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A Map of Man

  • Author: GARDINER, Henry
  • Publisher: GARDINER, Henry
  • Date: c1795
  • Dimensions: 75 x 65 cms (approx)


Exceptional late 18th Century “Map of Man”, an allegorical morality map printed on calico at Wandsworth works of Henry Gardiner

About this piece:

A Map of Man Allegorically displaying on each side the Rise and progress of the Human Mind and the effects of a good or bad Education & Example towards promoting our future Happiness or Misery in Life

Separately issued map printed in dark red/maroon on calico. Two or three small areas of surface thinning at corners and margins, some occasional soiling and one or two small marks & blemishes but overall a remarkably well-preserved example given both the age & medium.

Exceptionally rare, this beautifully printed map on calico cloth was designed & produced by the little-known late 18th Century Wandworth calico printer, Henry Gardiner [1744-1839]. It is a remarkable example of allegorical cartography that proffers moral guidance on an individual’s personal conduct & lifestyle and typifies a distinctive genre of map making that became especially popular in late 18th Century Britain.

Perhaps the most notable of such maps of this same period was John Wallis’ 1790 map delineating the allegorical travels of Christian as described in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, a book first published over a century earlier.

Like the Wallis map, this map provides the reader with a remarkable instructional allegory of the journey of life from cradle to grave, detailing a choice of “good” or “bad” life pathways that are inevitably determined by the moral rectitude, personal integrity and upright principles (or otherwise) of the individual concerned.

For those who might stray from the religious & moral “straight and narrow”, life’s progress is depicted as one of dangerous moral degeneration & decline, the outlined route passing through the ill-starred Lands of Desolation via the Gulph of Errors to the final Land of Punishment (Hell) upper left.

For the morally upright and well-principled, a more pleasant journey takes the traveller through the Land of Honour and Land of Promise to the final resting place, across the Stream of Eternity, into the Land of Immortality (Heaven), upper right.

On the left side all is Folly and Deceit – the figure of the Genius of Folly, wearing a Fool’s cap & adjacent to a peacock (symbol of vanity) – appears bottom left holding the hands of two potentially wayward children. The lines of verse below reads:

Ah Cruel, they, the Cruelest of their Kind / Who Innocence mislead in Folly’s Maze /No kind Paternal Hand to Guide their steps/ Thro’ Storms and Tempests of a Giddy World/ But Send them Floating down the Streams of Vice.

On the right all is Virtue and Truth. Standing almost in mirror image to the figures of the Genius of Folly and his young followers,the allegorical figures of Experience and Human Aid  stand in close attendance to guide the future life paths of two suitably virtuous & attentive young children

Further layers of complexity are added to the map’s design. A heart-shaped “Line of Life” encircles the whole central area, running like a river through both the lands of Folly and Virtue. Within it, at its very centre, the would-be life traveller has also to negotiate a spiral maze (this probably The Maze of Folly, to which the Genius of Folly appears to point with his left hand), its impressive gateway entitled the Grand Entrance of the Passions. Advancing into the Attributes of Vice, the honest & upright traveller is hopefully able to ignore the morally degrading passions that surface here, passing hastily onward to acquire the Attributes of Virtue that beckon in the spiral beyond, before at last reaching the Gate of Happiness. Passing through this hallowed portal and mounting the slippery onward path, the virtuous pilgrim finally reaches the central mountain-top Temple. Here the inscription reads: “Virtue and Fame conducts each prudent Youth / who steadily pursues the Paths of Truth”.

Around the edges, rhyming four line proverbs offer suitable religious and moral encouragement, whilst different ages (ten, twenty, forty, eighty) and progressive stages of life (infancy, youth manhood, age) are also highlighted.

This extremely rare survival was produced at the Wandsworth calico works of Henry Gardiner.

It seems probable that the above Henry Gardiner is the one and the same Henry Gardiner who married Ann Holmes in the church of St.Mary Le Bow, London on 20th Feb 1772. By the late 1770’s the couple appear to have moved to Wandsworth and started a family.

It is known that Henry Gardiner’s calico print works had opened on the banks of the River Wandle by the early 1790’s. According to Lysons [1792], it was  one of four calico printing works in Wandsworth at this time, being “a business of considerable extent” which employed “250 hands”, by far the biggest local business in this period.

This short 10 mile stretch of the River Wandle between Croydon and its confluence with the Thames at Wandsworth was considered to be one of the hardest worked rivers of its size anywhere in the World at this time, its waters providing the steam power and resources for innumerable factories and mills.

At some point in the 1780’s or 1790’s Gardiner leased from local landowners, the Earls Spencer, the newly-built imposing Georgian property known as Down Lodge on Merton Road (a building which still survives today as an attractive block of six flats, having been refurbished after many years as an abandoned & derelict wreck). The house had substantial grounds & ornamental lakes and directly overlooked Gardiner’s calico bleaching grounds along the banks of the Wandle. It was described by Scratcherd in 1800 as “the excellent new house of Henry Gardiner Esq”.

Part of the bleaching process for calico (cotton cloth) involved laying out the material on the river bank between a series of parallel water channels. Workers would then walk between the drying cloths, scooping water from the channels to drench them, the process of wetting and drying by direct sunlight causing the calico to gradually whiten.

The extent of Gardiner’s Estate and the distinctive grid pattern of some twenty bleaching ground water channels, carefully constructed beside a small tributary of the Wandle lying to the south of Wandsworth High Street, can be seen in a fine 1828 manuscript plan preserved in a fascinating collection of 18th and 19th Century surveys of Wandsworth estates & properties in the Althorp Papers in the Additional Manuscripts Collection of the British Library (BL: Add MS 78154).

It is interesting to note several examples of Gardiner’s calico productions in American institutional collections and to discover many of these are finely designed allegorical pieces dating from the post Revolutionary period and featuring the figures of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.

The early 1800’s witnessed the position of the traditional Wandsworth calico printer coming under increasing pressure from new steam powered machinery and chemical bleaching processes. Tastes in interior design & decoration were also changing such that by 1828, George Smith writing in his Cabinet Maker & Upholsterer’s Guide noted that printed calicos, whilst suitable for the interior furnishings of “secondary apartments or for those in houses of small fortunes”, were certainly “not at all suitable for those of persons of rank and splendid fortune”.

By 1815, Henry Gardiner was already in his late 60’s and had been widowed exactly five years earlier. As the father of several sons, none of whom appear to have held any desire to take on the business, Gardiner finally decided to retire. An advertisement for the sale or letting of his Wandsworth calico works with all its plant and buildings appeared in several editions of The Times in November 1815:

WANDSWORTH. – To be SOLD or LET, the valuable PLANT, and extensive BUILDINGS, IMPLEMENTS &c., of HENRY GARDINER, Calico Printer, retiring from business; comprising near an hundred copper plates, six copper plate presses, complete from 8,000 to 10,000 printing blocks, many large and small chintz, suitable for furnitures, a very large collection of waistcoats and handkerchiefs, &c. patterns; 17 printing tables and 14 pencilling tables, complete; a patent steam engine, with all the millwork complete; 4 madder coppers, worked by steam; sour and ash kettle; with any quantity of bleaching land that may be wanted; on lease for 29 years from Michaelmas last. To be viewed any day from 11 to 2 o’clock. A person will attend on the premises.

Dorian Gerhold confirms that Henry Gardiner’s calico works finally closed & ceased operations in the following year, 1816.

Located on the South wall of the nearby All Saints parish church on Wandsworth High Street, can be found the following memorial:

“Sacred to the memory of ANN, the wife of HENRY GARDINER of this parish, who departed this life November 11th 1810 aged 69 years. Also HENRY GARDINER died at Farnham in this county, July 15th 1839, aged 95 years, and was buried there.”

Henry Gardiner was interred in the churchyard of St.Andrew’s, Farnham, Surrey on July 23rd 1839. His death was also recorded in the Gentleman’s Magazine of August 1839.

We know of only one other surviving example of this extremely rare & remarkable map. We were fortunate to also own that example as well several years ago. It can now be found in one of the UK’s foremost institutional Map collections.

Refs: Barron Maps Blog – May 2015