Wyld's Model of the Earth
By WYLD, James , 1851

Wyld's New Plan of London. Nouveau Plan de Londres. Neuer Plan de London.

British Isles London
  • Author: WYLD, James
  • Publication place: London
  • Publisher: Published by James Wyld Geographer to the Queen and H.R.H. Prince Albert Charing Cross East (Opposite Northumberland Street)
  • Publication date: c.1852
  • Physical description: Wood-engraved map, original hand-colour, title repeated in French and German, eleven vignette views of London landmarks, key repeated in French and German.
  • Dimensions: 555 by 950mm (21.75 by 37.5 inches).
  • Inventory reference: 1451


James Wyld (1812-1887) was “the most important mapmaker producing maps of London in the year of the Great Exhibition”. Wyld was a highly successful publisher, MP for Bodmin, and an active figure in public life. He promoted the development of the British Library and campaigned for the Public Libraries and Museums Bill, accusing its agricultural opponents of trying to make the poor drink instead of read in order to keep malt consumption high; although he did oppose the introduction of the Ordnance Survey on behalf of private surveyors. Like his father, he was made Geographer to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1836. He built his business on his ability to produce maps quickly in reaction to new discoveries and information: Punch remarked drily that if a country were discovered in the centre of the earth then Wyld would have a new map out “as soon as it is discovered, if not before”.

Wyld first published the present map in 1851, taking advantage of the influx of visitors into in London to see the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace. It was designed as both a map and a tourist guide: the border contains keys in English, French and German, and vignettes of must-see landmarks. Crystal Palace is picked out in red, and occupies a large proportion of the south side of Hyde Park; it is also depicted in one of the views to the map’s border. In the border at the top right is Wyld’s own “Model of the Earth”. This was a vast globe of 18.39m in diameter, with a representation of the world depicted in plaster-of-paris on its interior surface. Originally offered to the Great Exhibition, it was rejected due to its size and the committee’s reluctance to allow the exhibition to be used for commercial gain. It was installed in Leicester Square instead (visible on the map), and attracted almost as many visitors as the Exhibition itself. In 1853, the first year that visitor records were kept, it is estimated that 1.2 million people were admitted.

The present map would appear to be issued in 1852 or later as the Great Northern Railway is shown to Kings Cross.

Scale: 3 5/8 inches to 1 statute mile.


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