126. J & C Walker / Charles Knight 1852


Charles Knight (1791-1873), author and publisher, was the son of Charles Knight, bookseller and Mayor of Windsor. In 1812, having been a local reporter, he joined his father as proprietor of the Windsor & Eton Express. By 1814 he had become interested in popular instruction to bring all kinds of knowledge, mixed with lighter matter, within the reach of the poorest; this led him in 1828 to agree to superintend the publications of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (S.D.U.K.),  which had just been formed by Henry Brougham, Rowland Hill and ‘the leading statesmen, lawyers and philanthropists of the day’. In the next year he became the Society’s publisher, a post he held until the Society closed in 1846.

He, with other publishers, served on the committee of  the Association for the Abolition of Duty on Paper. In 1836 the tax of 3d per pound was halved and in 1860 it was abolished.1 In 1840 he produced the first English colour-printed atlas using the relief process he had patented in 1838.2 A difficult process it was soon superceded by chromo-lithography. He was most a noted publisher of a number of magazines designed to impart knowledge: Plain Englishman 1820-22, Knight’s Quarterly 1823-4, the Penny Magazine 1832-45, which in its first year sold over 200,000 copies, and the Penny Cyclopaedia 1833-44. After the Society ended he continued in the same vein with, amongst many others, the English Cyclopaedia 1853-61.

As a map publisher Knight, like many others, borrowed from the Ordnance Survey. In 1830 Baldwin and Cradock published maps for the SDUK3, by J & C Walker. These were acquired by Knight and used in his Imperial Cyclopaedia, either issued in weekly parts or in 16 parts, completed in 1853.

Knight was an author, editor and publisher, even publishing some of Henry De la Beche’s works (118) as early as 1834. He compiled a Popular History of England which became, in abridged form, a best-selling school book. He was also an inventor and dreamer: his proposal to collect the newpaper duty by means of a stamped wrapper is said to have given Rowland Hill the idea of the penny post.

Size: 210 x 160 mm.                                                                                         Statute Miles 69,1  =  One Degree (5 + 25 = 64 mm).

DEVONSHIRE (Ee). Imprint: London, Charles Knight. 90, Fleet Street. (CeOS). Small inset map of Lundy Island (Aa) with double line border. Railways to Tiverton, Crediton, Tor Quay and Devonport.


1. 1852  The Imperial Cyclopaedia. Cyclopaedia of Geography.  (DEI), (KB).
    London. Charles Knight. (18524).        BL.
2.  1852   Imprint deleted. The map has been realigned: the right hand border moved slightly with Axminster inside the border; Wambrook and Membury in Somersetare shown and St.(Keyne) is clear on the left hand border. The Lundy inset is slightly repositioned and now has a single line border. Border lower vertically, thus omitting most of Wales. Title and scale bar redrawn: the title now aligns with Start and scale bar is lengthened at both ends (10 + 30 = 85 mm). (KB).
    The Imperial Cyclopaedia. Cyclopaedia of Geography  
    London. Charles Knight. (1852).    B.

[1] David Smith; 1985; p. 30.

[2] Others were experimenting in colour about the same time. William Hughes, in his Journey-Book of England, printed only Berks, Derby and Hants in colour (Kent is sometimes found hand coloured). Burden; 1988 (1991); p. 166.

[3] Sheet ENGLAND IV (260 x 380 mm) depicts everything west of Salisbury and south of Bridgend. It has the imprint: Published by Baldwin and Cradock 47 Paternoster Row June 15th 1830 and the Walkers' signature  (EeOS). Surprisingly the map was copied and reprinted. Later versions show everything west of St Albans Head and as far north as Caermarthen (315 x 385 mm). Copies of this are imprinted: Published by Charles Knight & Co. Novr, 1845. Sheet ENGLAND No. 6. Both maps were produced Under the Superintendence of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

[4] Both maps could have been printed earlier. Although both prefaces are dated (June 23) 1852 this is possibly when parts were collected and bound. The title pages have no date - the BL copy has a second title page: The Cyclopaedia of The British Empire. It has not been clearly established which copy is the earlier. Two additional states of Berkshire have been noted; one with the imprint revised by deleting London.