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John Tallis, map and print publisher.

John Tallis maps and prints combine accuracy of cartography with elegant presentation and skilful, stylish, engraved embellishment. While he is best known in England for his publication of one of London's earliest street directories, John Tallis's legacy to the rest of the world is surely his finely engraved maps and prints, with their decorative borders and 'vignette' scenes complimenting the main subject.

Moving to London in 1838, John Tallis joined his bookseller and publisher father (also named John Tallis) who had expanded his business from Birmingham. 23 New Cross Road in London where John junior lived, is now Grade II Listed, with a blue plaque on the wall reading “John Tallis 1816-1876 Publisher of London Street Views lived here.”

London Street Views
Like his father, John Tallis was interested in publishing views of important town and country scenes and county maps. As people travelled more, London street maps were as much in demand as county maps. Between 1838 and 1840, John Tallis junior contributed many new ideas to his father’s publication of London Street Views. It was “intended to assist strangers visiting the metropolis, through all its mazes without a guide”. Available from “all Booksellers and Toy shops, in England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland” at a cost of three half-pence, it was affordable and popular. A Directory, street elevations, maps, street views, and information on the streets were accompanied by many advertisements and updated monthly.

The many advertisements were not only financially beneficial to Tallis, but also of great assistance to the community as innovative ideas and products became available. Businesses were charged for the inclusion of advertisements in London Street Views, and also for having their names engraved above the illustrated shop-front on street elevations. During 1847 and 1848 Tallis’s Street Views was revised with enlarged engravings of important streets, but the enormous task of illustrating all the streets of London was never achieved. Despite the many other fine publications by John Tallis junior, his simple elevations of London street views achieved him greatest recognition.

John Tallis and Company
After their father died in 1842, John Tallis and his brother Frederick set up the J. & F. Tallis Publishing Company and expanded their business with offices in London, Edinburgh & Dublin. By 1850, with John Tallis at its helm, Tallis and Company published Edmund Lodge’s Portraits of Illustrious Personages of Great Britain with most of the steel engravings based on oil paintings by famous artists. Tallis commissioned some of the finest engraving ever done, with exquisitely detailed engraved borders around each small portrait.

The Great Exhibition of London was looming. London Street Views was re-issued as Tallis’s Illustrated London: in Commemoration of the Great Exhibition of All Nations in 1851. It was a long title, but ensured international recognition at the 1851 Exhibition. With a further eye on world-wide attention, Tallis published The Illustrated Atlas and Modern History of the World – and established himself as a publisher of fine quality, elegantly illustrated books and atlases, with offices in London and New York.

John Rapkin’s engraving skill.
As principal engraver of maps and prints for Tallis, John Rapkin’s ability and finesse was greatly responsible for the Company’s reputation for accurate information and visually attractive maps and prints. Prominent specialist artists and engravers added finely engraved borders of floral vines, twirling lines, or geometric designs, and small ‘vignette’ scenes of views, people, fauna and flora of each region, in the style that became synonymous with Tallis publications.

The most decorative of all Tallis maps are the Eastern Hemisphere and Western Hemisphere, with each map sphere surrounded by a wide border incorporating wildlife and people in their native costumes as seen through windows formed by elegantly entwined vines. The effect is reminiscent of the great illuminations by artists of earlier centuries. The flamboyant engraved border is a visual narrative of each region. The elaborate engraving was slow and expensive.  Unlike engraved portraits and topographical views that were published in black and white, at the time of publication the regions and countries on each Tallis map were outlined in coloured pen, and the engraved highlighting of the coastlines was usually watercoloured with a pale blue wash. Many maps and engravings have been further hand-coloured at a later date, and if this is well done it adds to their appeal and usually enhances the value of the map.

The London Printing and Publishing Company
In 1853 John Tallis formed a partnership with Ephraim Tipton Brain who had similar interests in publishing. Together, as The London Printing and Publishing Company, they continued the traditional style of Tallis publication with their traditionally-embellished battle and portrait engravings for The Illustrated War with Russia, and one of the last grand decorative atlases in 1856.

In 1857-8, after acquiring The Illustrated News of the World John Tallis hoped that it would rival The Illustrated London News periodical, but his board of directors opposed his publication. The demolition of their grand headquarters in Smithfield exacerbated the financial problems faced by John Tallis. As with many hard-working, ambitious people, he experienced temporary wealth then ran into uncontrolled debt. Bankrupt, he died from diabetes at the age of 59. His legacy lives on in his stylish presentation of maps and prints.

We have a wide collection of Tallis maps from around the world. Please enquire: email us your region of interest.
Posted: 22/08/2014 6:53:32 PM by | with 0 comments

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