Box of treasures
14 September 2015
This is a short blog this week…. Partly, because yesterday I was writing an article for the FT, and there’s only so much writing you can do in a day; and partly, because on Saturday, when Charlie and I had a long, lovely afternoon exploring new corners of Highgate with our brilliant friend Ruth Guilding (she of Bible of British Taste which is the only blog I read immediately upon a post arriving in my email in tray… Ruth has incidentally promised to start blogging a bit more now that she’s got her major book projects out of the way..) well, because I’d decided for once to leave my camera at home. Intentionally. I wanted a day of just looking and chatting, and not entirely seeing the world through the lens of the camera.
One day I can anticipate popping back up to the back streets of Camden and Highgate that we explored…. but I also already had a blog in mind, to be fair. Early on Saturday morning Charlie had set off (while I was reading in bed) to Portobello for a date with his favourite dealer – who for the purposes of the blog had better remain nameless.
An hour or so later he returned with these. The box on the left is a tiny, beautiful herbarium which may or may not make it into Charlie’s pop-up shop when it opens next door to us in October at some time (he is very elusive as to when the date will actually be, or, for that matter what will be going on). The box on the right is what I’m going to write about now.
The case is made of the most beautiful marbled paper, faded and battered.
But pull it apart and you reveal the most beautiful, freshly coloured paper, perfectly laid across the seam. The box contains sheets of linen bound paper, neatly folded.
Each is slightly water-stained, to create its very own Rorschach test…
And reveals the most beautiful map of England and Wales, and the lowlands of Scotland, that you have ever seen.
It is a dream.
The quality of the engraving and cartography is beautiful.
Laid out altogether it would be a huge thing. I think we will get the map framed – it is so beautiful – making sure to keep the box with it for ever.
The German Ocean was a phrase I had not heard before.
Here is the South coast…
And here is Dorset, where we were both slightly dreaming of being this weekend…. but were in London for a birthday party which was also lovely.
J. Cary’s map was sold from his shop on 181 Strand, which according to Google is now a Cafe Nero… but a little search on the internet also reveals that from this address, for some thirty or forty years, John and William Cary also sold globes, and other philosophical and mathematical instruments. How civilised a place it must have been.
It is wonderful to imagine the first day this map was sold. Who bought it? For what purpose? A little look on Wikipedia reveals that June 1794 was a month of wars and battles as far a field as Haiti and Mykonos. Plus ca change.
But staring at this beautiful piece of cartography, typography and engraving, one is reminded how permanent the underlying things are, too.
I would love to talk to the map about its 221 years of history. Inspiration for the week ahead.