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GBG 1st ed
Completed copy of ‘Geological Map of England & Wales’ (1820). Copy no.84. This map was originally intended for the chemist William Hyde Wollaston (1766-1828). It was considered ‘imperfect’ and instead was retained. Archive ref: LDGSL/979A/1. Click to enlarge

Despite the map’s legend that Greenough’s map was published in November 1819, it was not circulated until May 1820. The colouring was intended to be undertaken solely by Thomas Webster at a cost of 13s per map, but presumably to meet demand in the first year it was also sub-contracted out to the map engraver William Ebden who was paid a higher rate of 15s per map or 8s per day.


The influential German geologist Abraham Werner (1749-1817) had laid down a system of colours for prospective map makers, based on the principle that each hue should correspond with the predominant colour of the rock in question. Greenough adopted this idea of associative colour, but believed that the colouring should also show mineralogical relationships - that is similar rocks having similar colours. He was also interested in how colours worked with each other in the overall design, for instance marking changes in the lithology by the use of contrasting colours. Dark colours or those which were too dense were avoided in areas with a lot of topographical detail in order not to obscure underlying engraving. In comparison with the later editions, the result was subtle and subdued.

Colour key 1st
Colour key from Greenough’s map, showing his subtle colour palette. In a call back to his time on the Committee of Nomenclature, he has included the most popular regional terms for the strata. LDGSL/979A/3. Click to enlarge.
  Figure from George Field’s ‘Chromatics or, An essay on the analogy and harmony of colours’ (1817). The book, which once belonged to Greenough, is a treatise on colour theory, notably on how the perception of colours change when placed next to each other. GSL Library collections. Click to enlarge


The prices of the map varied, depending on the purchaser and what you bought. For a fully coloured map, the general public paid 6 guineas but Members could buy it for 5 guineas. Longmans & Co which distributed most copies of the map were given a trade discount of £4 2s 6d. The map could also be purchased by Members in an uncoloured state for £4 15s but 70 or so copies from earlier, outline proof states were also available for either 1 or 4 guineas each, depending on the engraved detail.

The sales figures for the first edition are incomplete but Greenough estimated that around 325 coloured and 50 uncoloured versions had been produced. 33 were presented gratis to individuals or institutions. 750 of the accompanying memoirs were printed but by 1832 Longmans still had 420 copies left. Whilst Warburton seems to have got around two thirds of his money back, it is unclear if Greenough was ever reimbursed for his share.

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