Fine example of Benjamin Donn's 12-sheet map of Devon, the first map to win the Royal Society of Arts award for the best 1 inch to a mile survey of an English county, and the first large-scale printed map of Devon.
Engraved and published by Thomas Jefferys, Benjamin Donn's map of Devon represents a high-point in 18th Century English County maps, combining the new science of surveying, with the artistry of copper engraving to create this fine map. Executed on 12-sheets, this map covers the entirety of Devonshire or Devon from the English Channel to Barnstaple (Bideford) Bay and from Cornwall to Somerset at a scale of 1 inch to 1 mile. Donn also incorporates large insets of Exeter (showing the college), Plymouth, Plymouth Dock, Stoke Town, and the Isle of Lundy. The map is finished with a decorative title cartouche.
In 1759, the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufacturers, and Commerce (the Royal Society for the Arts, beginning in 1847), began offering a £100 award for a large scale one inch to the mile map of any English county, at the suggestion of the Cornish antiquarian William Borlase. Benjamin Donn was the first to win the award, with this finely executed 12 sheet map. Although Donn estimated the cost of preparing the map at £2000, the prestige of issuing the first large scale British county map assured the success of his work.
Donn dedicated his map to John Baring of Mount-Radford and Matthew Lee of Ebford, local notables who may have helped Donn finance his survey work. Most examples of this map appear bound in atlas format with a single fold, and are generally found either uncolored or in outline color. Donn charged 2 extra shillings for binding and 5 extra for coloring. The present example appears to have been laid on linen and bound in plano, assuring its survival in such fine condition.
Benjamin Donn (aka Benjamin Donne), was a British cartographer, surveyor and mathematician
Donn was born into a family of respected mathematicians, including his father and older brother. Gentleman's Magazine (No. 74, p499) called his father George "one of the best teachers of arithmetic, navigation and dialling, in his time."
In 1768, Donn was elected librarian of the Bristol Library, where he unsuccessfully proposed to convert the library into a mathematical academy. Late, he founded his own private mathematical academy in Bristol.
Donn’s is best known for his 1765 large wall map of Devonshire, based a survey which he undertook at his own expense, and which won the award of £100 from the Royal Society for the Arts. He produced a number of other local and regional maps, as well as several "scientific" charts, including The Analemma Improved by B Donn, in 1770, and his virtually unrecorded Ge-Organon.
He also published mathematical texts likely related to his mathematical school in Bristol.