History of the Bartholomew Mapmakers
By the late 18th century, the city of Edinburgh was well established as the centre of Scotland’s flourishing publishing industry. Indeed many of today’s publishing houses can trace their origins back to the city. However, it was in the specialised field of cartographic publishing that Edinburgh gained a worldwide reputation for quality and excellence, and without doubt, one of the companies responsible for this enviable reputation was John Bartholomew & Son. From humble beginnings the Bartholomew firm became the world’s pre-eminent publisher of maps and atlases, an enviable reputation it maintained throughout its existence, and one which its present incarnation in the form of Collins GEO still maintains with great pride to this day.
It was George Bartholomew (1784-1871), an engraver for Daniel Lizars of Edinburgh that initially set the Bartholomew family on the road to cartographic fame and fortune. He was the first of five generations in the Bartholomew map making dynasty. However, it was his son John Bartholomew (1805-1861) that really established the reputation of the Bartholomew firm. Setting up in business as a map engraver in 1826, he soon gained recognition as a skilled cartographer and businessman and by the 1840s with the company’s reputation going from strength to strength, the order books were full.
By the 1860s they were publishing under their own name rather than simply producing maps for other firms. Over the years there have been many cartographic milestones, including: the first half-inch to one mile Reduced Ordnance Survey Maps of Scotland published in 1875, the introduction of hypsometric layer colouring in 1880, the Survey Atlas of Scotland in 1895, receiving the Royal Warrant in 1910 as suppliers of maps to King George V, and in 1922 the publication of the monumental Times Survey Atlas of the World.
During the war years (1939-45) the company was heavily involved in the production of maps for the military, which was just as well, for the war had seen restrictions placed on the production and sale of medium and large scale maps.
The post-war years saw the company returning to commercial map publishing on a scale that they could not have imagined just a few years previously. By the late 1940s and early 1950s the number of motorists on Britain’s roads was growing rapidly and road maps and atlases were purchased in huge numbers. These good times were made even better by the growing number of people escaping to the country at weekends to cycle and walk. The popularity of walking, cycling and youth hostelling in particular meant that Bartholomew maps were being purchased as quickly as the company could print them.
In 1985 control passed to News International, who were responsible for setting up the international publishing group of Harper Collins, incorporating Bartholomew. At this time the geographic information system (GIS) was developed to produce The Times Concise Atlas of the World (7th Edition, 1995) from the digital database. In October 1995, the Edinburgh operation was moved to Bishopbriggs, Glasgow. Today the business continues as the award winning Collins Geo, part of HarperCollins Publishers, upholding the authority, quality and excellence so highly regarded by the generations of Bartholomews.
I: GEORGE (1784 - 1871) Engraver
The Scottish Enlightenment brought about a sudden increase in publication of scientific, technical and other books needing high quality illustration for which steel engraving was the best medium. George Bartholomew was the first direct ancestor of the famous Edinburgh family to enter the engraving trade. Apprenticed in 1797 to Daniel Lizars, the well known engraver (at “The Backstairs”, behind Parliament House), George succeeded in the tradition handed down from Andrew Bell and before him by Richard Cooper and his predecessors of the graver. Following experience in botanical illustration, he turned his skills to map-engraving, notably identified with Lothian’s Plans of Edinburgh (1825) and of Leith, for Wood’s Town Atlas (1828).
II: JOHN (Senior) (1805 - 1861) Map Engraver
On his father’s advice, John chose his independent status as a map—engraver, after completing his apprenticeship with William H. Lizars in April 1826. He worked from home, but many of his works for Lizars are only identifiable from his surviving work-books. He realised that his reputation as an industrious young engraver would be enhanced if he displayed his name as advertisement to his craftsmanship. Besides Lizars, other regular customers included A. & C. Black, Blackie, Blackwood, Chambers, Collins and W. & A. K. Johnston. He also engraved town plans: GPO Directory Plan of Edinburgh (1832), world atlases: Lizars – Edinburgh General Atlas (1835) and Black’s General Atlas (1846).