Cartobibligraphy is a field in which the work is never done. Here comes a new edition of Shirley’s “early British Isles” which has evolved from a five part series under the auspices of The Map Collectors’ Circle, then as a single title issued in 1980, and now as a belatedly reviewed edition with the latest “finds’ and additions. As a companion to “later British Isles” covering the period from 1650 to 1750, the author has provided a resource that maintains the reassuring, comforting, scholarly quality of his definitive volume on maps of the world.
The catalogue of 759 maps is from an exciting period in which the primitive and simple efforts of the 15th century evolved geographically and artistically into the grand, decorative and informative pieces of the 17th century. The author provides an introductory section and a time line to illuminate the process. By now, most of the maps are indeed rare; the period covered includes many maps which will seldom be found in a private collection or even a public institution. Since this will be the only source for many to view the maps, it is unfortunate that many illustrations fall short of the grandeur of the originals.
A fine compilation such as this is of great help in fathoming the place of companion maps of other places which are from the same source, since many are never cited in more general references. The book is recommended, not only for those with interest in the British Isles, but for collectors of early maps in general.
Jon K. Rosenthal, 1994
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