John Green, Geographer


20 February 2012: updates have been made, especially to biographical details and to the list of publications attributed to Green.

John Green, né Bradock Mead, a.k.a. Rogers (d.1757)

The world of the commercial cartographer in eighteenth-century London was quite respectable. It was punctuated by the usual calamities that befell any entrepreneurial enterprise: partners split in acrimony; some cartographers, such as Thomas Jefferys in 1766 (Harley 1966) or Osgood Carleton in 1803 (Bosse 1995, 161-62), suffered the misfortune of bankruptcy. Yet there was a claim to respectability among these tradesmen. They mixed with the literati and natural philosophers (see Reinhartz 1997); the texts and maps they published contributed to “the science of princes”; their clientele comprised gentry, clergy, and aristocracy; a favored few sold their maps to royalty and claimed titles such as “geographer to His Majesty.” John Green, however, presents an effective antidote to this image of propriety and respectability. He took cartography from the salons and the coffee houses into the taverns and the squalid streets memorialized in Hogarth’s prints.

The events of Green’s life are obscured by his working for publishers who took the credit for his work; his willingness to remain anonymous was certainly enhanced by his brushes with the law. The main source of information for his life is an undated letter that Thomas Jefferys wrote to the earl of Morton (James Douglass, 14th earl, then president of the Royal Society) presumably in January 1767. Crone 1951 transcribed this letter and provided some corroboration of Jefferys’s account. Henry Stevens, the noted map and book dealer, had earlier remarked on this letter, now in the Ayer Collection of the Newberry Library (Chicago: Ayer *109.5 M4 1753), in an 1890 sales catalog (Wroth 1944, 139-40 and 176).

John Green was born Bradock Mead in Ireland, probably well before 1688. He clearly came from a sufficiently respectable family to get a good education; the Thomas Mead who became Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1757 was likely his brother.

Update: “Registry of Deeds Index Project: Ireland. Names Index Part 214,” accessed 19 February 2012, online at…, indexes a mortgage contract (vol 9:439, memorial 4150, dated 6 Feb 1712, registered 31 Jul 1713) witnessed by one Bradock Mead; the contract described him as the son of Benjamin Mead of Meath St., Dublin. Furthermore, Helen Evelyn, The History of the Evelyn Family, with a Special Memoir of William John Evelyn (London: E. Nash, 1915), 221, noted that one Richard Evelyn (bap. 1685-1751) had in June 1715 married “Jane, daughter of Benjamin Mead, Esq., of Meath Street, Dublin, Proctor of the Bishop’s Court. She was the sister of Alderman Thomas Mead, who was Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1758.” These records make it clear that the family name was spelled Mead or Meade, although Bradock always appears as Mead. It should also be clear that his first name was spelled with just the one ‘d’. Unfortunately, Cumming (1974) gave Mead’s name with two ‘d’s, as in the family name of the British general who famously lost the campaign against Fort Du Quesne in 1755, and this mistake has been widely copied since.

Mead married in Dublin in 1713, and soon therafter ~ probably before 1717 ~ he moved to London. (His first work was published in the metropolis in 1717.) He was certainly living in London by 1728, when he was involved in a plot to cheat a twelve-year-old Irish heiress of her family’s property in the city. The accomplice who kidnaped the girl, a lawyer called Daniel Kimberly, was subsequently returned to the jurisdiction of the Irish courts and was hanged; Mead, whose role had been to “marry” the girl in a sham ceremony and so lay claim to her property, was imprisoned and censured by the Lord Chancellor. The sparse accounts of his life promote an image of a womanizer who perhaps supported himself by gambling and by “other indirect ways,” as Jefferys put it. These claims are borne out in part by Jefferys’s recollection that “when [Mead] came into London he took the name of Rogers & served the learned Mr Edward Chambers as an Emanuensis in some part of his elaborate Dictionary” (Crone 1951, 69). This probably referred to Ephraim Chambers and his two-volume Cyclopaedia, or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, which was first published in London in 1728. This would mean that Mead/Rogers was working for Chambers before the kidnapping, suggesting that there were already some other reasons for Mead to use an alias.

It would appear that Mead began to use the new alias of Green after his time in jail. He subsequently worked for several publishers on a number of geographical projects: on collections of travels, and their associated maps, and on three large, definitive maps for Thomas Jefferys. He eventually committed suicide, by leaping out of a third-storey window, in 1757.

In all, we know of two works authored by “Mead,” in 1717 and 1728, and at least another twelve works authored by “Green” between 1736 and 1755. This balance of work, and the fact that we are especially interested in a map constructed by “Green,” means that I will continue to refer to this elusive, yet highly important, geographer and cartographer by the alias under which he mostly worked rather than by his birth-name.

The problem in exploring Green’s work was his reluctance to sign his name. Of the thirteen or so maps and texts we can attribute to him with confidence, he signed only one and initialed one other. Most of the attributions were made by Gerald Crone because of distinct similarities in the styles of the texts and maps (Crone ad Skelton 1946, 98-109; Crone 1949, 88-91). Crone was particularly taken by Green’s habit of indicating on his maps those places for which he knew latitude (one underline) or both latitude and longitude (double underline). It is important to realize that Crone made the attributions before he knew that Green and Mead were the same person. Crone only later read Thomas Jefferys’s brief summary of Green’s life, which bears out most of the attributions (Crone 1951; see Crone 1952-53).

A nice statement of the progress of Crone’s research is his brief statement, “A Note on Bradock Mead, Alias John Green,” Library 5s 6, no. 1 (1951): 42-43.

Works reliably attributed to Green

The Construction of Maps and Globes (London: T. Horne, J. Knapp, et alia, 1717)

Crone (1951, 69) specifically cited “the bibliographer R. Watt” for the early attribution of this book “to one Mead.” [i.e., Robert Watt, Bibliotheca Britannica; or, a General Index to British and Foreign Literature, 4 vols. (London, 1824).] Watt was evidently guided by the publishers’ own catalogues of their stock, which as early as 1726 identified the author as “Mead”: Books Printed for, and Sold by, James and John Knapton at the Crown in St. Pauls-Church-Yard (London, [1726]), 11.

Stylistic similarities indicate that this “Mead” was indeed Bradock Mead. Before he discovered that Mead and Green were the same person, Crone had recognized the close tie between this early work and Green’s works two decades later. “It is curious,” Crone had written, “that Mead states he was proposing at a future date to publish a ‘Book of all the known Roads into the several parts of Asia, Africa, and America, with proper Maps adapted to them . . . being a Collection of the Journals of several Hundred Travellers out of diverse Languages.’ This was apparently never published, the scheme suggested is remarkably similar to that carried out in [Green’s] ‘New General Collection,’ and one might almost conclude that Green had taken up and carried out Mead’s proposal” (Crone 1949, 87). I discuss [Green] (1717) in more detail below.

“Map” and “Projection” in Chambers’ Cyclopedia (1728)

In Ephraim Chambers’ Cyclopædia, or, An Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences: Containing the Definitions of the Terms, and Accounts of the Things Signify’d Thereby, in the Several Arts, Both Liberal and Mechanical, and the Several Sciences, Human and Divine, 2 vols. (London: J. and J. Knapton et al., 1728), 2:495-97 and 889, the articles on “Map” and “Projection” are clearly by Mead/Rogers/Green.

[J. G.], A Journey from Aleppo to Damascus: with a Description of Those Two Capital Cities, and the Neighbouring Parts of Syria. To which is added An Account of the Maronites . . . (London: W. Mears, T. Boreman, J. Stone, and J. Chrichley, 1736)

Although the title page bears no authority, the dedication to this work is signed “J. G.” This led to the early attribution of the Journey to John Green (Crone & Skelton 1946, 98: “by Lowndes”). This work seems to predate Jefferys’s acquaintance with Green. Green’s work on this travel narrative reflects the interest he had shown in the geography of southwestern Asia in his earlier work ([Green] 1717, “Preface” [xiii-xviii], “Advertisement” [xxi-xxvii], pl.11, and (2)139-145). The single map in the work was engraved by Emmanuel Bowen; Crone (1949, 88) thought it a “trial” of Green’s cartographic methodology.

A Description of the Empire of China and Chinese Tartary . . . Enriched with General and Particular Maps . . . From the French of P. J. B. Du Halde, Jesuit: With Notes Geographical, Historical, and Critical; and other Improvements, Particularly in the Maps, 2 vols. (London: Edward Cave, 1738-41)

Green not only translated and edited Père du Halde’s original text, published in Paris in 1735, he did the same to d’Anville’s accompanying atlas of maps (1737) based on the Jesuit surveys in China. In particular, Green revised several longitudes and then redrew the maps; he also added an explanatory cartographic memoir to the book (Crone 1949, 89; Crone & Skelton 1946, 99-100). Jefferys recollected that his “acquaintance” with Green began “in 1735,” at which time he was already calling himself Green and he “was employed by my late worthy Friend Mr Edw[ard] Cave in Translating Du Halde, China” (Crone 1951). See also Foss (1985).

New General Collection of Voyages and Travels, Consisting of the Most Esteemed Relations which have Hitherto been Published in any Language, 4 vols. (London: Thomas Astley, 1745-47)

Early nineteenth-century bibliographers attributed authorship of this collection to a John Green, but did not give any reason for doing so. Crone (1949, 85; also Crone & Skelton 1946, 98) specifically noted Clarke’s (1803, 1:xvi) guess that the author was the Rev. John Green “who kept a school in Soho” and who was the brother of Charles Green, astronomer on Cook’s first voyage. These volumes include numerous maps by our Green. Jefferys explained that Green had fallen out with Cave, publisher of the Gentleman’s Magazine, “in the year [17]38 or thereabouts” and had therefore gone to work with Astley, then Cave’s “antagonist” who published the competing London Magazine. Eventually, Green fell out with Astley as well, bringing this series to a close after four volumes, encompassing only Asia and Africa (Crone 1951).

Additions to the Universal History, 7 vols. (London: T. Osborne, A. Millar, and J. Osborn, 1750)

Jefferys recorded that after breaking with Astley, Green “was employed by the proprietors of the Universal History” (Crone 1951); certainly the first map in this collection ~ A Map of Paradise, Mount Ararat, and the City of Babel according to the different Hypotheses mentioned in this work ~ has all the hallmarks of Green’s work. I have yet to explore the complex history of the Universal History, but it is likely that Green contributed to several of its textual and cartographic elements.

Chart of North and South America (London: Thomas Jefferys, 19 Feb 1753)

Finally, as Jefferys recorded, Green ended up working for him (Crone 1951). This map was accompanied by the following item, the only work to be signed by Green. If the authority were still in doubt, the “list of maps” in the General Topography (Jefferys 1768a) identified this map as “North and South America, in six sheets, by John Green, Esq.”

John Green, Remarks, In Support of the New Chart of North and South America (London: Thomas Jefferys, 1753)

The memoir describing the construction of the previous item. This is the only work to bear Green’s name (Green 1753).

The Conduct of the French with Regard to Nova Scotia; From its Settlement to the Present Time (London: Thomas Jefferys, 1754)

Ristow (1974, ix) attributed this work to Green because of the extensive knowledge of French geographical writers and map makers shown by the author. Certainly, Green was at this time working on his map of Nova Scotia, derived largely from French sources (next item). The pamphlet is unaccompanied by maps (see Winearls 1996, 49 n. 10).

New Map of Nova Scotia, and Cape Britain (London: Thomas Jefferys, May 1755)

The second map that Green made for Jefferys, in just one sheet. It was accompanied by the following item.

Explanation for the New Map of Nova Scotia and Cape Britain (London: Thomas Jefferys, 1755)

The memoir describing the construction of the previous item. It also includes a listing of French maps recently acquired for sale by Jefferys.

A Plan of Kennebek and Sagadahok Rivers, with the Adjacent Coasts, engr. Thomas Kitchin (London: Andrew Millar, 1755)

Often misattributed to the Boston engraver and map maker Thomas Johnston, documentation in the Maine Historical Society, uncovered by Cumming (1980, 115-17), demonstrates that this map was in fact compiled by Green. See also Matthew H. Edney, “Competition over Land, Competition over Empire: Public Discourse and Printed Maps of the Kennebec River, 1753–1755,” in Early American Cartographies, ed. Martin Brückner (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, 2011), 276-305, esp. 295-303. This map was sold in conjunction with the following work.

State of the British and French Colonies in North America, With Respect to Number of People, Forces, Forts, Indians, Trade and other Advantages . . . In Two Letters to a Friend (London: A. Millar, 1755)

Edney, “Competition over Land, Competition over Empire,” 301 n. 25, reliably attributed this book to Green.

Map of the most Inhabited Part of New England, 4 sheets (London: Thomas Jefferys, 29 Nov 1755)

The last map that Green is known to have completed. Unlike the other two major maps he made for Jefferys, Green did not provide a memoir explaining the manner of its construction. Jefferys specifically identified Green as the map’s author in two subsequent references: in a catalogue from ca.1763 (see Harley 1966, 34) and in the “list of maps” to the General Topography (Jefferys 1768a).

Map of Canada (London: Thomas Jefferys, [1760])

Winearls (1996) convincingly argues that this work was begun by Green before his death in 1757. The map lacks the underlining of known places that was so characteristic of Green’s maps. Nonetheless, the selection and treatment of source materials is strongly reminiscent of Green’s style. Winearls especially notes the compiler’s rejection of the de Fonte voyage as a reputable source, a point on which Green (1753, 48) had been quite adamant even as the critical French geographers gave de Fonte much credit. A point which Winearls downplays, but which I think is significant, is that this map is on Mercator’s projection, of which Green was an advocate (below) and which he had also used for his six-sheet chart of the Americas in 1753 (above).

Putative works by Green

It is quite possible that more of Green’s work will be identified. The above list has been constructed from rather fortuitous encounters; a thorough search through Thomas Jefferys’s publications might well produce more items.

Green seems to have prepared at least three more maps which were not published. In his memoir on his six-sheet chart of the Americas, Green mentioned that he had prepared a map of the Arctic Ocean (Green 1753, 48). The printed catalog of maps which Jefferys appended to Green’s explanation of his map of Nova Scotia listed as forthcoming two maps both of which would certainly have been extensions of Green’s work: “And in a few Days will be published, An English Chart of the Atlantic Ocean, including the British, French, and Spanish Settlements in North America and the West Indies; with a Memoir setting forth the Errors and Imperfections of the French Charts. Next Session of Parliament will be published, A Chart or Map of Europe, Asia, and Africa, improved with Tables and Remarks, being the Continuation of the Six Sheet Chart of America” ([Green] 1755, [23]). The first of these two maps might actually have been little more than a reprinting of the fourth sheet of the larger six-sheet chart (item 5 above), which bore the separate title “Chart of the Atlantic Ocean, with the British, French, & Spanish | Settlements in North America, and the West Indies,” which encompassed the coasts of Europe and west Africa.

Shortly before this web site was completed, I also realized that Green perhaps made the map for the Jefferys’s pirated edition of Washington’s journal to the Ohio; certainly, the map bears critical comments about the French maps of the region (Washington 1755; Brown 1959, no.19). Ristow’s suggestion concerning the 1754 pamphlet suggests that we need to broaden the scope of our interests to include political as well as historical and geographical tracts. There is also the question of whether Green’s contributions to larger works, such as Chambers’s Cyclopaedia, can be isolated. On the other hand, it should be realized that Crone & Skelton (1946) were unable to notice his influence in other collections of travels and voyages published in the first half of the eighteenth century. Green was almost certainly employed as a geographer before 1728: his 1717 book reveals too extensive a working knowledge of map making and of contemporary geographical works to have been a one-off publication. It seems that most potential for identifying more of his work lies in this earlier period.

The common thread to all of Green’s later works is that he worked on behalf of publishers. He was not an independent author. When his relations with a publisher soured, he moved on to the next. That is, Green lived a life of intellectual servitude, unable or unwilling to write for himself and dependent on the publishers for whom he worked. In this respect, Green seems to have been little different from the majority of authors, including such famous literati as Samuel Johnson, whose creations were mostly “induced” by their publishers (see Kernan 1987, esp.241). It is important to recognize that copyright was in this period legally invested in the publisher, not the author. Even so, Green was able to pursue a critical approach to geography and cartography that was quite different from the style of his geographical contemporaries in London.

Green’s “The Construction of Maps and Globes” (London, 1717)

Green laid out his critical approach to map making in his first, although anonymous, publication which appeared when he was still living under his birth-name. Most of this work consisted of instructions on how to draw different map projections, such as the stereographic projection (in its polar, transverse, and oblique aspects) and also the Mercator projection, which Green insisted should have been named after Edmund Wright, the English mathematician who had determined the mathematics of the projection.

He was motivated to write this book because of the poor treatment received by map projections in existing geographical texts (Snyder 1993). In particular, Green thought Bernhard Varen’s Geographia Generalis (Amsterdam, 1650), while useful, was wrong in several points and was not sufficiently comprehensive; the English abridgement by Sir Isaac Newton omitted even more necessary information (Green 1717, “Preface” [vii, ix]; see Sitwell 1993, 106-7 and 569-70, and Warntz 1989). With no comprehensive study forthcoming, Green initially thought to prefix such a work to a two-volume collection of voyages and travels he was preparing. In the end, however, he decided to publish the work separately, both to increase its circulation with a lower cost and not to imbalance the larger project (Green 1717,”Preface” [viii, xx]).

Green could not completely separate his strictly technical description of how to make maps and globes from his more general concerns with the improper practices followed by travelers and by geographers who should have known better: “The Abuses of negligent and unskilful Geographers, had long since made something of this Kind [i.e., this book] necessary, in order to put a Stop to those spurious Maps and incorrect Books which were daily publish’d by them, and continued more and more to involve Geography in Error and Contempt” (Green 1717, “Dedication” [iv]). Green therefore added an appendix, “Wherein the Present State of Geography is consider’d: Being a Seasonable Enquiry into Maps, Books of Geography, and Travel. Intermix’d with necessary Cautions, Helps, and Directions for future Map Makers, Geographers and Travellers” (Green 1717, (2)127-216).

He sought nothing less than to revive the lost golden age of geographical investigations:

There was a Time when Geographers and Travellers corresponded; and the one was very diligent to bring Home Observations, while the other spar’d no Pains to collect them, as so many Jewels, and improve their Books and Maps by them. The Design therefore of this Essay [i.e., the appendix], is to revive (if possible) that generous Spirit once again amongst us, and excite Youth to the Study of so delightful and profitable a Science; a Science without which one can never be a good Historian, nay, nor even understand History. (Green 1717, “Preface” [xii])

Although Green cited numerous ancient and Islamic geographers to prove the long history of maps and so reinforce the image of European geography’s contemporary slump (Green 1717, “Dedication” [vi], 1-4, (2)129-(2)131, 175), his nostalgia was for a more recent golden age. Christopher Columbus, he wrote,

set the whole World a Travelling, and reviv’d in all Sorts of People a Passion for Geographical Studies. Mercator was the first of Note, and next to him Ortelius, that undertook to make a New Sett of MAPS, with the modern Divisions of Countries, and Names of Places; for want of which, Ptolemy’s [maps] were grown almost useless. The Ice being broke, many followed [Mercator’s] Example, and set forth MAPS, which were for the most Part, Copys of his. Towards the middle of the last Age [i.e., century], Blea[u] in Holland, and Sanson in France, publish’d New Setts of MAPS, with many Improvements from the Travellers of those Times: And whether they were thought so perfect as not to be mended, they have been copy’d ever since, with very little Variation for the better, but often for the worse, by the English, Dutch, and French Map-makers. Geography was just relapsing into the former Obscurity and Error out of which [M]ercator took it, when Monsieur De Lisle, a French Geographer, undertook to disabuse the World, and put a Stop to those spurious Draughts that were daily obtruded on the Publick, by making a compleat Sett of MAPS, both Old and New Geography, corrected and improv’d from the Surveys several European Nations had made of their respective Countries, the Observations of the best Travellers in all Languages, and the Journals of the Royal Societies of London and Paris: By which Performance, that Author, has in a most extraordinary manner obliged the Curious, and gain’d Credit and Applause to himself and his Country. (Green 1717, (2)131-(2)132)

Clearly, Green liked his geography to be critical. He was particularly harsh in describing the copyists and engravers who claimed the title of “geographer” solely because of their ability to draw or to engrave. To be worth the title, a “geographer” needed to be an intellectual, not a “Hackney scribbler.” The several desiderata for a reformed geography which Green laid out boil down to three general points (Green 1717, (2)133-157).

First, the geographer must take great care in properly laying out the projection and in placing locations in their correct latitudes and longitudes.

Second, the map must be based on a critical examination of all available information; erroneous or untrustworthy information should be discarded. Of particular importance was the meticulous analysis of the latitudes and longitudes of key places; this would be greatly helped if geographers could agree on a common prime meridian. The geographer should publish an account of his information, laying out the sources used (and unused), and how differences among them were reconciled. At the very least, a clear statement of the controlling latitudes and longitudes and the names of the geographical sources should be engraved on the map itself; preferably, a separate memoir should be written.

Third, the maps should be useful. Rather than showing a sea of unconnected places, they should include the roads between towns; the distances along roads should also be noted. Geographers should not include spurious information for the sake of filling up white space. Yet this is not to preclude “art” from maps because, by including images of “the Natives at their Sports or Devotion” or of “the various Fruits, Beasts, Fowls, and the like,” the geographer “might give us at one View, as in a Picture, both the Geography and the History of a Country” (Green 1717, 155).

Green’s prospectus for the improvement of geographical textbooks and books of voyages and travels followed the same critical lines—care, rigor, and utility—with the added element of coordinating the text with the maps in each book (Green 1717, 158-216; see also Crone 1949, 86-87). Following the principles of care, rigor, utility, and coordination would not cause hardship for geographers, thought Green. He was well aware that maps and texts were copied and recopied with little care and attention because of the desire of the “geographer” to make money. Spending time and money in the careful arrangement of source materials was clearly seen as being wasteful, as long as people would buy uncorrected maps? But, Green argued, adopting a critical approach to geography would actually increase sales and more than offset the time lost in analysis and preparation: “where [geographers] now sell one MAP, [geographers] would sell many, if they were correct; for then they would be bought by those that delight in them, for Use, as well as Ornament” (Green 1717, 149). This was, perhaps, so much wishful thinking. Although he pursued a critical geography throughout his life, Green does not seem to have gained by it. For whatever reasons, he remained in intellectual servitude to the publishers and engravers he had so readily criticized and abused as a young man.

Green’s own Critical Approach

Green was not so hypocritical as to ignore his own, lengthy criticisms of the works of other geographers. As Crone realized, Green carried into action his critical approach to the compilation of travels and voyages when he edited the New General Collection of Voyages and Travels for Astley. He took what he thought were the best reports, omitted extraneous matter, and reproduced the rest. He ensured that the maps in all the geographical texts he edited did indeed relate to the texts they accompanied. He ensured further that those maps were constructed in as rigorous a manner as possible, and he displayed their critical quality by underscoring the names of places whose latitudes and longitudes were known. When he went to work for Thomas Jefferys, Green followed his own strictures and produced detailed memoirs in which he outlined exactly how he had gone about compiling different source materials to create his large maps.