A new find:


Anthony Hill


A belated Christmas present arrived at our Canberra home a few months ago, in the form of an 1832 Map of the World signed by Admiral Isaac Manley – who sailed when a boy with Captain Cook on the famous Endeavour voyage as the Master's servant, until promoted midshipman on the homeward leg: his first foothold on the ladder to success in the Royal Navy.

He's also the subject of my 2006 historical novel Captain Cook's Apprentice. When word came through in an email from an English dealer last December that he had the map for sale – and that the price was within our reach – I naturally bought it. Which author wouldn't?

Of course, as a member of the CCS, it's nice to have such a map signed by the last survivor of the Endeavour crew. Isaac wasn't the youngest member of the company: Nick Young, aged about 11 when they left Plymouth in 1768, was some two years his junior. But Isaac was the last of them to die ... in 1837 at the age of 82, an Admiral of the Red and a substantial Oxfordshire gentleman in his estate known as Braziers.

And as an Australian, who could resist having a map signed by a man who was on board the ship when the eastern coastline of our country and the two main islands of New Zealand, were being laid down on a European chart for the first time, and with an extraordinary degree of accuracy. After Cook, Terra Australis was no longer Incognita.

During the research for my book I’ve seen Isaac’s signature on several documents at the UK National Archives, and I’ve no doubt this is his authentic hand. Indeed, I stayed for three nights at Braziers, with its lovely Strawberry Hill “Gothick” front, built by Isaac and his wife soon after they married in 1791.

Well, the Christmas parcel arrived ... was opened with expectant fingers ... and I have to say that Admiral Manley's map does not disappoint.

The map itself is printed in black on a single sheet of paper, mounted on linen, measuring 18½ x 11¾ inches (47.2 x 30 cm) plus a half inch (1.8 cm) margin, the principal countries outlined in hand-painted watercolours.

It is based on a Large Chart by John Purdy (c.1773-1843) engraved by George Wigzell senior (c.1753-1833), and has been folded to open like the pages of a small book between board covers measuring 3⅝x 5 inches (9.3 x 12.5 cm) titled Laurie's Map of the World in Mercator's Projection.

The cloth spine that once held the front and backboards together has frayed and is missing, but the map is otherwise in very good condition. On conservation advice therefore I've decided not to replace the spine but to leave the map, from a collector's point of view, "as found." All the important things are there, however.

First published by R.H. Laurie of 53 Fleet Street London on 15 October 1831, this edition states that it contains "Additions etc., to 1832." As such, of course, it has all the fascination that an old map has from a time when human knowledge of the world's geography was still incomplete (inasmuch as it is ever complete), and with 180 years of political history between then and now yet to be played out.

Alaska, for example, is still marked "Russian America", as Mexico extends into California and what is now Texas and the south-western United States. India is shown as "Hindoostan", with individual areas marked Mysore, Assam, Guzerat, "Birman Emp." and so on.

The Hawaiian archipelago is still shown as the Sandwich Islands, as Cook named them. Australia is divided into New Holland to the west, and New South Wales as Cook had called the entire eastern seaboard – though the continent as a whole bears the name "Australia" suggested by Matthew Flinders.

Tasmania still appears as Van Diemen's Land – and would for another 20 years or more until the geographers and politicians sought to eradicate memories of that notorious penal colony by changing the name.

Sydney (on Cook's Port Jackson), together with Botany Bay, Hobart, Launceston and Swan River (Perth) are marked. But Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane and have not yet been established as settlements ... nor have Wellington and Auckland in New Zealand.

Moreover, knowledge of both the Arctic and Antarctic regions was still very limited at this date.

Mere points and faint squiggly lines, like worm casts, labelled Palmer's Land, Sandwich Land or Southern Thule, suggest the presence of the great southern continent for which navigators had been searching from Magellan to Cook, buried under ice and snow and essentially uninhabitable to humankind as Cook had suggested.

And the lands of the "Arctic Icy Ocean" as the map calls it, while better known, remain uncertain. This was, after all, the period of the search for the north-west passage – then inaccessible because of ice as Cook discovered on his third voyage, but now apparently sometimes open in this age of warmer temperatures.

Thus, while the map uses Mercator's projection, Greenland is not depicted as a separate island. Rather it has a coastline extending above much of northern Canada. Today, it is known that these lands are in fact a series of large and small islands ... Baffin, Victoria, the Queen Elizabeth Islands, and so on (though Baffin Bay itself is shown).

But then, it is this distinction between what was once thought ... what is now known ... and what might yet be discovered that lies at the heart of one's fascination with old maps and, through them, to perceive the whole vast quest to expand human understanding.

In this respect, therefore, an hour spent examining Admiral Isaac Manley’s map is, for me, another wonderful voyage of exploration in itself. What has been just as enchanting for me is the discovery of the story behind the family to whom he gave it.

As mentioned, Laurie’s 1832Map of the World has been folded between small grey board covers so that it opens like a book. On a blue endpaper attached to the front cover, Isaac – then aged 79 – has written with his pen in a firm hand: Admiral Manley, To His young friend Geo. Martin [sic]Gorham, 1834, June 5, Braziers, Oxon.

On the reverse linen sheet has been written with pencil, possibly in George’s mature hand, the information that Isaac’s monument at Checkendon church states that he sailed with Captain Cook on his first voyage around the world.

Now, George Martyn Gorham was only a boy when Isaac gave him the map. Indeed it was likely a birthday present, for George turned six just over a fortnight after receiving the gift. It’s not quite clear how the families knew each other; but his father, Rev George Cornelius Gorham, was then a curate at Maidenhead, not too far from Braziers near Checkendon, and they may have met in the neighbourhood.

Gorham had earlier been a curate at Clapham in Surrey, during the later years of the influential “Clapham Sect” of evangelical Anglicans, whose members included William Wilberforce, leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade.

Here George Martyn was born in 1828, the eldest of three sons and three daughters. Educated at Repton School in Derbyshire, he followed his father to Cambridge; and with similar theological opinions and scholarly interests – for he, too, published several books – he also entered the Church.

Unlike his father, however, George Martyn’s career was a relatively placid one. For in 1847, just as his son was matriculating, the elder Gorham’s name was flung into public controversy when the Bishop of Exeter refused to install him as vicar of Bramford Speke in Devon because of his views on the doctrine of infant baptism.

It developed into a bitter contest between evangelicals and high-churchmen that went all the way to the Privy Council which, in 1850, found in the vicar’s favour. The ‘Gorham Judgment’, that his opinion could be held alongside others in the Church, was of historic consequence – though the old man continued to suffer ecclesiastical friction until he died in 1857 at the age of 70.

George Martyn, by then, had only just entered his own ministry. In 1855 he’d married Mary Anne Holmes, five years his senior, and was appointed vicar of Walkeringham, Nottinghamshire, where their four children were born: Alfred in 1856, Mary 1860, Charles 1861 and Edith in September 1864.

Interestingly, the census records for the period show that Charles and Edith, the two youngest children, were both born deaf and dumb. Yet it was evidently a household of strong liberal principle. At a time when children with such disabilities were often shut away at home if not institutionalised, both were given a careful education – and went on to lead fine careers in the arts and public life.

Charles in fact became a draughtsman, a lithographic artist, was Honorary Secretary of the British Deaf and Dumb Association, and founder and editor of The Deaf and Dumb Times.

The proof of George Martyn’s progressive outlook with his children is to be found in Admiral Isaac Manley’s map. It was obviously important to Gorham, for he carried it for 40 years from childhood into middle age. The missing spine (but well-preserved page) suggests the attentive use it received in his study. And it was significant in the education that George gave his youngest child.

Two weeks before Edith’s twelfth birthday, when the family had moved to a new parish at Masham in Yorkshire, George took his pen and wrote on the blue endpaper, opposite Admiral Manley’s inscription to his “young friend”: Very old Vicar G.M. Gorham, to his young daughter Edith Gorham. 1876 August 31. Masham.

Here is a father not only passing on a youthful treasure to his loved daughter … but also opening the world to her and not allowing Edith’s afflictions to stand in the way.

Indeed, she grew up to become an artist, and by 1901 at the latest was settled at the town of Bushey in Hertfordshire, studying under the painter Sir Hubert von Herkomer at his celebrated art school with her life-long companion and fellow artist Elsie Higgins. Both women successfully exhibited their pictures.

Edith’s portrait of Rev Canon Carver was hung at the Royal Academy’s 1907 exhibition. And Elsie’s portraits, miniatures and landscapes were shown between 1895 and 1916, including 11 times at the Royal Academy. A photo and report on her work appears in The English Illustrated Magazine of September 1907 “Some Lady Artists of Today” – and a figure painting A May Morning at the Plymouth Museum and Art Gallery can be viewed online.

 Elsie also painted a miniature portrait of her friend Edith Gorham … it was exhibited in 1905, but alas I don’t know where it is today. If only I did!

George Martyn Gorham seems to have been as compassionate to his congregations as he was to his children. As vicar of Walkeringham he organised adult education classes, clothing and shoe clubs, and began a savings bank for parishioners when a nearby bank failed.

He moved to Masham in 1874, where he died a widower after almost three decades of ministry in 1904. An obituary in the Parish Magazine that April stated that that his affection for the parish and its people “was far deeper and more heartfelt than could be understood by any who were not intimately acquainted with his reserved and sensitive nature.”

George Martyn left a considerable estate of £12,871 divided between his four children – Alfred, then a barrister; Mary, who remained at home to look after her parents; Charles and Edith. Each of them received specific bequests of books, plate and furniture, and shared equally in the balance of the property when it was sold.

Edith, for example, received a large squab chair, a small rosewood table, a silver toast rack with her grandfather’s crest, all “antique and curious china” in the house, a black marble clock, six pictures of her choice (after those selected by her sister Mary), a Bible with red edges and gilt rim, and various other books including two small volumes of Hogarth’s prints.

They no doubt made life even more comfortable at Bushey, where Edith and Elsie Higgins shared a house on Merry Mount for more than 40 years, until Edith died at the age of 66 in June of 1941. She left an estate of £5418, which passed to her friend Elsie, until Miss Higgins herself died in 1953.

It is impossible to say whether Admiral Isaac Manley’s Map of the World formed part of their household. I am seeking copies of Edith and Elsie’s wills to see if they say anything about the map in the disposition of their estates.

But it would be nice to think that this fine map given by Admiral Manley to the young George Martyn Gorham and passed in turn to his deaf and dumb daughter Edith, continued to be valued by her over the years – and that it is through the friendship of two women artists that it has at length passed into my care.

Where it will certainly be treasured for all the time it is in my stewardship.


•I thank the kind assistance received from Thomas Meryon; Tessa Debeljakovic of the National Library of Australia; the Royal Academy; Nottinghamshire Archives; Christine Greensit and the Masham Local History Group.