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Emanuel Bowen was born in Talley, Carmarthenshire in 1693 or 1694. In 1709 he was apprenticed to a London Engraver called Charles Price, also originally from Carmarthenshire, who in turn had been an apprentice to the famous mapmaker John Seller. Bowen has a prominent place in the eighteenth-century map trade beyond his own works, as he had several apprentices amongst whom were the celebrated mapmakers Thomas Kitchin, who became his son-in-law, and Thomas Jefferys.

The map of South Wales was the most detailed map of the region to that date and was vastly superior in detail and accuracy to all previous county maps of South Wales which all ultimately derived from Saxton’s survey. Copies of the original 1729 edition of the map are quite rare.

One interesting feature of the map is the list of subscribers printed at the bottom of the map. Producing a new map, especially if one were to carry out any surveying work, was an expensive business and it was quite common in this period for mapmakers to seek funds to undertake the work by asking people to subscribe for a copy of the map before it was created. As part of the subscription, it was common to include the houses or estates of landed gentry subscribers on the maps. In this case the name of each subscriber is followed by an alpha-numeric code providing a grid reference to where their property is to be found on the map.

The map of South Wales later formed the basis of the county maps of South Wales counties engraved by Bowen and Kitchin for the Large English Atlas and published by John Tinney in 1754. The map itself was re-issued in about 1766. Copies of both editions are available to view here.