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Chester f. 173

Chester f. 173

Cartographer: Smith, William

Medium: Pencil and ink on paper

Date: 1585

Shelfmark: Harley MS 1046

Item number: f. 173

Genre: Plan

This Plan of Chester is by the cartographer and antiquarian William Smith. Smith was Rouge Dragon at the College of Heralds/College of Arms, an institution that specialised 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. The prominent coat of arms on this plan reveals Smiths heraldic interests. Chester is shown as a walled city, fortified by towers. Outside the city walls the horse market is shown, indicated by an outline drawing of a horse. The cardinal points are noted in the margins of the map and an alphabetical key provide information about the city.
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 plan of Chester, dating from 1585, is possibly a preparatory drawing for this work.
In the years 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 this time and competition proved too great, Speed being the victor.

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