Prized geological map found in the UC Library

02 April 2015

A strange coincidence has recently occurred with a rare map at UC. We recently posted about the rediscovery of one of William Smith’s early incarnations of the 1815 geological map of England and Wales which was found at the Geological Society in London. This find has sparked the interest of media around the world in the map, and Smith was popularised in Simon Winchester’s work ‘The map that changed the world’.

As it turns out our Special Collections Librarian had also ‘rediscovered’ a later incarnation of the map in our Rare Books collection two days earlier! Our map is one of the travelling editions that is split into three and boxed together with the accompanying Memoir. The box it is housed in is not the original, but is contemporary with the period. Designed to look like a book, the box has two bookplates, one of Thomas Cuff, who we have yet to identify although there is an early settler to Canterbury of the same name. The other bookplate is a presentation acknowledgement from R Speight, 1919. Robert Speight was a Curator at Canterbury Museum and Lecturer of Geology at Canterbury College at this time, although it is currently unclear at this stage which institution he presented it to.

The map is numbered b4 and signed by Smith (23 January 1816). The production of the maps was unique, due to hand-painted fading technique used by three artists on each map. During production Smith continued to change the map as new information came to hand, enabling us to date each incarnation of the map. It is unclear how many maps were produced, although it is believed to be about 350, with anywhere from 90 to 150 still surviving today.

This is a very important and iconic work, which is very collectable and much sought after. It is a privilege to have in our collection and one of the real treasures of the University of Canterbury Library. Any enquires regarding the map please contact our Special Collections Librarian, Damian Cairns.