R.W.Townsend was a member of an old Exeter family who had been publishers and booksellers in the city for many years. He had an interest in the development of Exeter and formed a small collection of old maps to illustrate this.
The collection was given to the University of Exeter in 1972.
Scope and Content
As with most antique map collections, the individual maps originally came from atlases, which were split up, often fairly soon after publication, and the maps sold separately. The complete atlases are comparative rarities: Exeter University Special Collections has as a prized possession Saxton's Atlas of England and Wales, published in 1579 (1st editon).
All of the Townsend maps cover the British Isles (general, regional, county). The strength of the Townsend Collection is the nine maps of Exeter tracing the development of the city from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries.
The famous names in early English cartography include Saxton, Speed, Norden, Ogilby, Morden, Blome, followed by Bowen, Kitchen, Donne and Cary in the eighteenth century. Maps by all these cartographers are present in either the Townsend or the Constable map collections, including two first edition Saxtons (Devon and South Wales) and one (probable) first edition Speed (Caernarvon).
On the Continent the two great cartographer/publisher firms in the 17th Century were Blaeu and Jansson: their maps are well-represented in the Townsend and Constable collections.
The earliest map in either collection is, in Constable, an edition of Ptolemy's Hibernia et Albion, published between 1510 and 1530, and the most recent, in Townsend, is Exeter, by Wilkes and Rankin, produced between 1851-54.
16th-19th centuries, with a particular strength in 17th century maps.
System of Arrangement
Townsend Collection: arranged in two sections: maps of Devon (1-10), maps of Exeter (11-19). The maps are stored in number order.
Usual EUL Special Collections arrangements apply.
Usual EUL Special Collections arrangements apply. It is not possible to photocopy items in this collection.
The collection is fully catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue. You can browse the catalogue for items in this collection by following this link. There is a printed handlist in number order, available in the Special Collections Reading Room. Individual copies can be provided for a small charge to cover costs.
Most of the maps are in English, but several have Latin or other European language inscriptions.
Many of the maps are fragile and very large. They are all encased in transparent archival polyester folders.
Related Publications and Collections
See also the Constable Map Collection.
The following reference books were most frequently used whilst cataloguing the collection: Thomas Chubb, The printed maps in the atlases of Great Britain and Ireland: a bibliography, 1579-1870 (London: Homeland Association, 1927); K.M. Constable, 'Early printed plans of Exeter, 1587-1724', Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 64 (1932): 455-473; C. Koeman, Atlantes Neerlandici: bibliography of terrestrial, maritime, and celestial atlases and pilot books, published in the Netherlands up to 1880 (Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, 1967), 4. vols.; Kit Batten and Francis Bennet: The printed maps of Devon: county maps 1575-1837 (Devon Books, 1996) (the maps described in this book are to be found in the Westcountry Studies Library in Exeter); R.A. Skelton, County atlases of the British Isles, 1570-1850: a bibliography, Vol.1: 1579-1703 (London: Carta Press, 1970). For additional information on Devon maps and map-makers see also Devon manuscripts and map-makers: manuscript maps before 1840 by Mary R. Ravenhill and Margery M. Rowe (Exeter: Devon and Cornwall Record Society, 2002).
British Isles -- Maps
Cartography -- England -- Devon -- History
Devon (England) -- Maps -- History
Exeter, Devon (England) -- Maps -- History
Great Britain -- Maps