John Ogilby  

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John Ogilby (November 1600 – 4 September 1676) was a Scottish translator, impresario and cartographer. He is known best for his Britannia Atlas of 1675, which was perhaps the first British road atlas, and set the standard for those that followed (for example, in the use of 1760 yards for the mile, which was not then standard, and in his use of the scale of one inch to the mile (1/63360)). NB: Some of the minor roads used the local mile rather than the not-yet-standard mile of 1760 standard yards.

Ogilby was born in or near Edinburgh in November 1600. His father was a prisoner within the jurisdiction of the King's Bench, presumably for bankruptcy or debt, but by speculation the son found money to apprentice himself to a dancing master and to obtain his father's release.

He accompanied Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, when he went to Ireland as lord deputy, and became tutor to his children. Strafford made him deputy-Master of the Revels, and he built the Theatre Royal, Dublin, which was very successful.

The outbreak of the English Civil War ruined his fortunes, and in 1646 he returned to Great Britain. Finding his way to Cambridge, he learned Latin from kindly scholars who had been impressed by his industry. He then ventured to translate Virgil into English verse (1649-1650), which brought him a considerable sum of money. The success of this attempt encouraged Ogilby to learn Greek from David Whitford, who was usher in the school kept by James Shirley the dramatist.

His property was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, but he rebuilt his house in Whitefriars, and set up a printing press, from which he issued many magnificent books, the most important of which were a series of atlases, with engravings and maps by Hollar and others. He styled himself "His Majesty's Cosmographer and Geographic Printer."

The Scottish philosopher David Hume used Ogilby's work to illustrate the idea that common sense frequently appeals to a "standard of taste" in aesthetic matters: "Whoever would assert an equality of genius and elegance between Ogilby and Milton, or Bunyan and Addison, would be thought to defend no less an extravagance, than if he had maintained a mole-hill to be as high as Teneriffe, or a pond as extensive as the ocean." (Hume, "Of the Standard of Taste." This essay originally appeared in Hume's Four Dissertations (1757).)

Ogilby died in London in 1676.

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