who made new Discoveries of British, Roman, Saxon or Danish Antiquities, are desired to transmit an Account of them to Mr. Churchill”. The maps had been the subject of much criticism both in design and content. Accordingly, though little was done about the design, the content was extensively revised with the help of his contacts, particularly in reference to the place names. The map of Scotland was replaced by a pair of maps depicting North and South Scotland on separate sheets by Andrew Johnston (far less attractive than the single sheet they replaced), and the map of North Wales was also replaced and though unsigned, probably came from the same hand, and once again was less attractive than Morden’s effort. By now all the alterations and additions were complete and the book was ready for printing, but publication was further delayed by Gibson’s diocesan commitments (he was by now the Bishop of Lincoln). The book was finally published in 1722, increased in size to two volumes due to the greater content of the reset text. From the number of copies extant, it would appear to have been the most popular of the five editions. The same edition was reissued in c1730 without any changes and as copies are rarely seen, it may be assumed that it was a very small edition but it satisfied the market for over twenty years. The plates were by now showing great signs of wear and for the next edition in 1753 the text was completely reset and there was considerable retouching of the map plates, mainly in the place names, but the revision must have been thorough as the strength of the impressions was noticeably improved. Records indicate sales of approximately 500 copies of the 1753 edition before the text was again completely reset, though without any additions or corrections. The maps were also unrevised and the number of copies extant would suggest a total of not more than a 1000 copies of the 1772 edition at an advertised price of four guineas. The Britannia’ continued to flourish in the marketplace until 1789, when Richard Gough produced a new translation with the maps engraved by John Cary. 

Bibliography

  1. Chubb 117
    • Chubb, T., Skells, J. and Beharrell, H. (1977). The printed maps in the atlases of Great Britain and Ireland. Folkestone: Dawson.
  2. Hodson 172.
    • Hodson, D. (1984–1997). County Atlases of the British Isles. 3 vols. Hertfordshire: Tewin Press.

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