19th Century Geological Maps London, England

Since we began in 1994 our primary interest in early geological maps has extended to cross-sections, illustrations, books and not-so-old maps, although maps still comprise the majority of our catalogued items.
Geologists – professional and amateur – are generally interested in specific regions, geologic periods, or subject areas within earth science.
Collectors value first editions. Many non-geologists want maps of their home or favourite vacation areas.
The geological maps provide colour and interest and the underlying basemap shows a stage in historical development of a landscape.
The maps and graphics are works of cartographic art. They are stimulating to read and beautiful to display.
The books we stock tend to have a bias towards the publications and academic papers of the early geologists, biographies of geologists and related scientists, and histories of the development of geology.

The majority of maps in this web catalogue are from the nineteenth century Geological Surveys of England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland, The maps and related sections of these Surveys are hand-coloured engravings.
Maps of other countries, books and illustrations are being added regularly, but there are many more items in stock than are listed.

If you do not see a particular item that you want, please contact us.


geology history

Geology came into being in the nineteenth century, although its conceptual roots may be traced to the seventheenth. The word geology itself became established only in the early 1800s. Had it not, we could very well be using 'geognosy' instead. Geology was the exciting new science of the nineteenth century, much like space exploration or biotechnology in the twentieth. New concepts appeared of unimaginably vast spans of time, of strange extinct creatures, of systematic ways of exploring for economic minerals.

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    The key to defining these concepts and comprehending the formation and structure of the landscapes around us was mapping. Early geologists observed rock exposures in the landscape, quarries and mines, collecting and comparing samples and fossils. Initially, they sketched their observations and interpretations in diagrammatic sections, panoramic views and on the maps of the day.

    In the nineteenth century, the great national topographic surveys commenced in Europe and its empires and in America to provide a more rigorous base for plotting observations to create more accurate geological maps and figures. The earliest maps and figures were hand-coloured engravings. In the official surveys of the British Isles this technique persisted until 1900. Elsewhere colour printing of geological maps first appeared in the 1860s.

    Major Events in Nineteenth Century Geology

    1807 Founding of the Geological Society of London.
    1815 William Smith publishes the first geological map of England and Wales and adjacent parts of Scotland. His amazing story is described by John Morton in Strata: the Remarkable Story of William Smith and by  Simon Winchester in The Map that Changed the World.
    1830 Charles Lyell, publishes the influential Principles of Geology. He was working on the 12thedition when he died in 1875. The various revisions chart the development of Geological thought over this period.
    1832 Henry De la Beche became "Geologist to the Trigonometrical Survey of Great Britain" (predecessor of the Ordnance Survey).
    1835 The establishment of the Geological Survey of Great Britain and Ireland. De la Beche was its first director. It remained within the OS until 1845. Henry De la Beche, its first director had nurtured the embryonic Survey for several years within the Ordnance Survey.
    1837 Louis Agassiz proposed the earth was subject to Ice Ages extending over continents.
    1842 Richard Owen, the great palaeontologist, coined the word dinosaur (terrible lizard).
    1852 The first dinosaur theme park constructed at Crystal Palace, South London. Wonderfully restored in 2005.
    1859 Charles Darwin, who considered himself a geologist, published 'On the Origin of Species'.
    1879 The establishment of the US Geological Survey.
    1880 John Milne, geologist and mining engineer, invented the horizontal pendulum  Wiki Reference


The cartographer’s art in the design of the maps together with the draughtsman’s skill in hachuring, fine line work and copper-plate lettering created beautiful and useful engravings.line work and copper-plate lettering created beautiful and useful engravings.Water colour applied in translucent washes by hand over the engravings created beautiful maps, sections and illustrations of the geology. These are to be found as published survey maps, in early memoirs and reports of the new national geological surveys and in journals for professionals and books published to satisfy the enormous popular interest in geology. The engraving and colouring combine as beautifully executed cartographic or graphic art.

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    The nineteenth century maps and sections of the three Geological Surveys of the British Isles were printed from hand-engraved copper, then steel plates and coloured by hand. Flat copies were used in the offices of prospecting and engineering companies and are usually in better condition and more suited for framing. For fieldwork, maps were frequently cut into smaller rectangles and mounted on linen, so that they folded easily and compactly to keep dry in pockets to prevent the colours running in rain. In this form the maps were also easier to keep on shelves. Some of the folded maps and sections have attractive covers or sleeves.


    To express the different rock types and their distribution clearly and accurately required the use of many colours, and made exceptional demands on the printing technology of the nineteenth century. Therefore the black line work was coloured by hand with water colour and coloured inks. The colours adopted for the different geological formations are still the national standard today and have been widely adopted around the world. Geological faults and major mineral veins were shown by coloured inks.

    The recognition of distinctive fossil types is a major factor in defining sedimentary rock formations; in many coastal areas the locations of fossils in cliff sections is labeled on early maps. In igneous rock areas, crystal structure, grain and colour of distinctive mineral associations help geologists to link up observations over large areas; on the large scale surveys and sections this information is often noted.

    These maps and sections are a tribute to the powers of observation and deduction of Victorian geologists, who compiled and published this fundamentally correct interpretation of the complex and varied geology of the British Isles. The maps are also interesting historically as they show the landscape, towns and cities as they were in the early 1800s. The topographic survey date is usually much earlier than the date given for the geological survey. Often railways were inserted at a later date without other topographic revision. The date given in this catalogue is for the geological survey except where a later railway insert date is recorded.