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Britain first road map - printed in 1675

Posted on 6:17 PM by Sameer Shah

Showing a network of just 73 major highways, this is the first ever road map of Britain – printed in 1675.

The atlas depicts 7,500 miles of road and shows how their condition was so poor, it would have taken more than two weeks to travel from Newcastle to London.

Britannia Volume The First Or An Illustration Of The Kingdom Of England And Dominion Of Wales is expected to fetch up to £9,000 at auction next Thursday.





Experts hailed the 17th-century work by John Ogilby, which contains 100 double pages of routes split into parallel vertical strips, a ‘landmark’ in road-mapping.

Charles Ashton, an auctioneer at Cheffins Fine Art, Cambridge, said: ‘What's unusual about this book is that it is complete.



‘This is one of the original printing batch from 1675 and there are probably about 100 out there across the world - mostly in university and library collections.

‘From the outside it looks like nothing - the plain board cover is quite beaten up and unornamented, not elaborate at all – you would never guess how special this book is.

‘But once you open it, its full glory is revealed. It doesn't look much like a modern road map.

‘It set a new standard for map making in England as the first attempt at a serious road map in England.’



The road map, which has been in the same family for generations, was the first time in England an atlas was prepared on a uniform scale, at one inch to a mile, based on the statute of 1,760 yards to the mile.

Ogilby claimed that 26,600 miles of roads were surveyed in the course of preparing the atlas, but only about 7,500 were actually depicted in print.



Oxford University’s Dr George Garnett said: ‘The roads would have been pools of mud. The stone that Romans used to build roads had been removed for building houses.

‘It meant people travelled little unless they had to. Newcastle to London could take weeks.’





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