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Oxford in Epitome.

  • Author: Joseph Vincent
  • Engraver: Neele & Sons, 352 Strand
  • Date: 1819-32
  • Dimensions: Map: 22.4 x 21.7 cms. Letterpress key: 23.6 x 16.5 cms. Separately cut title to key: 10.8 x 1.2 cms.


Oxford bookseller Joseph Vincent’s unusual imaginary map charting the topography of early 19th Century University life

About this piece:

Oxford in Epitome.

Upper map sheet with Latin surtitle : Fit ut omnis Votivâ pateat veluti descripta tabellâ Vita. Title below map : OXFORD IN EPITOME. Additional imprints: [L c] Published March 15 1819 by J Vincent near Brasen Nose College. [L r] Neele & Sons sc. 352 Strand. Separately printed Letterpress key sheet below (23.6 x 16.5 cms) with separately cut title (10.8 x 1.2 cms) above: KEY TO OXFORD IN EPITOME. All three cut & trimmed, the map sheet just within plate mark, and all pasted as one onto original early 19th Century album leaf (approx. 26 x 42 cms), inscribed in contemporary ink hand at lower right edge, “G Mussgrave, B N C, fecit”. Three small black and white engravings of children at play remain adhered to back of album leaf. Uncoloured. Overall fine condition, given the unusual format of this map, for which the accompanying key is often lacking.

A most unusual and scarce imaginary delineation of Oxford University academic life in the early 19th Century. The map’s original designer is unknown though it was first published in 1819 by the long-lived Oxford bookseller and publisher, Joseph Dyett Vincent [1796-1874], from premises in St.Mary’s Passage or Entry, a small alleyway running between Brasenose College and the University Church of St.Mary the Virgin, close to Oxford’s High Street. Joseph married Louisa Allder [b.1799] in Oxford in January 1818 and they had eight children, six sons and two daughters. In 1842 Vincent rented new premises, leased from Christ Church College, at No.90 High Street, a fine bow-fronted shop with residence above. It was later to become for a short time the home of the Oxford Union and also the headquarters of the famous Vincent’s Club, first founded here in 1863 in rented rooms above the shop.

The Vincents were a long-established Oxford family. Joseph’s father has been identified as Aaron Vincent (b. c.1771). The Oxford Journal of January 1st 1825 records the death on Monday December 27th 1824, after a short but painful illness, at the age of 54, of Mr. Aaron Vincent, for twenty five years butler at Exeter College, “who had throughout discharged his trust with a truly Christian spirit of integrity and fidelity in the Society in which he thus served”. Aaron had married Anne Goodenough in about 1795 and they had had three children. Eldest son, Cyril Goodenough Vincent [1796-1873] was admitted as a chorister to Magdalen College Chapel in 1802. His name was recorded in the University Matriculation Register as “bibliopola” (bookseller) on 19th April 1815 at the age of about 19, a privilege which allowed him to operate as a bookseller within the City of Oxford. This suggests that Cyril probably established the Vincent bookselling business, very likely in partnership with his brother Joseph at about this time. Details relating to the notorious 1808 case of Charles Shipley, Fellow of All Souls, who was accused of molesting a young messenger & delivery boy working for the Oxford bookseller, Henry Parker, reveal that Cyril Vincent’s testimony was used in the subsequent private inquiry into Shipley by the Governing Body of All Souls, after a heavily packed public trial had found him not-guilty of the charges. In their own trial, the All Souls Governing Body proceeded to find Shipley guilty and his Fellowship was withdrawn. It appears that at this time Cyril Vincent was also working as a book carrier and messenger for a rival Oxford bookseller, Mr. Joshua Cooke, former apprentice and successor to Daniel Price, the University Publisher, who had premises at No 28 Broad Street (present-day Clarendon House).  It seems probable Joseph followed similar initial steps into the world of Oxford book selling. We certainly know that in October 1818, the London music seller G. Walker of Great Portland Street advertises in Jackson’s Oxford Journal the fact that J Vincent, Bookseller of Oxford is now agent for the sale of his publications & printed music. Described in the Probate records of 1874 as a Gentleman, formerly of the City of Oxford, Cyril died unmarried in Jan 1873 at Littlemore Lunatic Asylum near Oxford. Joseph was the second son and their third son was John Samuel Vincent [1807-1874], a well-known Oxford boot maker who had premises at 120 High Street between about 1829 & the late 1850’s. He married Selina Drury, a lady thirty years his junior, in the Wirral in Summer 1861 after which he subsequently retired to Reading, Berkshire with his new young wife & where their daughter Selina was born in 1862.

Joseph’s own youngest son Joseph Jnr [b.1839] died at a young age in Oxford in 1852. His eldest daughter Louisa married Joseph Webster and moved to Golcar, Yorkshire, where she died in her early 30’s in 1855, leaving two young children. Another son, Cyril John [1830-1861], qualified as a surgeon in April 1853, and was presented with a special testimonial scroll by the Rector, Churchwardens & Guardians of St.Clement’s in acknowledgement of “his unremitting energy and attention as well (for) the skill and humanity displayed by him in the discharge of his professional services” during the cholera outbreak in that part of the City in early 1855. Married in 1858, he sadly also died in 1861, leaving a widow Emily (née Ramsay, daughter of Thomas Ramsay of New York) and young family. Emily appears to have helped in the Vincent business and she and her children are listed as residing with Joseph in Oxford in the Censuses of 1861 & 1871. After Joseph’s retirement, the business was continued by his eldest son, William Allder Vincent [1818-1899], who had witnessed his own book selling & stationery venture in Wolverhampton go bankrupt in 1856. William Allder then appears to have moved with his wife & family to Birmingham & King’s Norton before returning to Oxford and the premises at 90 High Street by the time of the 1881 Census. Several of Joseph’s family were to remain involved in the book, printing and newspaper business (as publishers of The Oxford University & City Herald) until well into the 20th Century, with two of William Allder’s sons, Cyril Mossom Vincent and Frederick Ferris Vincent, serving as Mayors of the City of Oxford in 1915 and 1921 respectively.

The map itself was advertised in the Monthly lists of Publications in The British Critic,11-12 [1819], as : Oxford in Epitome. Being a new Chart, exemplifying, from the latest Survey, all the Routes generally pursued in Vita Academica. 1s 6d.

A second edition, published in 1832, is listed in a catalogue of J Vincent’s assorted publications from that date, amongst numerous books on the Classics, Theology & Divinity, Ethics, Anatomy, Rhetoric, Logic and Chronological Tables. It is described as : Oxford in Epitome, with a Key, second edition, price 1s 6d.

In essence the map takes the form of an imaginary Ocean, bordered along its northern shores by the Land of Sheepishness, and on its southern shores by the Land of Incumbents. Between the two lies a large Island – the Island of Oxford Academic Life – divided into several regions and districts and with several smaller offshore islets, set in waters labelled, to the north, Sea of Suspense and to the south, Sea of Expense. So the young Oxonian freshman departs the Land of Sheepishness passes across the Pupil’s Straits (“Interval between Restraint and Liberty”) lands of the Isle of Matriculation (“First entrance to university”) before passing over the River Tick ( “springing out of Standing Debts which only discharge themselves at the expiration of three years by leaving the (nearby) Lake of Credit and meandering through the haunt of 100 creditors”) to land on the larger Island at either the Port for Stuffs (“Assumption of Commoner’s Gown”) in the Land of Promise (“The fair expectations cherished of a steady Novice in Oxford”) or at Silk Port (“Assumption of Gentleman Commoner’s Gown”) on the shores of the States of Independency. Here the newly arrived student discovers the Land of New Guinea (“First possession of Income“) and its adjacent regions. So we have : The States of Independency (“Frontiers of Extravagance”); The Province of Bacchus (“Inebriety”); The United Kingdoms of Sans Souci and Sans Sixsous (“Riddance of Cares and ultimately of Sixpences”); The Province of Waste of Ready including in it Hoyles Dominions (and the Pool of Loo). This refers to card games & gambling and the important 18th Century card game & gambling manuals of Edmond Hoyle [1672-1769] & a particular type of card table known as a “Loo” table used for playing the popular card game of loo or lanterloo. Thence to the Province of the Dynasty of Venus (“Indiscriminate Love and misguided affections”)  with its settlement of the Castle of St.Thomas (which “signifies the Penitentiary in St.Thomas Parish, where the frail part of the Oxford Belles are sent under surveillance”). Outdoor pursuits of shooting and hunting are represented by the neighbouring districts of Poaching Country, Codrington’s Manors, Mostyn’s Hunting District and Somerset Range, the latter three being the principal Packs of Hounds used for hunting in the immediate environs of Oxford in the early 19th Century. And so the student progresses southward across the Island’s terrain, through the Marshes of Impediment (“Troublesome preparation for Schools” (exams)), through Littlego Vale (“Orderly step to First Examination”), past Mounts Aldrich & Euclid (“Logic & Mathematics”), into Dun Territory (“Circle of Creditors to be paid”), past East Jeopardy (“Terrors of Anticipation”) and South Jeopardy (“Terrors of Insolvency”), bypassing the Region of Rejoicing (“Joy attendant on success in Schools”) and Porsonia (“A course of wide study, emulating Porson’s sedulity” (seemingly a reference to English classical scholar, Richard Porson [1759-1808], creator of “Porson’s Law”)). Finally he arrives at the thick Forest of Debt (“Payment of Debts” ) through which he passes to then cross Bachelor Creek via the narrow Isthmus of Grace (“Obtainment of the Grace of one’s College previous to taking a degree”) , to arrive of the Don Peninsula ( “The range of all who bear long black hanging sleeves and the name of Domini” ) , and the long-sought Fountain of Honours in the Territory of the Mastery of Arts. Here one finds the “Look out Houses” set up along the coastline of the peninsula to survey the coast of the Land of Incumbents that lies across the St.Mary’s Channel, a reference to the manner in which impoverished ordained Masters of the University kept a very careful look-out for the demise of incumbents of rich (church) livings. Off the west coast of the main island, lie the Isle of Flip  (“From the generous fluid that springeth from eggs and sherry. Note these compounds are most in request after supper, and therefore lie near the Oyster beds”), the Isle of Bulldogs (a reference to the University’s own internal police force, known as bulldogs, best known nowadays for their distinctive bowler hats) and the dangerous Quicksands of Rustication (this being one’s official withdrawal or removal from the University, usually as a result of illness or misdemeanour, and “on which our hero may at any time foul when inclined to visit a new country”). There are innumerable humorous references and pithy in-jokes within the map relating to the very particular circumstances and surroundings of Oxford University life in the early 19th Century, many now difficult to unravel and decipher. However it is interesting to discover alongside these, some real local Oxford landmarks such as Port Meadow and Folly Bridge.

The Latin quotation above the map is taken from Horace’s Satires, Book II, Satire I and, slightly reworded, translates roughly as ” A man’s whole life lies open to view, as if it were depicted on a votive tablet”.

The map itself is also very closely referenced in a contemporary satire by C M Westmacott published in 1825 and entitled The English Spy : An Original Work characteristic, satirical, and humorous comprising Scenes and Sketches in Every Rank of Society being Portraits of the Illustrious, Eminent, Eccentric and Notorious drawn from the Life by Bernard Blackmantle, the Illustrations designed by Robert Cruickshank.

The topographical details of the map are readily recognisable as we follow the progress of Bernard Blackmantle, an old Etonian and Brasenose freshman, as he makes his first entrée into Oxford academic life, in a visit to the rooms ofhis old school friend, Tom Echo, at Christ Church College :

Within I found assembled half a dozen good-humoured faces, all young and all evidently partaking of a high flow of spirits and animated vivacity of the generous hearted Tom Echo….”Here old fellows” said Tom, taking me by the hand and leading me forward to his companions, “allow me to introduce an ex-college man – Blackmantle of Brazennose, a freshman, and an Etonian : so lay to him, boys; he’s just broke loose from the “Land of Sheepishness”, passed “Pupil’s Straits”, and the “Isle of Matriculation”, to follow “Dad’s Will”, in the “Port of Stuffs”, from which, if he can steer clear of the “Fields of Temptation”, he hopes to make the “Land of Promise”, anchor his bark in the “Isthmus of Grace” and lay up snugly for life on the “Land of incumbents”….. “For Heaven’s sake, Tom”, said I, “speak in some intelligible language; it’s hardly fair to fire off your battery of Oxonian wit upon a poor freshman at first sight”. At this moment a rap at the oak announced an addition to our party; and in bounded that light-hearted child of whim, Horace Eglantine :– What Blackmantle here ? Why then Tom, we can form as complete a trio as ever got “bosky” (“a term used in Oxford to express the state of being “half seas over” (i.e drunk)) with “bishop” (“the good orthodox mead composed of port wine and roasted oranges and lemons”) in the “Province of Bacchus” ! Why, what a plague, my old fellow, has given you that rueful-looking countenance ? I am sure you was not plucked upon “Maro Common” or “Homer Downs” (alluding to the Aeneid of Virgil and Illiad of Homer, two of the principal books studied in Classics for First Examinations & Responsions) in passing examination with the big wig this morning; or has Tom been frisking (hoaxing) you already with some of his jokes about the “Straits of Independency”, the “Waste of Ready”, the “Dynasty of Venus” or the “Quicksands of Rustication”…….

[The English Spy, pp.133-134]

Westmacott finishes in giving a useful promotional plug for Vincent’s Map, by suggesting that Horace Eglantine might introduce Blackmantle…..

to Vincent’s where you may purchase “Oxford in Epitome”, with a Key accompaniment explaining the whole art and mystery of the finished style…..

Vincent is described in a footnote as : a well known respectable bookseller near Brazennose, who has published a whimsical trifle under the title “Oxford in Epitome” very serviceable to freshmen…..

[The English Spy, p.140-141]

It is interesting to note that the original owner of this map, whose inked signature (G Musgrave, BNC) appears in the lower right corner of the album sheet, was himself a Brasenose man and in fact the very epitome of the ordained Oxonian Master of Arts portrayed in Vincent’s map. It also seems likely that this map was acquired by Musgrave very soon after its first publication in May 1819, around the time of his own graduation with a second class Bachelor of Arts degree in Classics. George Musgrave Musgrave [1798-1883] was born in the parish of Marylebone in July 1798, the son of George Musgrave (d.1861) of Marylebone and Shillington Manor, Beds. One of the earliest pupils of Charles Parr Burney, George matriculated from Brasenose College in Feb 1816 and graduated in 1819 with a second class Bachelor of Arts degree in Classics. He gained his M.A. in 1822, being ordained deacon in 1822 and priest in 1823. In 1824 he held the curacy of All Souls Marylebone and held the same position in the parish church of Marylebone between 1826 & 1829. Between 1835 and 1838 he filled the rectory of Bexwell, near Downham in Norfolk and from 1838 to 1854 was vicar of Borden in Kent, resigning in favour of his son-in-law upon his retirement. Musgrave was also Lord of the Manor of Borden and one of the principal local landowners. After his retirement he lived in Withycome- Raleigh, near Exmouth in Devon, then moved back to Hyde Park, London, before finally settling in Bath, where he died in December 1883. Married twice, Musgrave was an inveterate traveller and “probably knew the surface of France better than any Englishman since Arthur Young’s day” (DNB 1885-1900, Vol 39, p.419). Between 1848 and 1870 he published seven gossip-filled accounts of leisurely rambles in his favourite country. In 1863 under the pen-name “Viator Verax M.A.” he wrote a short and highly popular pamphlet entitled  “Continental Excursions, Cautions for the First Tour”, exposing, with some exaggeration, the dangers and indecencies of mid-19th Century European travel. Mugrave’s other literary works included several books published as instructional & meditational volumes for his local parishioners whilst he was the incumbent vicar of Borden. He also produced several classical translations into English blank verse, including the works of Tasso and Petrarch [1822] and Homer’s Odyssey [1865/69].

Vincent’s map would subsequently serve as a model for a very similar map of Dutch Academic life, designed and published by the Utrecht University student, Willem Cornelis Marius Jonge Van Ellemeet [1811-1888], who visited Oxford in 1833 and must have there obtained an example of the second edition of the Vincent map. On his return to Holland, Van Ellemeet designed and published his own derivative version, Kaart van het Stichtsche Academie Land, which appeared as a supplement to the Utrechtsche Studenten Alamanak of 1834.

Refs: George Musgrave Musgrave [1798-1883] : DNB 1885-1900, Vol 39, pp.419-420; Franz Reitinger : Kleine studentengeografie – Caert Thresoor 23ste jaargang (2004) Nr.4, pp.95-103 & Pl.4, p.97; J McManners : All Souls and the Shipley Case 1808-1810.