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WORLD WAR I - CLOSE, Albert (cartographer).

[Three maps:] The British Empire at Bay on the Western Front. A visualised map compiled by Albert Close [with:] Index to British War Cemeteries [with:] The Naval War Chart of the North Sea. Compiled by Albert Close.

London: Edward Stanford, Ltd, 1922-23 Stock Code: 122291
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"Ingenious and accurate"

A group of three very scarce, imposing and fascinating maps, the principal two covering in remarkable detail the complexities of the Great War on the Western Front and in the North Sea, compiled by the Canadian-born cartographer Albert Close.

The Western Front map (dated 15 January 1923 and November 1923) - published as a companion piece to the Naval War Chart - carries the sub-title "from confidential maps used at British Headquarters in France and Belgium and from Official Despatches". Stanford's blurb explains that "this is the first map published showing the tremendous German forces massed on the whole British Front, and the actual British forces opposing them on Mar. 21st, 1918. These confidential British and German maps have been kept secret until now. Hundreds of Officers who were in various Divisions all over the Western Front have critically examined this new Map, and confirm its accuracy, especially the lines on March 21st, 1918, and Haig's perilous shortage of Reserves". Intriguingly, Close has chosen as his focus not the Allied breakthrough of August-November 1918 but the positions at 21 March, the date of the opening of "Operation Michael", the German Spring Offensive which threw the British Army into disarray. The Fifth Army, under Sir Hubert Gough, bore the shock of this attack and its "organized battle of retreat" (ODNB) is memorialised on the map ("Fifth Army bore the brunt of the mightiest assault in military history their cemeteries of dead testify to their stubborn valour in the face of overwhelming odds"). Early and later offensives are noted, including "Foch's great counter attack July 18th 1918" at the Second Battle of the Marne. The map carries glowing press reviews and encomiums from senior British officers Sir John Davidson, Gough, and Lord Byng and includes army-level dispositions, portraits of the leading commanders, losses at various battles, memorials, quotes and illustrations of battle scenes (such as "tank smashing through a machine gun nest"). The war cemeteries maps focusses on the Ypres-Somme battles. The naval map (dated 15 March and "3rd Edition April 1922") is included in the Library of Congress online exhibition "Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I". It includes a plan of the Battle of Jutland, "principal mine-fields, Zepps destroyed, position of German submarines sunk and naval battles". The Spectator review described it as "ingenious and accurate".

There is little information about the cartographer Albert Close; we know that he was based in Ilford, Essex (the Western Front map was printed by Hayden of Ilford Hill). Before the Great War he specialized in charts for fishermen (Close's Orkney and Shetland Sailing Directions for Fishermen, Close's Fishermen's Pilot round the British Isles) and in 1921 Stanford published his Handy Wheel House Chart Book. He also specialized in the history of the Spanish Armada (1588) and managed to work this in to his naval map. "Albert Close was particularly vehemently anti-Catholic, for example, England was saved by a Divine Hand and the defeat of the Armada was 'a great sermon preached to the Popish and Protestant nations'" (Eugene L. Rasor, English/British Naval History to 1815: A Guide to the Literature, 2004, p. 93).

Decidedly scarce: Western Front: Library Hub cites copies at only three British and Irish institutional libraries (British Library, Scotland, Oxford); War Cemeteries: British Library and Imperial War Museum only (but also National Maritime Museum), not on WorldCat; North Sea: not on Library Hub or WorldCat (but we have located copies at the NMM and Library of Congress). These painstaking, densely mapped charts, were a remarkable labour of love and give an exceptional overview of the key areas of British commitment in the Great War.

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Western Front map (folded 225 x 275 mm, unfolded 1085 x 1110 mm), coloured and illustrated, dissected into 30 panels and linen-backed,, scale 1:200,000; Cemeteries map (folded 245 x 85 mm, unfolded 960 x 725 mm); Naval map (folded 225 x 168 mm, unfolded 1330 x 990 mm), illustrated, dissected into 36 panels and linen-backed, scale 1:500,000. Housed in two later black grained card library slipcases.


Neat library stamps and holograph pressmarks of Brighton Public Libraries on versos. All in remarkably good condition.


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