Exceptional Pompeii: status of excavations in 1837
Date of first edition: 1832
Date of this map: 1837 (published by Baldwin & Cradock in 1844)
Dimensions (not including margins): 30 x 39 cm
Condition: excellent. Steel engraving on strong paper. Centre fold as published. Old colouring. Wide margins.
Condition rating: A+
From: Under the superintendence of the society for the diffusion of useful knowledge”, London 1837.
The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (SDUK), was founded in 1826, mainly at the instigation of Lord Brougham, with the object of publishing information to people who were unable to obtain formal teaching, or who preferred self-education.
SDUK publications were intended for the working class and the middle class, as an antidote to the more radical output of the pauper presses. The society set out to achieve this by acting as an intermediary between authors and publishers by launching several series of publications. It was run by a committee of eminent persons, and had a close association with the newly formed University College of London. Its printers included Baldwin & Cradock, later succeeded by Charles Knight. The Society commissioned work and dealt with the printers, and finally distributed the publications; profits were used to continue the Society’s work.
Unfortunately it was sort-lived and wound up in 1848.
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Do you remember the bankers in the movie “Mary Poppins” (1964) or the gentlemen’s club betting with Phileas Fogg (David Niven) in Verne’s book (1873) “Around the World in 80 days” (movie: 1956)? All well-fed and sitting in Chesterfield sofas, one hand smoking a cigar, the other sipping whisky. Stiff upper lip gentlemen, rulers of the world! “S.D.U.K”, the cartographer? Who is he? Back to the above-mentioned movies to understand: S.D.U.K stands for the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge… what a name…Its purpose was to publish information for people belonging to the working class and middle class… and to educate them. Sadly, the society was rather short-lived: the organization was founded in 1826, a map committee was set up in 1828, but the entire undertaking was already wound up in 1848.
As we all know, Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of the Vesuvius, in A.D. 79 and remained buried under ash until its rediscovery in 1748. At the time, the excavated portions of Pompeii were confined to the right hand quadrants of the map. Unfortunately, these days Pompeii seems to be one of the busiest building sites of Italy! The bottom shows buildings excavated at the time. The left bottom corner also depicts a general map showing, inter alia, the Vesuvius.