Topographical Writers In South-West England
Edited by Mark Brayshay
A collection of original essays by distinguished historians on the works of topographical writers who described and recorded the landscape of South-West England in the period c. 1540-1900.
The development, subject matter and contribution to knowledge of a range of key authors is examined. For example, John Leland's classic descriptions of South-West England will be assessed and the works of local writers in the Tudor and Stuart era who followed an developed his approach to the description of people and places is examined. Amongst these, Richard Carew of Anthony produced perhaps the finest of any of the descriptions of an English region in his study of Cornwall, published in 1602. The authors follow the writings of Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset topographers who contributed to the genre over more than three centuries.
The book also includes a gazetter of collections in Devon and Cornwall where copies of the works of local topographical writers can be found.
Contents: John Leland's itinerary in south-west England in 1542, John Chandler; the Devon and Cornwall topographers, Joyce Youings; the antiquarian and topographical writings of Lysons, Malcolm Todd; Somerset topographical writers, 1700-1900, Robert Dunning; Dorset antiquarian and topographical writers, J.H. Betty; the scientific gaze - agriculture improvers and the topography of south-west England, Sarah Wilmot.
"This book is primarily for historians, and will be an important addition to local-studies libraries in the South West. Furthermore, it will be of interest to historical geographers. In his introduction, Brayshay describes the works of South West topographers as "eclectic, whimsical, sometime cryptic but always devoted". Perhaps this description would apply equally well to this thoroughly readable selection of essays." (The Geographical Journal, 1998) "The scope of the volume is quite broad, and . . . the authors are all acknowledged authorities on their subjects and regions, and taken together they present a comprehensive and detailed picture of the topographical descriptions of south-west England from about 1539 (Leland's first tour) to the late nineteenth century . . . This volume deserves to be on the shelf of all those who are interested in the history of southwestern England, and its moderate price is a further recommendation." (Agricultural History Review, Vol. 45, No. II) "The value of this informative and absorbing book is enhanced by the list (compiled by Ian Maxted and the editor) of works on the topography of the region, a contribution which fittingly concludes a volume which deserves a readership far beyond the west country." (History, Volume 83, No. 269, January 1998) ". . . the volume firmly sets both the county survey and the development of a more scientific approach to landscape in their historical setting, and should be on the shelves of anyone whose research includes the South West." (Newsletter of the Centre for South-Western Historical Studies, Spring 1997)
MARK BRAYSHAY is Principal Lecturer in Geography, University of Plymouth.