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Chester f. 172

Chester f. 172

Cartographer: Smith, William

Medium: Pen and ink on paper

Date: 1585

Shelfmark: Harley MS 1046

Item number: f. 172

Genre: Plan

This view of Chester dates from 1585 and is the work of William Smith (c.1550 – 1618). William Smith, not to be confused with the 18th century William Smith “Father of English Geology”, was an antiquarian and Rouge Dragon at the College of Heralds/College of Arms. This was an institution that specialized in genealogical work, increasingly more so during the Elizabethan age as the gentry class rose in importance. The Rouge Dragon is the name of one of the Pursuivants, a heraldic officer attendant on the heralds, often attached to a particular nobleman, named so because of their badges.
In 1588 Smith completed "The Particuler Description of England. With the portratures of certaine of the cheiffest citties & townes". This work consisted of drawings of English cities and towns in a traditional bird's eye view style, and combination drawings amalgamating the bird's eye view and plan. This drawing of Chester, dating from 1585 is possibly a preparatory drawing for this work. It shows Chester as a walled city. The prominent coat of arms reveals Smith's heraldic interests.
In the year 1602-03 William Smith anonymously published maps of Chester, Essex, Hertfordshire Lancashire, Leicester, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Surrey, Warwickshire and Worcester. These were probably engraved in Amsterdam and were intended to form sheets of a new atlas. After the publication of Saxton’s county maps in the 1570s, cartographers attempted to improve on Saxton’s atlas and replicate its success. Unfortunately for Smith, another cartographer, John Speed, was also preparing county maps at that time and competition proved too great, Speed being the victor.

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