At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Britain was consolidating its colonial holdings and emerging as the world's foremost naval power. The need for accurate and detailed maps led to a government support and encouragement of map-makers. Yet Africa's interior at this time was still poorly known (although the coast is accurately drawn). But Britain needed maps to explore the continent. This thirst for knowledge created a need for high quality cartography and paved the way for mapmakers such as John Cary.

Who was John Cary?

Considered among the most important cartographers and map publishers of the late Georgian period, John Cary (1754—1835) raised the standard of draughtsmanship and copper engraving. His maps were designed to be used and emphasized content and functionality with a minimal of superfluous decoration. In 1794 Cary was commissioned by the General Post Office to measure the post and mail-coach road.

Cary began a dynasty celebrated for map and globe making. His brother, William Cary, was a specialist in scientific instruments and together they produced some of the finest globes of the Georgian era. Due to their use of the best quality paper and printing techniques their globes retain much of their color and definition (hence value) over time.

According to Collins and Lamb, "John Cary in partnership with his brother William were one of the foremost London map and globe sellers of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They built up a thriving and prosperous business, both as instrument makers and map publishers." The Cary firm was continued by sons George and John Cary in the Regency period. In the mid 19th Century, the plates were passed to G.F. Cruchley, a map seller who continued to produce globes under the Cary name.


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