133. Martin Billing 1857


Martin Billing was an active publisher and printer in Birmingham who produced a number of county directories. It is believed that the first directory was that for the Counties of Berks and Oxon published in 1854 in which there is a reference to a Sheet Map although this is missing from the editions known.1 In 1857 he published M Billing's Directory and Gazetteer of the County of Devon from the Steam Printing Offices, Birmingham. The edition was compiled by John Hughes, who in his forward apologises for the delay that had unavoidably occurred, suggesting a start some few years earlier. The text includes the Exeter diocese officers up to 1856 (including Thomas Pickard, Dog Whipper) and there are advertisements with testimonials dated as late as May 30th 1857.

Although there is no actual mention of a map it is possible that one was sold separately to accompany the gazetteer as copies of a map of the county, published about this time are known. Billing published a Directory and Gazetteer of Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport, also in 1857, hence the assumption that the map was published in the same year. William White's History, Gazetteer and Directory of the County had first appeared in 1850 (with a map) and Billing possibly thought the time was ripe for a new edition. However, Billing never reprinted his work while White went on to produce a new edition 1878/79 with a map by Walker (116). Two copies of the Devon map by Billing have been discovered but both, sadly, are in extremely poor condition.

The publication includes as an appendix some 192 pages of advertisements. Although the last twenty pages are devoted to Birmingham advertisers, Billing or a representative must have visited Devon as the first 175 pages are all from local Devon firms. One company who purchased a half page advert was John Heydon, who published a map of Devon in 1872 (150).

Plymouth Library has a copy of M Billing’s Directory and Gazetteer of Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport, also of 1857. Presumably Billing was exploiting the county directory. The British Library has some engravings of furniture for grocer's shops, dated 1855, by Billing. Martin Billing & Co., of Livery Street became the official printers for the Great Western Railway and were active from circa 1895 to 1948. They produced handbills and timetables for a number of GWR stations. Billing Printers continued in business until the 1970s.

Size: 630 x 448 mm.                                                                                                                                            SCALE OF MILES (20 = 86 mm).

MARTIN BILLING'S MAP OF DEVONSHIRE Engraved and Printed at his Offices. LIVERY STREET, BIRMINGHAM. (Da). Line border with elaborate corners. The Plymouth arms and those of Exeter are both present (Be and De). There are two vignettes: Exeter Cathedral (Ba) and the Royal Hotel Theatre and Athenaeum Plymouth (Ce). The railway proceeds as far as Torre and the projected route to Dartmouth is shown. Folded and hard-backed.

1. 1857 Martin Billing's Map of Devonshire ...  
    Birmingham. M Billing. (1857).  (DevA), (Pl)2 .

[1] See Eugene Burden; 1988 (1991); p. 179.

[2] These are both in extremely poor condition and cannot be seen to have come from the gazetteer. Illustration courtesy of Devon Archives & Local Studies, Exeter - PM DEV/1860/BIL.