Emanuel Bowen: Royal Mapmaker

Authored by Kimberly A. Meyer


“An accurate map of South America : drawn from the best modern maps and charts, and regulated by astron’l. observatns. / by Eman. Bowen, geog’r. to His Majesty, 1747.”

As I combed through the many thousands of maps on the NYPL Map Warper, I knew that I wanted to work with a map of South America because I was born in Colombia. What immediately caught my eye about this map, above the others, was the caption that the mapmaker made this map for His Majesty in 1747. Just who is this “Eman. Bowen” who presented this map to His Majesty?

A quick search on Google helped me find that his full name was Emanuel Bowen who didn’t just do map work for one royal family, but two: George II and Louis XV of France.

Bowen did most of his work out of London with dreams of creating an atlas of English counties. He joined forces with another well-known cartographer, Thomas Kitchin [or Kitchen, both spellings are used] to create many maps of England before branching out to create maps and atlases of many countries.

In most of the articles that I read about Bowen, there was mention of the level of detail and work that he put into his maps. “The maps themselves featured detailed descriptions…:county towns, historical notes, notable events etc, carefully filling any voids or ‘quiet’ areas on the map, and resulting in a stunning montage of topographically and historically fascinating pieces” (The Antique Map Shop Ltd, n.d.). Because of this detail and dedication, Bowen’s maps became quite famous because they served a function that made his maps easier to read than other maps that were produced in his time.

An aspect of this research into Bowen’s life that I am taken by is that despite his maps being famous and despite him being appointed the royal mapmaker for royalty, Bowen wound up fading away into obscurity and he died in poverty as did his son, who also went into the family business.

However, nowadays, some of his original maps, and even prints of his maps, are now worth quite a bit of money. For example, one listing on www.raremaps.com, lists a map of his $1,600 while another listing on http://www.vintage-maps.com/, has his maps for 75000 Euros (which converted to the US dollar is $84,787.50!)

From reading about Bowen’s life, I feel like he exemplifies the Vincentian life and St. John University core values of truth, love, respect, opportunity, excellence and service. What I gather and conclude from reading about him is that he sought truth in the drawings of the map, love and respect because despite the job keeping him in poverty, and he strived for excellence in his mapmaking. His maps were a service to his community and afforded them opportunity (and thus he helped create opportunity) by drawing up these maps for others to find their way.


Angel, Christine M. Information representation through the Vincentian lens of transparency: providing the under and misrepresented with a voice within our cultural heritage records. 2013. Retrieved from https://docs.google.com/document/d/1VkY3xbRv1Ikuny5LApVmVWmSiZ81OTtUyJ6aSl_I3xo/edit

“All products of Emanuel Bowen (*1693-+1767). Gotzfried Antique Maps. 2014. Retrieved from http://www.vintage-maps.com/en/Bowen:.:133.html

“Emanuel Bowen: Cartographer of the month August.” Antiqua Global Art. 2008. Retrieved from http://www.antiqua-global-art.com/kartograph-2008-08_E.html

“Emmanuel Bowen 1720-1767.” The Christina Gallery. 2015. Retrieved from http://www.christina.com/cartographer/emmanuel-bowen-1720-1767/

“Emanuel Bowen (fl. 1714-1767).” Geographicus. 2010. Retrieved from http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/bowen

Kaller, Seth. “1747 Emanuel Bowen map of North American Harbors.” 2015. Retrieved from https://www.sethkaller.com/item/839-1747-Emanuel-Bowen-Map-of-North-American-Harbors&from=13

“Maps by Bowen.” Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps Inc. Accessed on May 15, 2015 from https://www.raremaps.com/gallery/browse/creator_id/238

Sponberg Pedley, Mary. The Commerce of Cartography: Making and Marketing Maps in Eighteenth- Century France and England. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2005.

The Antique Map Shop Ltd. “Emanuel Bowen.” Accessed on May 15, 2015 from http://www.dg-maps.com/emanuel-bowen.html

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