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Matrimonial Chart

  • Publisher: John Robertson & Walter Ballantine (t/a: Robertson & Ballantine)
  • Date: c1825
  • Dimensions: 12.2 x 9.1 cms


Scottish lithographers John Robertson & Walter Ballantine’s exceptionally rare early 19th Century Matrimonial chart

About this piece:

Matrimonial Chart

Lithograph on card. Hand coloured. Overall fine condition.

An exceptionally scarce and extremely uncommon matrimonial chart published by the Edinburgh lithographers, John Robertson and Walter Ballantine (of the Dumbartonshire gentry family of Ballantine of Shirva House, Kirkintilloch) trading in partnership, under the name Robertson & Ballantine, between 1823 and 1826, and possibly as late as 1828. During this period the pair operated from two adjacent addresses at Nos 20 & 18 Greenside Place, Edinburgh. John Robertson holds the particular distinction of almost certainly being the founder of the first lithographic printing business in Edinburgh and indeed in the whole of Scotland. His lithographic printing business is first noted in the Edinburgh Post Office Directory of 1820 at 13 South Union Place in Edinburgh. In 1821 Robertson undertook to utilise the lithographic process to engrave on stone fifteen of the thirty fine Views of Scenery in Perthshire by the celebrated artist, David Octavius Hill, the earliest lithographic views engraved in Scotland. Robertson also probably bears the honour of having engraved and printed the earliest available map printed in Scotland using the lithographic process, a map based on an 1821 survey by Robert Stevenson showing the proposed route of the railway from the Midlothian coalfields to the Rivers Tweed and Leeder. In conjunction with Ballantine he also achieved another notable first in persuading the famous wood engraver, Thomas Bewick, to have one of his drawings engraved on stone. In 1824 another notable achievement was the publication of the important series of 4 views entitled Scotland Delineata. Throughout this period of the mid 1820’s Robertson & Ballantine established themselves as important artistic printers publishing a variety of topographical views, portraits and maps using the lithographic process. It is known that the Robertson-Ballantine partnership was probably dissolved in the late 1820’s, with both men continuing to work independently in Edinburgh into the 1830’s, Ballantine from premises at 14 Leith Street Terrace. Walter Ballantine of Shirva is known to have died in about 1842 and an announcement in the London Gazette of Jan 3rd 1843 reveal that his estates were sequestrated by the Scottish Courts in December 1842 and arrangements made to appoint a factor and commissioners in order to reach settlement with his outstanding creditors.

The early 19th Century witnessed a massive upsurge in the printing of these small matrimonial maps, associated as they were with the rising popularity of the romantic novel and the rapid growth in literacy and mass printing. The innovative use of the new lithographic engraving and printing process, as utilised here by Edinburgh printers Robertson & Ballantine, offered a technological response to this growing interest. The early 19th Century also witnessed the emergence of the first truly national postal service as well as the increasing formalization of the St.Valentine’s Day celebration of February 14th. Both developments offered such matrimonial charts and maps increasing potential as accepted mediums of romantic communication, often anonymously so. Whether simple humorous squibs or more symbolic billets doux that formalized the social topography and etiquette of courtship and matrimony in middle and upper-class circles, such small maps were often exchanged between lovers & admirers and frequently incorporated as romantic keepsakes into private albums, journals and scrapbooks of the period.

This chart is unusual in its delineation of the Land of Matrimony as a T-Shaped promontory encircled by the Ocean of Love. Its principal settlements are Felicity Fort and the inland Temple of Hymen. Other features include the Cape of Good Hope , L’Amour River and lying directly offshore from Felicity Fort, the Scandal Shoal with its dangerous shifting sand. Upper left is the Land of Celibacy with its equally dangerous offshore hazard, the Rocks of Disappointment. To the South, coastal features include the promontory of Lovers Leap, the small Isle of Demur with its Cape Ceremony, the Dangerous Dianas covered in vapours, the isle of Sylla and adjacent Charibdis, Repulse Bay, Mount Caution with its nearby Lighthouse, the Gulf of Guinea and the Coast of Guinea with its principal settlement, Golden Harbour and the adjacent Temple of Fortune, the former denoted by an overflowing cornucopia. Features of several previous matrimonial maps are included, for example, the Privateers of Joseph Johnson’s 1772 map who roam the nearby waters off the Guinea Coast, near Coquette Isle & Syren Island in the southern waters of the Ocean of LoveTerra de Fuego, also featured as an Island on Johnson’s map also reappears, here described as Subject to Hurricans, and the southern branch of the T-shaped promontory of the Land of Matrimony, dominated by its Burning Mount. As the traveller progresses around the southern and south-eastern shores of the Ocean of Love, he passes Cape Prudence, the harbour of Single Town, the Impossible Straits, Repentance River, Despair Bay, Cape Farewell, Lake Infidelity, Snarl Promontory, Misery Bay, Cat & Dog Harbour, Reproach Creek,Hen-Peck Bay, Jealousy Rocks, Languish Island with its Suspicion Pt and Contention Straits, giving access to the Bay of Discontent. On the northeastern borders of the land of Matrimony, beyond the Lake of Indifference, are found the regions of Terra Deserta on the shores of the Frozen Sea and the bordering Land of Discord, a topographical allusion perhaps to the potential devastation resulting from a loveless life as a singleton or equally a loveless marriage of mutual disharmony and unhappiness.

This map very likely holds the honour of being the very first map of matrimony engraved and printed in Scotland using the lithographic printing process. A rare and perhaps unique survival from this important & significant firm of early Scottish lithographers.

It now resides in an important Scottish institutional map collection.

Refs: David H J Schenk : Directory of the lithographic printers of Scotland: 1820-1870 [NLS, Edinburgh Bibliographical Society, 1999], pp.98-100