18th century map samplers – specimens of schoolgirl proficiency

Marcus B Huish was an English fine arts dealer and eclectic collector with a specific interest in Japanese arts.  There’s a short biography of him at this link on the University of Glasgow’s “Whistler Correspondence” site.

One of his works can be found in e-book form here on Project Gutenberg.  This 1913 book includes colour plates as well as black and white illustrations of needlework from the 17th century onwards, including pieces from Huish’s own collection.   The first image below (dated 1630) is a richly coloured piece called The Story of Queen Esther.

book cover - Marcus B Huish

Title page - Samplers

The story of Queen Esther 1630

One section is devoted to map samplers where Huish talks about needlework maps as being in the same class as samplers, in that they originated as

.. specimens of schoolgirl proficiency, which when taken home were very lasting memorials of the excellence of that teaching termed “the use of the globes”.

This 1738 map of North America (by M.A.K)

.. has nothing whatever in the way of needlework to recommend it, but it shows what any map would, namely, how little was known at that date of the Western States or Canada.

Huish comments on the accuracy (or otherwise) of this Map of England and Wales by Ann Brown.

for the purposes of geographical reference [most map samplers] were at all events reliable, which is more than can be said for some of the original efforts; as, for instance, that of little Ann Brown, whose map of England and Wales is reproduced. Starting bravely, her delineation of Northumberland takes her well down the canvas, so that by the time she has reached Newcastle she has carried it abreast of Dumfries in Scotland, and Cork in Ireland! Yorkshire is so expansive that it grows downward beyond Exeter and Lundy Island, which last-named places have, however, by some mishap, crept up to the northward of Manchester and Leeds. It is a puzzle to think where the little lassie lived who could consort London with Wainfleet, the River Thames with the Isle of Wight, Lichfield with Portland, or join France to England. Although one would imagine that the dwelling-place of the sempstress would usually be made notable in the map either by large lettering or by more florid colouring, we have not found this to be the case.

Lastly this 1784 map of Africa

… which seems to have been used as a fire-screen, is interesting now that so much more is known of the continent, for many of the descriptions have undergone considerable change, such as the Grain Coast, Tooth Coast, and Slave Coast, which border on the Gulf of Guinea. The sampler is also noteworthy as having been done at Mrs Arnold’s, which was presumably a school in Fetherstone Buildings, High Holborn, hardly the place where one would expect to find a ladies’ seminary nowadays.

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