The Society of Arts, recognising the inadequate state of mapping in Britain, introduced an award in 1759 to encourage the accurate survey and production of county maps at a ‘large’ scale of one inch to one mile (1:63,360) by private individuals. From 1761 to 1809, thirteen awards were made. By 1800 nearly all of England and Lowland Scotland and a third of Wales were mapped by the private enterprise of surveyors, cartographers and publishers before the publication in 1801 of the first Ordnance Survey map at an inch to the mile, of Kent. The role of the Society of Arts awards scheme, in the general rush to produce accurate large scale maps of England and Wales is appraised. Manuscript field maps by William Smith and Adam Sedgwick on SA prize-winning county one inch scale maps for their geological work and a completed example of one inch geological mapping by Arthur Aikin are examined. No geological mapping was published on one-inch county maps, but smaller scale reductions were. Less than a third of published large scale county maps won awards and more than half were published without reference to the Society of Arts; however, the rate of progress of survey and publishing suggests that the Society of Arts awards scheme accelerated the trend to produce one inch mapping in England. In the process, the modest accuracy and lack of standardisation demonstrated the need for government intervention. The Ordnance Trigonometric Survey was the government's response in 1791 to produce a rigorous national triangulation and a consistent high standard of national mapping. Published one-inch geological mapping waited until the Ordnance Survey initiated geological mapping in the 1830s. The Society of Arts offered awards for small scale mineralogical maps in 1803; William Smith's 1815 geological map won the award for England and Wales.

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