A trade card to inspire Dickens
By NORIE, J[ohn] W[illiam] , 1824

I.W. Nories & Co (Sucessors to the late Wm. Heather) Chart and Map Sellers to the Admiralty & the Honble. East India Compy … Sextants, quadrants, telescopes & all kinds of nautical instruments, stationary &c. Wholesale & Retail. Instruments cleaned & repaired.

  • 作者: NORIE, J[ohn] W[illiam]
  • 出版地: London
  • 出版商: at the Navigation Warehouse and Naval Academy, 157 Leadenhall Street
  • 发布日期: 1824-1840
  • 物理描述: Engraved trade card, mounted on card.
  • 方面: 150 by 680mm. (6 by 26.75 inches).
  • 库存参考: 14875


John Norie (1772-1843) was a London-based hydrographer, chartmaker, writer, publisher and merchant. He took over the Navigation Warehouse and Naval Academy in Leadenhall Street in 1813, having previously compiled and published ‘A New and Complete Epitome of Practical Navigation’. This volume was dedicated to the Court of Directors at the East India Company, an act of flattery that paid off when he became an official chartseller to the Company in 1824. Alongside a great number of maps and charts, Norie sold a wide range of nautical instruments, including “sextants, quadrants [and] telescopes”, as stated on his trade card. Worms notes that globes were also available at the Navigation Warehouse, as well as sets of nautical tables, and that Norie operated from an additional property at 70 Cornhill from 1829. Furthermore, the 1834 electoral registers show that, besides these shops, he also had property by Regent’s Park, and in Edinburgh. The present trade card was in circulation from the beginning of Norie’s contract with the East India Company until his retirement in 1840.

In the era before reliable street numbers or any widespread advertising media, the trade card had been a crucial means of publicising the name and location of one’s business. Even after the development of more sophisticated systems, they continued to be a popular way of communicating with potential customers, and most merchants or shop-owners of the eighteenth century had some form of trading card. The map and navigation industry was no exception, and Robinson notes that ‘in the case of nautical instrument makers, [the cards] were fixed in the boxes containing quandrants, compasses or other articles sold by the firm’. He goes on to explain that the same design ‘frequently appeared as a bill-head on invoices, delivery notes, and similar documents’ and that ‘in those days, every merchant’s shop had its distinctive sign, and this was naturally a prominent feature in the trade card’. Although Robinson uses Norie as a direct example of this iconography, there is no distinctive sign or symbol to be found on the present card, perhaps suggesting that he may have had another in circulation.

The specific sign Robinson assigns to Norie is that of the ‘Little Midshipman’, which is also referenced by Kemp and Worms. This small figure had adorned the doorway of 157 Leadenhall Street throughout Norie’s occupancy, and was immortalised by Charles Dickens in his 1846 novel, ‘Dombey & Son’. The work centres around the eponymous shipping firm, and features a nautical instrument maker, Mr Soloman Hills, who operates ‘under the sign of the Little Midshipman’. In his characteristic style, Dickens satirises Norie’s Navigation Warehouse, describing its sign as one of the ‘little timber midshipmen in obsolete naval uniforms, eternally employed outside the shopdoors of nautical instrument-makers in taking observations of the hackney coaches”.

Although commonplace at the time, the nature of Norie’s trade card meant that it was frequently handled, and therefore often damaged or lost, making the present example a rare survival.


  1. Worms, Baynton-Williams, ‘British Map Engravers’, (London Rare Book Society, 2011)
  2. Kemp, 'Some Notes on the Ward of Aldgate and Its Ancient & Modern History', (Eden Fisher, 1904)
  3. Robinson, 'The artistic trade cards of the nautical instrument makers', (The Mariner's Mirror, 1911).