Home » Product » An Anciente Map of Fairie Land [This map by done by mye hande & finished on the daye of oure ladye MCMIX as a guide to alle children, olde and younge, whose belief is in the pleasant dreams of Faerieland ]

An Anciente Map of Fairie Land [This map by done by mye hande & finished on the daye of oure ladye MCMIX as a guide to alle children, olde and younge, whose belief is in the pleasant dreams of Faerieland ]

  • Author: SLEIGH, Bernard
  • Publisher: Whitwell Press, Plaistow, East London
  • Date: 1909
  • Dimensions: Sheet: 44.9 x 59.2 cms. Map: 41 x 55.6 cms


An Anciente Map of Fairie Land: virtually unknown 1909 precursor of Bernard Sleigh’s 1917 map of Fairyland. Of exceptional rarity.

About this piece:

Bernard Sleigh (artist) – Whitewell Press, Plaistow, East London (printers)


An Anciente Map of Fairie Land [This map by done by mye hande & finished on the daye of oure ladye MCMIX as a guide to alle children, olde and younge, whose belief is in the pleasant dreams of Faerieland ]

Sheet: 44.9 x 59.2 cms. Map: 41 x 55.6 cms. Lithographically printed map with hand colour, the paper laid on thin contemporary backing board and recto surface overlaid with thin layer of original varnish, the whole now slightly toned and browned, though attractively so and without any apparent detrimental effect to the overall condition of the map itself. A couple of very light and unobtrusive surface marks & abrasions to image. Some faint contemporary ink annotations to map and to upper blank margin, where Sleigh is mentioned as author of map, with his Birmingham address and the map’s retail price.

Of truly exceptional rarity.

This remarkable composition, the work of the eccentric Birmingham artist and illustrator, Bernard Sleigh [1872-1954], appears to be virtually unknown and almost completely unrecorded in current bibliographic reference sources.

An imaginary map of Fairyland, it was engraved & published some eight years before Sleigh’s far more famous and immensely popular panoramic map of the same subject, first published by Sidgwick and Jackson in December 1917.

It seems probable that it is this very map (rather than the later 1917 map) that Barbara Sleigh, Bernard Sleigh’s daughter, was describing when recounting her childhood recollections of her father in her autobiographical memoir, The Smell of Privet, pp.51-52:

Every day, after lunch, before he set off on his bicycle for the afternoon session at the Art School, he would read to the two of us. At first these stories were chosen for my brother, but I would sit on my father’s knee and listen to the flow of words with sleepy pleasure, whether I understood them or not…One wet holiday, my father drew a Map of Faeryland for us. On it were marked the sites of all our best-loved fairy-stories. There is Peter Pan’s House, and the palace of the Bell Dormante and the Bridge of Roc’s Eggs, and such succinct entries as “Here be bogles” and “Warlocks live here”. It has fascinated several generations of children.

Unlike Sleigh’s later panoramic bird’s eye map, this 1909 map is a more traditional two dimensional design. Taking the outline form of an Island, the would-be traveller journeys from the World, which is shown in the lower right corner, behind the encircling curtain of Rainbow Land. Negotiating the Dangerous Passage, dotted tracks lead along the Eastern shores of Fairyland, indicating potential landing places and havens for the would-be traveller. Notable havens include (for those who dare) the Witches Cemetery at the mouth of the Dragon River; the Harbour of Elfland, landing stage for the Good Folk; and Joy’s Haven, adjacent to Pixie Town. The map offers an encyclopaedic reference to popular myth, legend, folklore and fairy tale. Arthurian legend merges with Never Land and J M Barrie’s recently published Peter Pan. The Land of Nod sits adjacent to the fields of Avalon in the North of the Island. Several of the topographical features take on the same shape as their names suggest – so the Land of Nod takes on the features of a sleeping girl’s face; the Mermaid Caves the shape of a mermaid’s tail; Swan’s Neck Passage exactly as it’s name suggests, as also the Dragon River. The central section of Faerie Land is dissected by the greate wall…builded of stars by manie Elfin Emperours in dayes remote. Just to the north of the wall lie “the Golden Mountains, where is the vale of Paradise” and equally close by the hilltop bastion wherein lies the Sangrael (Holy Grail), closely guarded day and night.

To the South of the wall lie seemingly more sinister threatening regions inhabited by strange and wonderful creatures: dense unexplored witch-filled forests; mandrake groves, marshlands & shivering bogs; features include The Blackadder Lake; The Ogre Country; The Desert of Flame, inhabited by Fire Eaters; groups of horned children; the Leprecaun Dell; the kennels of slumbering Wish hounds; districts of serpents and caves of duelling underground Monsters; and nearby the lair of the Laidley Worm. On the western coast of the region, a track brings the unwary voyager into the harbour and landing place for Nightmare Land.  A compass spur lower centre offers scant assistance to the voyager, with the cardinal points for North marked North of nowhere; for West, East of the Sun and for East, West of the Moon. The waters around Faerie Land are labelled, in the north, The Sea of Dreams, in the East, The Enchanted Sea. They are filled with an assortment of mermaids, tritons, sirens, sea creatures & crowned fish, as well as Mother Cary’s Chickens. On the Northern coastline, from the Dock for Fairy Ships in Changeling Bay, the adventurer can travel northward across the waters on the great high road to the Moone’s Wonders, with the region of Moonland and its harbour clearly denoted, the bearded man in the Moon seemingly bent double under the weight of wooden kindling and branches collected on his back. A dotted track also lead outward from Changeling Bay to The World’s End via the Isles of the Seven Elves, also offering a divergent route to the Sea King’s Palace in the uppermost right corner of the map. A decorative cartouche upper right incorporates a key, which identifies King’s Seats, Hostelries, Elfin Shrines, Holy Wells, Fairie Temples and Roadways. A further cartouche lower left is decorated with Oberon’s shield supported by elves and below provides a distance scale, measured in Thoughts.

The inscription indicates that the map was produced on the “daye of our ladye”, Lady Day, The Feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, March 25th  1909, a date that would probably have held special symbolism and meaning for Sleigh. It further enhanced the medievalist echoes that he endorsed so actively in his other artistic work as an decorator of church interiors and stained glass designer so deeply influenced by the Arts and Craft and Pre-Raphaelite movements.

Almost all of the ideas, illustrations and topographical names & features shown in this map were later transferred and transposed by Sleigh to his more expansive and elaborate panoramic map of Fairyland published eight years later, in December 1917.

There are several additional ink annotations on the map itself, as well as the added track of a traveller journeying to the harbour of Moonland in the upper fringes of the map. The upper margin includes two additional annotations. The first in clear black ink reads : “To be obtained from B. Sleigh, 2 Ludgate Hill, Birmingham 5s/2d”. It is known that Sleigh was resident at this 2 Ludgate Hill address until late 1914/early 1915, as it appears on a promotional pamphlet that he issued with partner, Frank Kedward Sheldon, in 1915, where it is crossed out and replaced by and address at Selwyn House, Bristol Road, Birmingham. A second note in the same hand reads: “Mr Burrell will supply information in regard to this map”. It is possible that the latter may be Arthur Burrell MA [1859-1946], a graduate of Wadham College, Oxford and leading English scholar, educational reformer & advocate of school sports and athleticism. A former assistant master and head of the junior department at Bradford Grammar School, he later became Principal of Borough Road Training College, Isleworth 1902-1912.

Sleigh’s choice of the Whitwell Press as publishers of this map is particularly intriguing.

The Whitwell Press was founded in Balaam Street, Plaistow in London’s East End in 1901, alongside a watchmaking shop, both of which were artisan ventures operated by the Franciscan friars of the Society of the Divine Compassion (SDC). Their headquarters had been established in Plaistow in 1894 by the Society’s founder, the Rev and Hon J G Adderley [1861-1942], at that time forming a community of just two priests and one layman.

James Granville Adderley was the son of Charles Bowyer Adderley, 1st Baron Norton [1814-1905], a prominent Conservative politician elevated to a Barony in 1878. James had attended Eton & then proceeded to Christ Church College Oxford in the late 1870’s, where his theatrical interests & Christian Socialist principles had been honed and developed. After leaving Oxford in 1885 he became head of the Oxford House Settlement in Bethnal Green in London’s East End. Ordained in 1887 he then worked at the Christ Church Mission, Poplar [1888-1893] before founding the SDC in Plaistow in 1894.

Lord Norton’s seat and estate was at Hams Hall in the village of Saltley on the outskirts of Birmingham. In 1855 Norton established a small 8 acre plot of his estate as public parkland for the City of Birmingham which he initially operated privately and then leased to the City in 1865. Recognising the growing pressure of the urban expansion, Norton began to develop the lands in & around Saltley itself, with artisan terraced housing, an Anglican teaching college, and a parish church, St.Saviour’s, being constructed on Adderley estate lands.

It is known that Adderley had left the SDC in 1897 and subsequently became vicar of St. Mark’s Marylebone 1901-04. In 1904 he returned to Birmingham, where he took up the living originally provided by his father, the vicariate of St. Saviour’s, Saltley, serving also as chaplain of the adjacent Reformatory known as the Norton Boy’s Home. He served as vicar of Saltley until 1913 before moving to the poorer St.Gabriel’s Deritend (1913-18). He was also an Honorary Canon of Birmingham, 1913-18. An active writer and social & religious commentator, he later became Vicar of the actors’ church,  St. Paul’s, Covent Garden (1918-23) and then rector of St. Anne’s Highgate (1923-29) and St Edmund, King and Martyr, Lombard Street (1929-37).

His eldest brother Charles inherited the Norton Barony and Birmingham estates on their father’s death in 1905. Another brother Reginald (b.1857) was also an Anglican priest and Honorary Canon of Birmingham 1907-10. The lands of the Hams Hall Estate, excluding the house, were finally sold off in 1911 and in 1920 the house itself was also sold and its structure taken down and the original fabric & materials sold off.

The key feature of SDC’s missionary work had been its involvement in parish work in Plaistow, 1893-97. As well as its ministry of preaching through the local church of St. Philip, it believed strongly in maintaining close links with the local community through regular non-religious Sunday meetings, local workshops and its printing press. Its members often belonged to the same trade societies as the workers and artisans amongst whom they lived.

An East End workman is once supposed to have remarked after hearing Adderley preach: Well, e’s the rumest cove I ever did ‘ear in the pulpit, but ‘e knows wot ‘e says is true and let’s us know it to ! 

Much of the Whitwell Press’s printing work was of a religious nature. Amongst its most popular publications were a series of specially designed New Testament themed illustrated stamps with an accompanying Gospel Album to encourage regular weekly Sunday School attendance amongst young children, the stamps being issued each Sunday by the teachers according to the individual child’s record of attendance.

It seems probable that Sleigh’s connections with the Whitwell Press may have been made through personal links with Adderley and his family in the Saltley area of Birmingham. It is also probable that Sleigh’s work as a stained glass designer with the Bromsgrove Guild and Birmingham Guild of Artists and his notoriety as a skilled mural artist who had decorated several secular & Church interiors in the Birmingham area brought them into contact with each other.

Or the connection might equally have been made through three contemporary fellow artists and native East Enders, the Knowles brothers: Reginald [1879-1950], Charles [1876-1936] and Horace [1884-1954]. All three were born in Poplar and educated at the Craft School in Aldgate, in the City of London. Imbued by the influence of William Morris & Laurence Housman, Victorian fantasy and the Gothic Revival, Reginald worked closely with his brother Horace in the first decade of the 20th Century illustrating a number of exquisite children’s books, including Holme Lee’s Legends from Fairyland [1907], G W Dasent’s translation of Norse Fairy Tales [1910] and Old-World Love Stories [1913], a collection of medieval romances and legends including the 12th Century “Lays of Marie de France”. Given the focus of the Knowles brothers’ illustrative work, it seems equally possible that their paths would have crossed with that of fellow fantasy artist & fairy believer, Sleigh. This connection is further suggested by the fact that in 1911, Reginald Knowles was appointed Art Director of the Whitwell Press’s new high-quality religious journal, Ecclesia, to which his brother Charles also contributed frequent illustrations during its brief print life, until it ceased publication in about 1915. All three brothers subsequently found employment with the Carlton Studios during the rest of the War.

The Whitwell Press itself finally closed down in 1919, but two of its staff bought the presses and soon afterwards established the popular Plaistow Press. The SDC itself was dissolved in 1953 and its premises and work taken over by other English Franciscan brothers, who remain in Plaistow to this day.

We have been able to locate only one other example of this map in institutional collections around the World. It is listed on page 49 of a little-known 1918 Catalogue of the Birmingham Collection of Printed Books, Pamphlets, Manuscripts, Maps, Views and Portraits etc., as then preserved in the Reference Department of the City of Birmingham Public Library. It is catalogued as Item 233091:

[Sleigh, (B.) of Birmingham] “An Anciente Map of Faerie-Land” [A Sheet] fol. [1909].

Refs: A Catalogue of the Birmingham Collection including Printed Books, Pamphlets, Manuscripts, Maps, Views and Portraits etc. [Public Libraries Committee, Birmingham Public Library / Cornish Brothers Birmingham 1918],#233091 p.49; R W Sockman : The Revival of Conventual Life in the Church of England in the 19th Century [ W D Gray, NYC 1917], Chapter VI, pp 195-197; Knowles, Reginald Lionel [1879-1950], book designer and illustrator & Knowles, Horace John [1884-1954] by Alan Horne, in : DNB [OUP 2004] #69376 & #69377 [Knowles brothers] and #54554 [Adderley]; T P Stevens: Father Adderley [Werner & Laurie, 1943]