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Herman Moll: The North Part of Great Britain Called Scotland

Map: SCOT1707
Cartographer: Herman Moll
Title: The North Part of Great Britain Called Scotland
Date: 1714
Published: London
Width: 40 inches / 102 cm
Height: 23 inches / 59 cm
Map ref: SCOT1707
Moll’s grand atlas “The World Described” was his flagship publication and consisted of a collection of very fine large maps of all parts of the world on two sheets joined. It was a tall, narrow work which meant that the maps were usually folded several times inside the covers, often causing condition issues.

This map of Scotland is in particularly good condition and is unusual in that it is the only map of the home countries with illustrated borders; these depict important Scottish towns. It is not known why Moll developed this map of Scotland to such an extent however, it must be remembered that the domestic political scene had just undergone truly seismic changes after the Acts of Union of 1707, which united the formerly separate realms of England and Scotland. The driving force behind these Acts is often cited as the failed colonial ambitions of the “Company of Scotland Trading in Africa and the Indies”; this was especially the case in the spectacular failure of the Darien Scheme on the coast of Panama. Overall, these setbacks resulted in great financial hardship for the population of Scotland and the need for financial rescue from England.

Ever the canny business man, Moll may have received financial encouragement to promote the advantages of the natural resources of Scotland as well as the number and development of its major towns, thus their illustration on the border of the map. It may also explain the reason for the multiple mentions of rich fishing grounds around Scotland and its islands on the map, as well as the text panel under the title which urges financial investment into the country to develop both its fishing grounds, which could act as substitutes for the long and arduous fishing trips to Newfoundland, as well as the trade in timber, which could replace imports from Norway.

These panels, together with the illustrations and the rather peculiar title of the map suggests that Moll was doing his best to ease and promote the Union between the two realms.

The map and the atlas must have been very successful as they had a long publishing history, with several posthumous editions after Moll died in 1732. All the maps of Scotland are dated 1714 but the publishing imprint on the lower right changes to reflect different ownership of the plates, which also helps in the dating of specific issues. On this particular example, the imprint shows that it was published by John Bowles and Son (Carington Bowles). According to Worms and Baynton-Williams in their reference work “British Map Engravers”, the two worked together between c. 1753 to c.1762. Original colour. SL [SCOT1707]