In 1819, Cary’s New Itinerary was indeed "new" again, for the publication of the eighth edition of his compendium of the roads of Britain contained a number of significant updates. This volume was very useful to nearly every traveller in the British Isles during the Regency. It may still be of great use to authors of romances set in our favorite decade, should they have occasion to plan trips though Britain for their fictional characters.
The 1819 edition of Cary’s New Itinerary . . .
The full title of this book is Cary’s New Itinerary: or an Accurate Delineation of the Great Roads, Both Direct and Cross throughout England and Wales; With many of the Principal Roads in Scotland. From an Actual Admeasurement by John Cary; Made by Command of his Majesty’s Postmaster General. For Official Purposes Under the Direction and Inspection of Thomas Hasker, Esq. Surveyor and Superintendent of the Mail Coaches. Work on the first edition of this book began in 1794, when the cartographer, John Cary, was engaged by the Postmaster General of Britain to survey all of the main roads of England and Wales. Cary was probably commissioned to do the work because, by that time, he had acquired a reputation as a first-rate cartographer. In 1783, he had established his own firm with premises in the Strand, where he sold a selection of fine maps and globes. He had also published The New and Correct English Atlas in 1787, which had quickly become the standard atlas of England. Therefore, John Cary would have been the ideal choice to survey the roads of England and Wales in the last decade of the eighteenth century.
Cary, and his staff of five surveyors, all named in the Preface, or "Advertisement," worked diligently on the road survey, which took them nearly four years to complete. By 1798, Cary was ready to publish the results of their work in the first edition of what he titled Cary’s New Itinerary . . .. The choice of the word itinerary was particularly appropriate, since it meant a book which described or traced routes of travel over land or sea, particularly those which included the measurements of distance. According to the online edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, the term had been in use in that sense in England from at least the sixteenth century. Though some itineraries over the years had also included details on places and objects of interest, Cary’s first edition was focused primarily on the distances between places over the main roads of England and Wales.
The first edition of Cary’s New Itinerary had a fold-out map in the front of England and Wales, with all the major roads drawn on it. Copies with hand-colored maps were available, for those who could afford them. But this new map of England differed radically from most of the maps which had come before. John Cary was a serious cartographer who felt that ornament was unnecessary. Unlike the highly decorative maps which were produced from the seventeenth through much of the eighteenth century, John Cary’s new map of England and Wales was clear and legible. It simply showed the land mass, the major network of roads, and the surrounding sea, along with a basic legend. He intended his map to be an aid to travel and therefore focused on that purpose.
As noted above, this was not the type of travel book most people sat down to read from cover to cover. Rather, it was typically used as a reference by those who were travelling the roads of England and Wales, since it lists all of the places to which there are roads to London. As might be expected, considering the original impetus for the road survey, all of the distances from London, to each location, were measured from the General Post Office, which, at the time, was located in Lombard Street, within the City of London. The distances in that first edition were all given in both miles and furlongs. In order to provide additional service for well-heeled travellers who used his book, Cary included the names of the inns at each location which could supply post horses and/or carriages. It seems like that Cary intended to issue future editions of his work, as he requested his readers to send him notice of any errors they might find in the current edition.
Over the course of the next two decades, John Cary issued revised and updated editions of Cary’s New Itinerary. Unlike some publishers of similar works, John Cary and his staff of road surveyors, regularly verified the distances of those roads which had any changes made since the previous edition. Cary also incorporated any updates or corrections which were sent to him from his wide readership. It would have increased his publishing costs to make those changes, requiring new engravings for the maps, as well as re-setting the type for the text. However, it seems that John Cary was willing to incur those costs in order to retain the reputation of his travel guide for reliability and accuracy.
In 1819, quite a number of revisions and changes were made in preparation for the publication of the eighth edition of Cary’s New Itinerary. One of the most important changes was the inclusion of additional maps. Along with the map of England and Wales, there were also separate maps of the Environs of London, Bath, Brighton, Margate, Cheltenham and the Isle of Wight. These additional maps were all drawn and engraved in the same style as the original map in the first edition, without ornate decoration. They were all accurate, clean and legible. As with previous editions, copies were available in which the maps would be hand-colored, for an additional cost.
As was usual, distances in this new edition were still given in both miles and furlongs, designated by the letters M or F above the appropriate columns where the distances were listed. A new feature was added as a convenience for a number of lengthy routes, the "Return Route," thereby eliminating the need for mathematical calculations to determine the distance for a round trip journey. Distances from London were given from multiple locations in this edition, not just from the General Post Office, though that system was maintained, for those who had become familiar with the system used in Cary’s New Itinerary since the first edition. The front matter for this edition also notes that it " contains the Routes to upwards of Nine Thousand Places, which have never been given in any Work of similar Description . . . "
One of the most useful features of this edition is a Table of Contents, which lists all of the components of Cary’s New Itinerary in order, though it does not include page numbers for the front matter, only for the Direct Roads listings from various locations. Some of those front matter elements include a list of the circuits of the judges, an index of rivers and navigable canals, a list of the cross roads which intersect the major roads, as well as a list of the principal places which were located along those cross roads.
The contents of Cary’s New Itinerary which Regency authors may find especially useful are the lists of all the Inns in London from which the Mail and the Stage Coaches depart, and a list of Stage Coaches which travels from London "to all the circumjacent Villages." There is also a list of all of the packet boats which departed from various ports in Britain and their schedules. Other elements include a list of the provincial stage coaches and the postal rates for letters. Another interesting feature of this edition is the inclusion of "A brief Account of Bath, Bristol, Cambridge, Canterbury, Dover, and Oxford." This narrative section provides an account of some of the more popular points of interest in each area.
Another particularly useful feature of this new edition was the Index to the Country Seats, and Their Possessors. The term "country seat" was used to denote a typically large country house and estate which was the principal rural residence of the owner. Quite a number of wealthy families among the nobility and gentry owned multiple estates, but for each of them, only one property among those was considered their seat, that is, the traditional family home and their primary residence in the country. From its first edition, Cary’s New Itinerary included as many of these important places as Cary and his road surveyors were aware. Over the years, many people sent Cary information on other country seats which had not been included in previous editions, so he regularly updated his listings. However, these places were noted in the tables, along with the places near which they were located. Therefore, the provision of an index of all of those country seats was particularly useful. Even better, the country seats were all indexed by both the name of the estate and the name of the owner.
In the end, there were eleven editions of Cary’s New Itinerary, between the years of 1798 and 1828, when the last edition was published. John Cary died two years later. In 1803, Cary also published Cary’s British Traveller, which was an abridged edition of the larger itinerary. This abridged edition does not seem to have been as popular, as it was not published again. From the first edition, Cary’s New Itinerary was an invaluable resource for travellers making their way across Britain. The information contained therein enabled them to better plan their journeys. They would know which inns were located in each place, so they would have an easier time knowing where they could get provisions or fresh horses, or catch a coach or packet boat. Those who enjoyed visiting important country houses, which had become quite popular by the Regency, would be able to plan their route, based upon which houses they wished to see.
Not all of the editions of Cary’s New Itinerary have been digitized, and original hard copies can be quite expensive. However, there are a few different editions that have been digitized, which I have been able to locate online. Sadly, the 1819 edition which is available at Google Books is missing its maps, as are most of the others. But both the first edition, of 1798, and the sixth edition, of 1815, still have their maps and they were digitized reasonably well with those copies, so they are fairly legible. In addition, the 1819 edition available at the Internet Archive seems to have all of its maps and they have been digitized quite legibly. Copies of the available digitized editions of Cary’s New Itinerary can be found at the links below.
- Cary’s New Itinerary of 1798, at Google Books
- Cary’s New Itinerary of 1802, at Google Books
- Cary’s New Itinerary of 1810, at Google Books
- Cary’s New Itinerary of 1815, at the Internet Archive
- Cary’s New Itinerary (with maps) of 1819, at the Internet Archive
- Cary’s New Itinerary (without maps) of 1819, at Google Books