Draughtsmen at Bartholomew

Some map publishers, such as Ordnance Survey, conduct ground or aerial surveys to gather the information they need for their maps. John Bartholomew & Son gathered the information they needed via a process called compilation. Compilation was where the draughtsman's role began.

Draughtsmen had a lot of resources to hand when it came to compiling information.

Bartholomew kept a vast collection of reference maps and atlases produced by their competitors, such as Ordnance Survey. Although Bartholomew did not plagiarise these works, studying the maps of others could reveal changes to natural and man-made features that Bartholomew might chose to incorporate into their own maps.

They also kept a large collection of newspaper clippings. Whenever a story touched upon an interesting subject, such as the building of a new road, the demolition of a bridge or the redrawing of an international boundary, Bartholomew would cut out and keep the story for future reference.

Correspondence from the public

But by far the biggest source of information was the vast amount of correspondence that was sent to Bartholomew every day.

In some cases members of the public would volunteer information, sometimes including a hand-drawn map of their own, or an annotated clipping from one of Bartholomew’s maps. In other cases the relationship was more formal.

This is perhaps best demonstrated by Bartholomew's relationship with the Cyclist's Touring Club.

The Cyclist's Touring Club (CTC) was founded in 1878 and by the end of the 1890s boasted membership figures of close to 60,500. This then was a desirable market for Bartholomew, as CTC members actively sought useful, accurate and cycle friendly maps for their excursions.

In 1898 John George sought to capitalise on this market and wrote to the CTC's Secretary with a proposal. Bartholomew would supply the CTC with discounted half inch maps, but in return they requested that CTC members supplied the firm with up to date information.

The benefit was therefore twofold, because Bartholomew acquired:

Bartholomew derived similar information from local surveyors, town planners, planning departments and other like agencies, complementing the information received from members of the public.

Long apprenticeship

Once this information had been collected the draughtsmen would either update a base map, or draw a new map from scratch. They had to be skilled at both drawing and lettering, and as such a typical draughtsman’s apprenticeship was seven years.

Apprentices might also expect to be comparatively poorly paid. One apprentice, James Bain, who joined Bartholomew in 1888, wrote that his wages:

'… were to be 1/6 [one shilling and sixpence (pre-decimal sterling)] per week with annual increases of 1/- [one shilling] per week. As I had been getting 4/- [four shillings] per week at the shipping agents I quickly got dissatisfied with my small wage.'

The work of an apprentice could also be somewhat mundane, if nevertheless very important. James vividly remembered his work on amending the contour lines on Bartholomew's half inch maps of Scotland. He was given the job of preparing the base maps for the engravers:

'A fairish part of the work could be done without reference to the Ordnance maps by simply drawing a line roughly midway between two existing lines. But this would often have been too approximate so for months I had to visit the Advocates Library at George IV Bridge to [refer to] the contour lines from the Ordnance Sheets.'

Difficulties in the drawing office

If that wasn’t bad enough, an apprentice might also find that some of their colleagues could be difficult to work with. James found the eminent German draughtsman Friedrich Bosse, chief draughtsman at Bartholomew, particularly difficult to work with. Very unfavourably and perhaps unfairly he recalled that:

'… Herr Bosse was … never popular and was in fact disliked for his boasting and always comparing our work unfavourably with the German.'

But to top it all off was the problem that Bartholomew's draughtsmen had with rats. Prior to moving to Duncan Street in 1911, Bartholomew were based at a building on Park Road in Edinburgh. Park Road was very close to Arthur's Seat and the refuse dumps that ran alongside the railway. James remembered a very unpleasant story,

'… [the rats] seldom appeared in the day time but one day when we were all busy at work one of the draughtsmen [Beveridge] jumped up and knocked over his stool with a great clatter. Next we saw him standing with his hand behind his back clutching at the top of his trousers. A few moments afterwards he jerked out the back of his shirt and a dead rat fell out on the floor.'

James recalls that if time was tight it was not uncommon for draughtsmen to work all through the night on a map. But for all of these difficulties, a qualified journeyman draughtsman was one of the most highly skilled members of Bartholomew’s staff. This is reflected in the salaries they could command. During the early years at Duncan Street the chief draughtsman earned more than any other member of Bartholomew's staff, aside from the firm's directors.

Examples at the National Library

The Bartholomew Archive, kept at the National Library of Scotland (NLS), includes around 16,000 proof maps, all examples of the sorts of work the draughtsmen were responsible for. They span 1860-1990 and represent many of Bartholomew's map and atlas titles as well as the changes in technology which affected the draughtsman's work.

A summary of the proof maps is available on the Bartholomew Archive Maps and Plans list on the Bartholomew Archive website. We also have a collection of drawing tools, donated to the Library by some of Bartholomew's draughtsmen. You can access records for these tools through the NLS main catalogue.


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