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Singer map November

13 May 2024

On May 17 our annual Carto-Cymru map symposium will be held at the National Library and online. The theme this year is ‘Maps and their Makers’ and we’ll be discussing cartographers - the people who make the maps.>

There are many interesting stories to tell about mapmakers, such as one that involves an unfortunate slip-up with the cartographer’s name.

On St David’s Day 1803 the London mapmaker John Cary published a new detailed survey of the county of Cardiganshire at a scale of one inch per mile. This was some thirty years or more before the Ordnance Survey published maps of the county on the same scale.

The map is exquisitely executed and contains far more detail than any other previous maps of the county. This black and white photostat copy of the map made in the late 1960s gives some idea of the level of detail and care taken in creating it.

This is the only known example of the map in this state, with this photostat taken from a copy in private hands.

However, there is a problem with this map. The author’s name is given as John Singer, but it was actually Joseph Singer. That this wasn’t a simple typo, but an actual case of misidentification can be seen in this advertisement from The Cambrian of 27 October 1804, where his name is again rendered incorrectly.

On 1 November 1803 a second edition of the map was published by Cary, with Singer’s name corrected, as can be seen from the image below.

View a zoomable version of the Singer map.

The confusion over the name seems to have continued beyond the November re-issue as shown by the advertisement.

So, who was Joseph Singer, and why did he create a map of Cardiganshire?

Unfortunately, we know very little about him apart from the fact that he was a land surveyor active in the West Country. He may have been born around 1760 and possibly lived in Littletown, Devon. Precious few other maps by him are known about.

We do know, however, that Singer was employed as a surveyor by John Cary, and this could explain why Singer mapped Cardiganshire for him.

If you would like to learn more about cartographers both past and present then do come and join us on 17 May, either in person, or online. Tickets cost £25 in person and £15 online (£5 student rate).>

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Category: Article