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Only Known Example of The First State of Charles Price World Map -- With Extensive Text From Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Edmund Halley

This double hemiphere world map by Charles Price is a fascinating bit of British printing history. Previously known from contemporary advertisements in British periodicals, the map survives in a single recorded example of the third state of the map (1790), in the British Library. While there were known to be 2 earlier states of the map, these two earlier states were known only from advertisements, with no surviving examples known to exist.

The publication of this map quite likely corresponds to the publication of the second edition of Newton's Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy).

Newton's postulate of an invisible force able to act over vast distances led to him being criticized for introducing "occult agencies" into science. Later, in the second edition of the Principia (1713), Newton firmly rejected such criticisms in a concluding General Scholium, writing that it was enough that the phenomena implied a gravitational attraction, as they did; but they did not so far indicate its cause, and it was both unnecessary and improper to frame hypotheses of things that were not implied by the phenomena. (Here Newton used what became his famous expression "hypotheses non-fingo").

The map includes extensive text excerpts from some of the most important scientific works of the period, including:

  • Sir Isaac Newton's Theory of the Tides from his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy)
  • Sir Edmund Halley's Attempt to Assigne a Physical Cause of the Trade Winds and Monsoons
  • Sir Edmund Halley's Of the Quantity of Vapour Exhaled from the Sea, of its Circulation and of the Cause of Springs
  • Sir Edmund Halley's A Theory of the Variations of the Magnetical Compass
  • Sir Edmund Halley's The Proportional Heat of the Sun in All Latitudes.

Cartographically, the map contains a number of mythical features (California as an Island, New Guinea attached to Australia, Straits of Anian, etc.), as well as the results of early explorations in the South Pacific and Oceania.

We date the map based upon the dedication to Thomas Trevor. Trevor was made Baron of Bromham in 1712. George I ascended to the thrown on August 1, 1714, which puts the date of this map between 1712 and 1714.

The advertisement notes the availablity of a set of 21 maps on 2 sheets published by Price and available for sale through T. Brandeth and G. Willdey.

We have been unable to locate any other surviving examples of this map.

While the map bears some similarities to John Senex's 1725 A Map of the World. . . , which contains the Newton passage, some of the Halley text and very similar cartographic content, the maps are almost certainly from entirely different plates.

The information for Price's map in the British Library is as follows:

Title: A correct Map of the World ... By Charles Price. [On the stereographic projection]
Publication Details: [London] : Carrington Bowles, [1790] (British Library #920.(304), Armitage 7)

Condition Description
Minor restorations, with a bit of restoration to the text at the lower center of the map and several areas of loss near folds, expertly restored.
Charles Price Biography

Charles Price (1679?-1733) was an engraver, instrument maker, and mapseller.

Price had been apprenticed to John Seller, famous mapmaker and father to Charles’ business partner, Jeremiah. In fact, Jeremiah and Charles were made free of the Merchant Taylors Guild on the same day, September 1, 1703. The two were already working together by then.

After breaking off with Seller, Price worked with John Senex (1705-10) and George Wildey (1710-13). He was still working in the 1720s, but was in Fleet Prison in 1731 for debt and died two years later.

He is known to have published in 1732  his Atlas Maritimus or, a new Sea Atlas . . .  This work contains maps dated 1728 and 1731.  We locate at single example (Bancroft Library - 30 maps) and we acquired an example in 2018 (25 maps).  It is quite likely that the work was an unfinished composite, as a number of the maps have blank spaces in the titles, in anticipation of dedicatees that were apparently never obtained.  The atlas was known to have been started, but not completed, as noted by Tony Campbell in the British Library Journal, recording the acquisition by the British Library of an untitled collection of charts by Price:

Price, Charles. [A set of English charts of the coasts of the British Isles and Europe, together with Hispaniola, engraved by Charles Price.] London: Charles Price , IV.1730].

Twenty-one charts, 50 cm.

An unrecorded collection without title-page, with a note on one chart announcing the author's intention of publishing 'a Compleat Sea Atlas', to remedy 'the Great want of a good sett of Sea Charts now extant in Great Britain (excepting for our own Coasts)'. The project proceeded no further.

By 1731 Price had to sell off his charts cheaply, and he ended the year in the Fleet Prison. Many of the charts are based on those of Greenville Collins and most are dated 1729 or 1730.

The named collaborators were teachers of mathematics, or, like Price, mathematical instrument makers.

Maps C.8.b.i