9. Mathew Simons 1635


A bookseller in 1635 Mathew Simons (or Matthew Simmons1 fl.1635-54) became a printer in 1641. He is notable as the publisher of John Milton’s works and a popular news-sheet from 1649. His only cartographic work was A Direction for the English Traviller, the earliest English road book with maps. The book contained thumbnail maps copied from the set of playing cards issued in 1590 by Bowes (2) combined with triangular distance tables invented and published by John Norden in his Intended Guyde for English Travailers (1625). There are slight changes: some names are shortened, Ottery St Mary becomes Autre, one or two mileages are different and the compass direction is entered after the town name. The recorded distances use the Old English Mile of 2428 yards. Rivers form the main feature of the maps and towns were indicated only by initial letters. There were later editions on a larger scale from 1643 onwards by Thomas Jenner and John Garrett (10). Although he had sold the plates to Jenner by 1643, Simmons continued to print them. Later his wife, Mary Simons, printed for Jenner and his son, Samuel, for Garrett.

An attractive roundel frontispiece map of Britain included in this work was signed by William Kip (and by H W as Exc - no doubt Hans Woutneel). This was probably engraved about 1602, the date of a companion roundel of the world used elsewhere. However, it is improbable that the map plates were engraved before 1625 when Norden’s distance tables appeared. The maps are attributed to Jacob van Langeren, but the imprint of his name on the title page was worked over an earlier erasion. Jacob Florensz van Langeren must be the second of that name (grandson of the first). Although he came from a famous family of cartographers little is known of his life. He appears to have lived in Brussels. There is no record of him visiting Britain; but he is known to have been busy in 1636 - fighting against the French and Dutch!2 He produced other plates for Jenner between 1635 and 1640.

The map itself, measuring 40 x 35 mm, is an exact copy of the Bowes’ map, although the letters are a little thicker, the rivers thinner, there are no hills and adjoining areas have been named. Some of the distance table spellings are interesting, eg Ockington for Okehampton is very unusual while Autre for Ottery is taken from Saxton.


Size 100 x 100 mm. Scale bar (10 = 5.5 mm).
Map (triangle) area 75 x 75 mm. Scale 1M = 0.55 mm.

Deuonshire in triangular table of distances with Exceter to Chimley in top line and Axminster to Dartmouth on left hand side.


1. 1635  A Direction for the English Traviller by Which he Shall be inabled to Coast about all England and Wales ... Are to be sold by Mathew Simons at the Golden Lion in Ducke laine, Ao.1635. Jacob van Langeren sculp.  
    London. Mathew Simons. 1635.    XLIV, S20, BL.
2.  1636    Plate number added - 13 - badly engraved (CeOS).  
    A Direction for the English Traviller  
    London. Mathew Simons. 1636. XLV, S21, BL.
3. 1636  Mileages from London added. (E).
    A Direction for the English Traviller  
    London. Mathew Simons. 1636.       S22, BL.

[1] As Dr Almond kindly pointed out, Skelton in County Atlases of the British Isles reproduces the title page to this work on plate 9a and the publisher writes his name Mathew Simons. The British Library has catalogued him as such, but many writers (e.g. Carroll 1996, Frostick 2011) use the name Matthew Simmons.

[2] R A Skelton; County Atlases of the British Isles; Carta Press; 1970; p.64.