125. Rock & Co. 1851


Although vignettes had appeared on a number of earlier maps, only very few vignettes were engraved on county maps during Victoria’s reign. Martin Billing’s large map had two full engravings of Plymouth buildings and Pattison’s cyclists’ map, published towards the end of the century, had advertising vignettes around the Devon map. One unusual map with vignettes illustrating towns was that published by Rock & Co. of London. Two brothers, William1 and Henry Rock, formed a London company in 1834 to produce line engravings, topographical bookplates depicting places in England and Christmas cards which continued very successfully until the end of the century.2 Rock & Co is known to have produced other cartographic work, e.g. a map of London for James Reynolds in 1860.

Towards the middle of the century they produced a series of small specialised maps. To date only five county maps including Devon have been discovered. While three of the other counties have only been found folded and inserted into hard covers3, Devon (and also Lincoln4) is also known as a plain single sheet suggesting that it may have been designed for a work on the county. Miniature illustrations were used by Rock for a number of other maps: a map of England and Wales (known in three states); two different maps of London (one of these is extant in three states); and two different maps of Brighton. The first of these uses the small roundels; the London and Brighton maps take popular buildings and show them from a “bird´s eye view” angle.

The Devon map has a total of 19 circular mini-vignettes (c.8 mm) engraved within the map detail at important Devon towns. The signature is difficult to read but may be Stevenson Sc. The railway to Exeter and Plymouth with the Tiverton branch line is shown. This was completed c.1848. The line to Torre (Torquay) was completed about the same time but is not shown. However, the line from Exeter as far as Crediton is illustrated; this was opened in 1851 with the extension to Barnstaple not being completed until 1854.

William Rock was born in Barnstaple 29th January, 1802, but moved to London where he later established his successful publishing business. He kept his attachment to north Devon as evidenced by endowments, the establishment of the North Devon Athenaeum and, not least, by the large number of views his company produced of the westcountry. Between 1848 and 1876 Rock & Co. published at least 260 views of Devonshire (out of some 7000 produced by the firm)5. They also produced engravings for the Hand-Book To South Devon by William Wood (129A). The 1st and 2nd6 editions have a number of delightful engravings (engraved area approx. 7 x 10 cm) some of which are dated, e.g. the engraving of Sidmouth executed by E M Underdown which is dated Sept 20th 1849 or Exmouth dated Feby 10th 1850.

William Rock was joined by his younger brothers, Henry and Richard, and later by either his brother-in-law or his son-in-law, John Payne who married Prudence Rock. The company signed most of their prints as Rock & Co., although Rock Brothers or Rock Bros & Payne are found on title pages. One map is known with imprint of Rock and Byre. William died in 1890.7

Size: 185 x 245 mm.                                                                                                                                                Scale of Miles (20 = 50 mm).

DEVONSHIRE (Ed). Signature: Rock & Co. London.  (AeOS). Signature: Stevenson Sc (?). Railways to Exeter, Plymouth, Tiverton and Crediton. Graticuled border broken for north coast and Prawle Point.

1. 1851   a) Loose sheet (black and white)        (DEI).
    b) Folding into covers. Wash colouring. KB.

[1] William Rock was recorded at 5 Cumberland Row, Walworth, Newington as printer in 1844. W B Todd; 1972.

[2] B Adams; London Illustrated; London; 1983.

[3] The other counties are Derby (Derby RL and was published by Rock Brothers & Byre), Kent (two copies in varying covers; both collection of TB), Lincoln (see below) and Sussex (private collection).

[4] The map of Lincolnshire is also known in two states: the first is dated 1850 and was issued in a cover (CUL and Grimsby); the second state is found in a book on agriculture, A Farming Tour, Or Hand Book On The Farming of Lincolnshire, by A Lindsey Yeoman and sold by Simpkin, Marshall And Co. 1854 (e.g. at BL, Bod.). See R A Carroll; 1996; p. 298.

[5] Somers Cocks; 1977; p. 9.

[6] This is identical to the 1st edition but has a label pasted on cover.

[7] I am grateful to Tony Burgess for allowing me access to his notes and to information communicated to him by Ralph Hyde, formerly of the Guildhall Library, London.