A new map is hot off our presses and it’s sure to make you see Bath in a whole new light. The Literary Map of Bath is a celebration of the city’s centuries-old literary heritage. It’s packed with addresses linked to literature’s well known – and lesser known – figures from the 18th to 20th centuries. From Jane Austen to Angela Carter, Bath has inspired countless authors over the years. Mark Matcham, who designed the map, and Philippa Lewis, who compiled the map for Persephone, its publisher, share all the details.

How did the idea for the map come about?

PL – We were in Persephone one day and Nicola Beauman, its Founder, said ‘there must be other writers in Bath besides Jane Austen. Why don’t you see if we can make a Literary Map of Bath?’. I set about compiling a list of writers, and that’s how we created the first edition of the map. The current version is the second edition.

What makes the Literary Map of Bath so special?

PL – The streets where all these people lived and worked have remained largely intact. It’s therefore remarkably easy to imagine their lives, the good and the bad, in Bath’s buildings and streets. You can really walk in the footsteps of the writers who called this great city home.

MM – We based the map on the Plan of the City and Borough of Bath and its Suburbs, 1852, by J.H. Cotterell. With such a lovely old map, you can look at it for hours, digesting every detail.

Why did you decide to use the Plan of the City and Borough of Bath and its Suburbs, as the basis for your map?

PL – I went to the Bath Record Office to find out more about which map to use, and they showed me the J.H. Cotterell map. It’s perfect, as the street names are clear and the centre of Bath has changed relatively little, so it was easy to place the writers on it. Although it’s over 150 years old, it’s easy to use as a navigational tool today.

How did you carry out research for the Literary Map of Bath?

PL – My first port of call was the Bath Bronze Plaques, commemorating famous figures who walked the city’s streets, including several authors. After this, I referred to the UK census to find more authors. I cross-checked these self-proclaimed writers with the British Library catalogue to find out if they’d published anything. Some left no trace of their writing behind – so I didn’t include them on the map – while others did. I turned to books, too. Historical memoirs mentioned local writers, who are obscure now but were prolific at the time.

Did you encounter any obstacles while researching the map?

PL – Yes – at least two of the bronze plaques are on the wrong buildings! We’ve noted this on the map so readers can find the right buildings.

What were the challenges of using such an old map?

MM – It was a challenge to make it good enough quality to print. It was also a challenge to get as much detail as we could into the scale we needed. The original map was a lot bigger than our version, so we had to crop it. We looked for the furthest points authors lived and cropped it there. That was a compromise we had to make, or the centre would have been too small. We also altered the background. The original background was sepia, but we decided to change our version to a black and white map, with red to mark information about the authors.

What did you enjoy most about designing the map?

MM – When the project landed on my desk, as a designer you think “yes please!”. It was great to revisit the project for the second edition too, to keep improving it. This edition has two more authors and a different fold.

bath literary map

How did you choose which authors would feature in the map?

PL – There are 18 bronze plaques for authors in Bath and most, but not all of them, are featured in the map. Of course, there were others too. In the 18th and early 19th century so many people came to stay in the city for a season or shorter, for healing spa waters, dancing, courting, gambling, or a whole host of other reasons. My criteria for inclusion were flexible, but I decided not to include authors whose connection to the city was fleeting. For example, there’s a plaque for Charles Dickens in Bath but he only stayed in a hotel here, so I didn’t include him.

Did you discover anything unexpected while creating the map?

PL – I noticed that Bath seems to have fostered families of writers, like Edith and Ellen Thompson who contributed an incredible 15,000 quotations to the Oxford English Dictionary in the 1880s. In some cases, the men of the family were praised as writers, but their wives and sisters were also writing away, and sometimes having their work attributed to men. The map features several such cases.

How is female creativity central to the map?

PL – The map’s publisher, Persephone Books, reprints out of print and ‘lost’ books that were largely written in the inter-war years by women. This focus on female creativity is also woven into the map. Most of the writers featured in the book are women. It seems to me that Bath has always been a safe and enjoyable place for women of certain means to live comfortably on their own, at least between the 18th and 20th centuries.

What do you think compelled women of this era to write?

PL – Writing could provide much-needed financial independence. At the time, women of a certain class secured a husband and security with a substantial dowry. An alternative was writing at home, which was viewed as an acceptable pastime. Writing was also a way of making a living for those scandalously separated from their husbands. And, of course, women found joy in writing too.

The Literary Map of Bath can be purchased for £5 and is available from Persephone Books at 8 Edgar Buildings, Bath or by emailing sales@persephonebooks.co.uk.

Dennis Maps is one of the leading map printers in the world, producing more than two million maps and charts every year. We offer comprehensive pre-press services, large format print solutions using both large format litho printing and large format digital print technologies, plus specialised map folding and map finishing techniques.

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