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World Book Day, or the World in a Book

Lucy Matheson

Lucy Matheson

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Title page of Cosmographie in Four Bookes. Containing the Chorographie and Historie of the Whole World, and all the Principall Kingdomes, Provinces, Seas, and Isles, Thereof (1652)

For World Book Day, we present a book of the World: Peter Heylyn’s Cosmographie in Four Bookes. Containing the Chorographie and Historie of the Whole World, and all the Principall Kingdomes, Provinces, Seas, and Isles, Thereof. Published in 1652, this work attempts to record every aspect of the known world at the time, from the longitude and latitude of the major cities of each place, to the rulers and achievements of each country throughout history.

The detail of the maps for each Continent is impressive:

Map of the European continent

The work has an Appendix which speculates about unknown lands in the Southern Hemisphere, from the real Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands to the fanciful, inspired by poetical works: Utopia, New Atlantis, Faerie Land, The Painters Wives Iland, The Lands of Chivalrie and The New World in the Moon.

Peter Heylyn was a local boy, born in Burford, who came up to Hart Hall, but quickly moved on to Magdalen, where he lectured on Historical Geography, 'The first to recommend it at Oxford to the dignity of a peculiar academical study' (Universal Magazine, v.110 May 1802, p.313). He became Chaplain-in-Ordinary to King Charles I and was under the patronage of William Laud. Nonetheless, he survived the Commonwealth and was compensated for his confiscated estate and restored to his livings by King Charles II. He went blind and the highly popular Cosmographie was the last work he completed in his own hand. He subsequently wrote many controversial works on the history of the Church in England, with the help of an amanuensis. He is buried under the Sub-Dean’s seat in Westminster Abbey.