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British Industrial History

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John Bartholomew

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July 1936.
October 1936.

Bartholomew family (per. 1805–1986), map publishers, were Edinburgh geographers of international renown.

The founder of the business was George Bartholomew (1784–1871), who was born on 9 January 1784, perhaps in Dunfermline, the eldest (natural) son of John Bartholomew (1754–1817) of Baldridge, Dunfermline, and Margaret Aitken (1758–1808). George, though as much a general engraver as a specialist map-engraver, was the direct ancestor of the Edinburgh family of map makers John Bartholomew and Son. He was brought up by his mother alone in humble circumstances on the south side of Edinburgh's Old Town.

1798 George Bartholomew showed early promise by the neatness of his copperplate script, and was apprenticed to the well-known engraver Daniel Lizars (1754–1812), at the Parliamentary Backstairs. He then succeeded to the tradition handed down from Andrew Bell (1726–1809), proprietor of the original Encyclopaedia Britannica, and before him from Richard Cooper, founder of the school of map engravers in Edinburgh. Bartholomew undertook a variety of engraving commissions, all of which demonstrated his excellence in lettering.

1805 or 1806 A few years after the completion of his apprenticeship, Bartholomew set up as an independent engraver, although he continued to work for Lizars. After William Home Lizars (1788–1859) and his brother Daniel succeeded to the business on the death of their father in 1812, and moved to larger premises, Bartholomew widened his skills to take in map-engraving on both copper and steel plates.

1815 Bartholomew married. They had four sons and six daughters, of whom the eldest son, John [see below], was born in 1805, some ten years before the marriage. George continued to be listed in Edinburgh's trade directories as an independent engraver. He continued to work, on occasion, for his son John, and indeed outlived the latter by a decade. He died of cancer of the cheek in 1871.

c.1820 George's son John Bartholomew (1805–1861) was apprenticed to W. H. Lizars, where he developed his pictorial engraving skills. It is from this date that the family enterprise has traditionally taken its foundation. Bartholomew's work records demonstrate that he was probably trained in map-engraving by his father, by then Lizars's senior map-engraver.

1826 After completing his apprenticeship, John set up on his own as an engraver. Lizars continued to support him with orders for an increasing number of maps. His brother William (1819–1881) followed a similar training, and worked for his father and in the Ordnance Survey office before succumbing to mental illness. From the mid-1850s he was permanently resident in the Crichton Royal Institute in Dumfries, then in the late 1870s was transferred to the Royal Edinburgh Asylum.

1829 John Bartholomew married. They had five children, of whom John [see below] and Henry (1834–1899) became engravers; a daughter, Anne, survived him.

1831 John and Margaret's son John Bartholomew (1831–1893) was born. He was trained as a geographical draughtsman and engraver and spent two years with the noted German geographer Augustus Petermann in the London offices of Justus Perthes of Gotha. He travelled widely to obtain new work and introduced a programme of improvements, including the installation of lithographic printing, which brought considerable economies. On 5 July 1859 John married Annie (1836–1872), the daughter of John McGregor (1788–1863), a smith of Greenock. He moved into new premises in 1870 at 31 Chambers Street. Following his first wife's death, on 4 March 1874 he married Anne Cumming (1837–1908), the daughter of Primrose Nimmo, a master brassfounder of Edinburgh, and his wife, Anne Philip, who was related to George Philip, the founder of the Liverpool map makers, who in 1879 suggested the idea of a merger between the two companies. John rejected the idea, preferring to retain his independence and to continue working in his native Scotland.

1855 Three generations of Bartholomews — John, his father, and his sons — shared the work in premises at 59 York Place. John retired in 1859 and moved to Grangebank Cottage, Morningside, Edinburgh, where he died on 9 April 1861.

1859 John Bartholomew's first commercial premises were shared with the publishers Adam and Charles Black, and which had the advantage of a printing works in an adjacent building, Spottiswood House. He prepared many maps for Black's publications, including travel guidebooks and also the eighth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, in twenty-one volumes, which Adam Black had purchased from Constable in 1827. The close association between the two firms was to continue for more than forty years. John's work for Blacks and for atlases such as Lizars's Edinburgh Geographical General Atlas (1836) was of very high quality in the true tradition of Edinburgh engraving.

The latter half of the nineteenth century was a time of exploration and colonial expansion, and maps were in demand to illustrate and exploit the changes that were taking place. John Bartholomew benefited from these opportunities by receiving requests for large numbers of maps and many new atlases, many from Edinburgh or Scottish publishers such as Fullarton, Nelson, Chambers, and Collins. In addition to regular work, he undertook special commissions such as engraving medical and botanical illustrations and the map of Treasure Island for Robert Louis Stevenson's famous novel. New quarter-inch maps of Scotland (1862) and England and Wales (1866) produced for A. and C. Black were followed by a set of thirty regional maps of Scotland (1875–86) at the half-inch to 1 mile scale. Land relief was shown by hachuring, a shading of short lines to imitate shadow cast by slopes: however, John experimented with the new technique of showing relief by layer colouring, where each height layer is represented in a different colour, graduating from light green through increasing shades of brown to white for mountain tops. This system was used for their now famous half-inch to 1 mile Reduced Ordnance Maps of Scotland (1890–95) and England and Wales (1897–1903), which, with their subsequent editions, have become a trademark for Bartholomew.

John Bartholomew's elder son from his first marriage, John George Bartholomew (1860–1920), geographer and cartographer, was born in 1860, in Edinburgh.

c.1880 He started work at his father's firm, but in his early twenties he developed a severe tubercular condition, which, despite a recuperative eight-month sea voyage to Australia, troubled him throughout his life.

John George entered actively into the work of the business and perfected the intricate skills of map compilations and production under the guidance of his father. He saw through the press the first examples of contour layer coloured maps used for Baddeley's Lake District Guide in 1880, and showed a keen interest and sensitivity in developing the best colour gradations for the new half-inch maps. On his father's retirement John George, although only twenty-eight years old, took full control of the business.

1884 John George's interest in the development of the geographical sciences led him, with others, to found the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, of which he was honorary secretary until his death. He also compiled the detailed travellers' maps for the society's Scottish Geographical Magazine from its inception. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1887) and of the Royal Geographical Society of London (1888), receiving the latter institution's Victoria medal in 1905.

1889 In the year that he took control of the company, John George formed a partnership with the publisher Thomas Nelson, and they moved into their new premises in Park Road, adjacent to Holyrood Park.

1892 After Nelson's death, he took as his partner his cousin Andrew G. Scott (1861–1938), and in 1911 he realized his ambitious plan for purpose-built offices and printing works.

It was as a result of John George's flair and energy that the business prospered. The company changed from producing maps solely for specific customers to the status of a fully fledged publishing house with its own list. John George introduced new popular titles that were revised at frequent intervals over the following years. Print runs increased; the firm produced half a million plans of London for the 1897 jubilee celebrations for Newnes, 60,000 cycling maps, 225,000 timetable maps for the London and North West Railway, and 40,000 road maps for the Automobile Association, as well as a plethora of individual maps and diagrams for books and encyclopaedias, and ephemera such as circular maps for the pottery of McIntyre of Burslem.

John George was reserved and studious, and his insistence on accuracy and quality in all his work made him a strict and exacting employer. He was also a benevolent one, however, who organized recreational activities and an innovatory company profit-sharing scheme for his staff.

Throughout his life John George never lost his enthusiasm for accepting new challenges and furthering his interest in the geographical sciences. He enjoyed close acquaintance with many leading academics and travellers of the day, such as the explorers Sir Ernest Shackleton, Dr William Bruce, H. M. Stanley, and Cecil Rhodes. These friendships led him into collaboration with many of them to represent their work and discoveries in map form. To reflect the academic aspect of his work he gave his company premises the title of the Edinburgh Geographical Institute, the equal of the Perthes Geographical Institute in Gotha. The title proudly adorned the Palladian frontage of his new building, which had been taken from Falcon Hall in Morningside, where the family had lived from 1899 to 1907 before it was demolished.

1904 He was awarded the prestigious grand prix at the St Louis International Exhibition. He (unsuccessfully) championed the cause of a chair in geography at Edinburgh University

John George began working on The Times Survey Atlas of the World (1922), a very detailed portrayal of the world and Europe after the changes of the First World War, with a sequence of specially prepared thematic maps. He did not live to see it completed.

1920 Despite moving to the healthier hills around Sintra, Portugal, he died on 14 April 1920, and his remains were buried there. John George's eldest son, John [known as Ian] Bartholomew (1890–1962), who took over the firm on his father's death, was born in 1890. He was educated at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh and studied cartography at the universities of Leipzig and Paris before taking an MA at Edinburgh University. He succeeded to the management of the family business. Ian continued many of his father's cartographic ventures, notably the association with The Times, and began new ones, such as the production of road maps to satisfy the demand of an expanding motoring market. He took an interest in the whole spectrum of the business from technical and cartographical aspects, including improvements to inks and papers and the introduction of rotary offset printing machines, to the design of new map projections for the age of global air travel.

1921 He was appointed cartographer to King George V. Ian Bartholomew was very active in geographical circles, being a member of the permanent committee of geographical names from 1926, a member of the national committee on geography based at the Royal Society from 1941, and honorary secretary of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society from 1920, acting as president in 1950–54; he was also instrumental in establishing the chair in geography at the University of Edinburgh, completing a project his father had begun.

Following service in the Second World War, three of Ian's sons joined the firm: John Christopher (b. 1923) became cartographic director in 1953, Robert Gordon (b. 1927) was production director from 1954 to 1986, and Peter Hugh (1924–1987) became chairman in 1956. John assisted his father in editing the plates of the mid-century edition of The Times Atlas of the World to reflect post-war changes and was later responsible for a number of new specialist atlases, among them the Atlas of Europe (1974) and Family Atlas of the World (1983).

1980 The company was sold to the Reader's Digest Corporation.

1985 It passed to Rupert Murdoch's News International Corporation. It was then amalgamated with a sister News Corporation company, Harper Collins publishers in Glasgow, and continued to produce Bartholomew maps and atlases under the name Harper Collins Cartographic.

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