Dating Bartholomew's half-inch maps

This section is not specific to Essex maps, but rather applies to all UK antique maps.

The information for Bartholomew's maps below has been taken from two web sites (as at 28 October 2012; links open in new windows): (written by Ken Winch)
Green Lane Association

Bartholomew's started publishing Scottish individual folded half-inch series in 1875; the separate England & Wales series arrived in 1897, and a unified series for Great Britain in 1936.

The half-inch maps proved popular with the public: the scale gave more coverage for the "tourer" than the OS's one-inch. By 1914 the OS was publishing competing maps also at 1/2" scale, but this lasted only a few years.

Dating a Bartholomew Half-inch map can be problematic. In some cases it may only be possible to establish an approximate date of publication, by using other data on the sheet:

Dating & codes on the maps

Before 1911 no date was included on the map and one has to make an estimate from the information depicted, or possibly by the advertising on the map covers. In some cases a 4 digit job number is given, usually against the margin in the bottom left corner, which can be identified from Bartholomew company records now held by the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh.

From about 1911 until 1945 an abbreviated dating code was adopted using the last two digits of the publication year preceded by either an "A" or "B" indicating in which half of the year the map was produced, eg A14 indicating that the map was published in the first half of 1914. This code can usually be found against the margin at either the top or bottom left-hand corner or sometimes centrally in the bottom margin. From 1946 onwards the date of printing was normally shown at the bottom of the map.

Half inch to One Mile Series


1875-1886 Reduced Ordnance Maps of Scotland; Also: Bartholomew's Reduced Ordnance Survey of Scotland.
In 30 'District' sheets. Prepared and printed by J. Bartholomew for Adam & Charles Black.
Successively coloured by counties, coloured by counties with contours and contoured with layer colours, county boundaries and railways in red.

1890-1895 Bartholomew's Reduced Ordnance Survey of Scotland. (Cover title: Bartholomew's Reduced Ordnance Survey, Maps of Scotland for Tourists & Cyclists.)
In 29 sheets. With open borders and Latitude and longitude values.

1896-1926 Bartholomew's Reduced Ordnance Survey of Scotland, scale 2 miles to an inch. (Cover title: Bartholomew's New Reduced Survey for Tourists & Cyclists.)
In 29 sheets. With scale of miles for outer border. Earlier sheets in brown covers, later sheets c.1911 in blue covers.

1922-1927 Bartholomew's "Half-Inch to Mile" Map of Scotland. (Cover tile: Bartholomew's Revised Half-Inch to Mile for Motorists & Cyclists.)
In 29 sheets.

1921-1932 Bartholomew's "Half-Inch to Mile" Map of Scotland. (Cover title: Bartholomew's Revised "Half-Inch" contoured maps.)

1933-1937 Bartholomew's Revised Half-Inch Map. [Top left corner.] (Cover title: Bartholomew's Revised "Half-Inch" contoured maps.)

England & Wales

1897-1903 Bartholomew's Reduced Ordnance Survey of England & Wales, scale 2 miles to an inch. (Cover title: Bartholomew's Reduced Ordnance Survey for Tourists & Cyclists.)
With scale of miles for outer border. Maps included in Survey Atlas of England & Wales, 1903.]

1904-1920 Bartholomew's "Half-Inch to Mile" map of England & Wales. (Cover title: Bartholomew's New Reduced Survey for Tourists & Cyclists.) In 37 sheets. [Distinction between first class and secondary road (in red) for the first time.]

At this stage it is possible that the blue cover was used for cloth backed maps - which seem to have a better survival rate - and the brown cover used for paper versions. However, another theory is that ALL covers were brown, switching to all-blue c.1911.

On the turn-of-the-century maps, four (fewer later) yellow sheets were stuck to the back of map itself advertising other Bartholomew products, and also provide the key to sheet numbering. (Uncertain if these were present on pre-1900 maps.) Check the adverts, as there may be a clue like a mention of 'the King', so that would be post Queen Victoria (d.1901).

The Cyclists' Touring Club logo appears at the bottom of the map itself from c.1904, the last seen date for this so far is 1924. It is uncertain if there was any distinction between "good" and "inferior" roads in the key before 1904; it seems this information was added later as the Cycle club members fed it back to Bartholomews.

Bartholomews state the formal arrangement with CTC was from 1910-1928, but CTC's technical officer said that "up to 1975, the company was still corresponding and sending a free map to update." Do note, however, that, "Barts didn't seem to take much notice of the feedback supplied about their increasingly erroneous depiction of minor roads and tracks"!

Circa 1904, the key starts to show ten or eleven classifications of roads, plus foot/bridle paths.

The yellow advert sheets stuck on the sheet rear change to single blue ones sometime between 1917 - 1919.

The card covers themselves had changed in or before 1919 to separate cards stuck on front and back of the folded map, rather than the earlier "book" style which enveloped and protected the map when closed.

An area of concern to early cyclists and motorists were "dangerous hills" - those too steep for primitive brakes. Some rival publishers highlighted steep road sections, but Bartholomews, despite the CTC input, didn't. Perhaps Bartholomew's felt the contour system was more generally useful to users.

1924-1926 Bartholomew's "Half-Inch to Mile" map of England & Wales. (Cover title: Bartholomew's Revised Half-Inch to Mile for Motorists & Cyclists.) In 37 sheets.

Circa 1924 the cover wording changed, still with similar artwork, lasting until at least 1929. There were still brown and blue cover versions. The reference to the Cyclists' Touring Club has gone, including the roundel.

Ministry of Transport road numberings start to appear in 1922 (eg A314), and by 1929 that fact gets mentioned on the back cover.

Sheet name and number on the cover are usually printed on directly, no longer stuck-on labels. The single 'other-products' advert stuck on the rear of the map sheet is still blue.

The maps are now datable in two ways; top left corner by the sheet number is still the code eg A27. Close inspection of the magnetic deviation compass usually shows a date too.

1926-1936 Bartholomew's "Half-Inch to Mile" map of England & Wales. (Cover title: Bartholomew's Revised Half-Inch Contoured Maps.)

By 1930 the cover design was a bold and modernistic new style, featuring the Royal cipher and the words "Cartographers by appointment to the King". It would seem this style was introduced as early as 1921 on the Scottish series, while the English kept the old style for many years.

The shade of blue tends to vary considerably with age and format.

The Royal seal also started appearing at the bottom of the map itself from 1930, where the CTC roundel used to be. Maps from 1926 - 1930 carried neither.

Sheet date codes like B35 at top left persist, as does the date on the magnetic Deviation compass. There's an additional date appearing now, too, in the "Reduced by permission ..." text at the bottom.

The key is simplified to give road classification in eight categories, plus paths. Aerodromes now appear on the key.

Great Britain

1936-1943 Bartholomew's Revised Half-Inch Map. (Cover title: Bartholomew's Revised "Half-Inch" Contoured Maps.) [New numbering system and amended sheetlines in 62 sheets, in preparation for combining Scottish and English series. Old and intermediate (eg A9) numbering given on both map and covers.

The major 1936 change is the introduction of the Great Britain series - combining the England & Wales series with the Scotland series, leading to renumbering of all sheets, starting from A1 in Cornwall, via H3 for the Lakes to S29 for Zetland (Shetland Isles).

At the top of the front cover, maps carried both old designation (e.g Eng.28) and new (A.5). This odd alpha-prefix was phased out 1938 - 1940, but some maps were still being produced with the later sheet numbers on the cover and old-style index on the back.

Paper or card covers are both blue from around this time, paper maps usually having paper covers. The other-products advert stuck on the back of the sheet is now white.

1940-1963 Bartholomew's Revised Half-Inch Map, Great Britain. (Cover title: Bartholomew's Revised "Half-Inch" Contoured Maps.) [New, slightly amended sheetlines, covering the whole of Great Britain in 62 Sheets.]

By 1942 the cover had altered. The Royal cipher is rather clearer, and the wording underneath (in black rather than orange) is now "by appointment to the late King George V". This lasted until at least 1948.

By 1944 though, a more conventional sheet number scheme was used throughout, from 1 (Cornwall) to 62 (Shetland), with slightly amended sheetlines. The top of the cover carried both the new sheet number AND the oldest (non-alpha) for a while.

Some sheets change name also at various periods, eg sheet 29 in England & Wales = Berks & Wilts (1910) -> Berkshire (1935) -> Salisbury Plain (1940).

The sheet date codes (A46 etc) persist until 1946; the dates on the magnetic Deviation compass and Ordnance Survey acknowledgement seem to come and go throughout this period.

From 1946 on the date is clear in the OS acknowledgment.

For some reason, first appearing in 1951, the cover reverted to the previous 1930's design with the orange-only Royal cipher and words, but "...the late King..." text still of course.

In 1956 the number of road classes on the key simplified from eight to seven. By now just four classes of road are shown in the key, but Motorways must have started appearing in this period in addition.

1961-1974 Bartholomew's Revised Half-Inch Map, Great Britain. (Cover title: Bartholomew's Half-Inch Contoured Great Britain.)

In 1961 the cover had completely changed, to a bold red and white design, with a thumbnail map of the area covered. Still just four classes of road are shown in the key. No longer any "by appointment" endorsements. These later half-inchers also folded differently.

A similar style is also found in blue and white; the larger-lettered cover shown is later, date of changeover c.1965. This style lasted until metrication.

1975-1999 Bartholomew 1:100,000 Map of Britain. (Cover title: Bartholomew, National Map Series 1:100,000.) Photo-enlargement from 1:126,720 to 1:100,000.

By 1974 metrication at the Ordnance Survey resulted in Bartholomew's following suit with a new "National" series, scaled at 1:100,000. Six classes of road in the key. Now carries "By appointment to H.M. the Queen" on front cover.

In the 1980s sales of these maps dropped and only a few sheets covering certain popular tourist areas were revised and by the end of the 1990s the series finally became out of print.

Other clues for dating these maps

Edinburgh addresses - Usually given on map covers:

Road numbering was first added to sheets in 1922 following its introduction by the Ministry of Transport the previous year.

Cyclists Touring Club (CTC): Between c 1911 and 1928 an arrangement existed between Bartholomew and the CTC for their members to send in any revisions they found to the maps. This was acknowledged by their logo appearing in the lower border of each map - although the roundal appears from c.1904.

A Date on the Magnetic deviation was introduced from c.1920.

Table of prices at different periods:

Date Paper flat Paper folded Cloth folded Dissected & folded
1875 - 2/6 3/6 -
1890 - 1/- 2/- -
1898 - 1/- 2/- 2/6
1912 - 1/6 2/- 2/6
1918 - 1/6 2/6 3/-
1919 - 1/6 3/- 3/6
1920 - 1/6 3/- 4/-
1938 - 1/6 3/6 4/6
1942 - 2/6 4/- 5/6
1950 - 2/6 4/- 6/-
1952 2/6 3/- 6/- 9/-
1953 3/- 3/- 5/- 7/6
1957 3/- 3/- 5/- 10/-
1963 - 3/- 5/- 10/-
1968 - 4/- 6/- 12/6
1970 - 4/- (20p) 6/- (30p) 15/- (75p)
1971 - 6/- (30p) 8/- (40p) 20/- (£1)

From 1975 the price was no longer printed on covers.

The advertising sheets stuck in at the back varied:

c1900 four (or fewer) yellow sheets
c1917 one blue sheet
c1936 one white sheet

The firm's name changed in 1860 to "John Bartholomew & Son".

Bartholomew's Archives

Specific enquiries on Bartholomew maps can be directed to the Glasgow company office which holds a representative collection of Bartholomew maps and atlases and certain bibliographic records. The company archivist can be contacted at:

Tel: +44(0)141 306 3421 Email:
Address: HarperCollins Publishers (Collins Geo),Westerhill Road, Glasgow, G62 6HU, U.K.

In 1995 the company passed the majority of its archive to the map library at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. This now forms the Bartholomew Archive and contains a vast amount of material including: mapping, printing plates, company and printing records. The NLS map library can be contacted at:

Tel: +44(0)131 623 3970 Email:
Address: Map Collections, National Library of Scotland, Causewayside Building, 33 Salisbury Place, Edinburgh EH9 1SL, U.K.

Web resources

There are a few online resources regarding Bartholomew Half-Inch Map Series; all the links below will open in a new window.

David Archer Maps - Specialises in old Ordnance Survey maps, but also has Bartholomew Half-Inch series maps for sale.
National Library of Scotland, Map Library - Section on their website devoted to the series with many map sheets scanned.
Green Lane Association Ltd - information on dating the series.
R.P.A Smith Maps New and Old - Has a good selection of original Bartholomew mapping available for purchase.

Return to Dating Folding Maps page.

© Peter Walker 2013 - 2014