John Adams (cartographer)

John Adams (before 1670 – 1738) was an English barrister best known as a cartographer responsible for an elaborate map of England and Wales.


Adams was a native of Shropshire and attended Shrewsbury School. He became a barrister of the Inner Temple.

In 1677 he engraved on copper a map of England and Wales ‘full six feet square,’ the special feature of which was that the distance of each town from its nearest neighbours was ‘entred in figures in computed and measured miles’. But the work was declared by critical friends to be very roughly done, and Adams set to work to improve it. To supply temporarily the many omissions of villages, he laboriously drew up, in 1680, the Index Villaris, or an Alphabetical Table of all Cities, Market-towns, Parishes, Villages, Private Seats in England and Wales, and dedicated it to Charles II. This Index he reprinted with elaborate additions in 1690, and again in 1700.

Meanwhile, under the patronage of several members of the Royal Society, he undertook a survey of the whole country, in order to make his map as full and correct as possible. He completed his journeys before 1685, and in that year published his newly revised map under the title of Angliæ totius tabula. A reissue, called A New Map of England, is ascribed in the British Museum Catalogue to 1693. Reduced and coloured copies of the revised map, which was of the original size (i.e. six feet square), were sold with the second and third editions of the Index Villaris.

Adams has been identified, on inadequate grounds, with a ‘Joannes Adamus Transylvanus,’ the author of a Latin poem describing the city of London, which was translated into English verse about 1675, and is reprinted in Harleian Miscellany, x. 139–50.


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