Wyld, James (1812-1887) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 63
Wyld, James (1812-1887)

by Gerald le Grys Norgate
1904 Errata appended.
Contains subarticle James Wyld (1790–1836).

WYLD, JAMES (1812–1887), geographer, was born in 1812.

His father, James Wyld (1790–1836), geographer royal, was for fourteen years in the quartermaster-general's office. He introduced the art of lithography into England, and first applied it to the preparation of the plans of actions fought in the Peninsula, which it was his duty to supply. He became one of the foremost geographers in Europe, and his maps, founded upon researches in the hydrographical and military archives of various countries, were remarkable for their number and excellence. Among them may be mentioned a ‘Scripture Atlas,’ Thompson's ‘Edinburgh Atlas,’ and ‘A New Map of the World, exhibiting at one View the Extent, Religion, Population, and Degrees of Civilisation of each Country, with numerous illustrative Notes,’ 1815, 4to. He also arranged for publication the ‘Travels of Mungo Park,’ and compiled maps both for that work and for those of Giovanni Baptista Belzoni [q. v.], the Egyptian explorer. He was a member of many European, American, and Asiatic societies. The title of geographer royal he inherited from his ancestors, and transmitted it to his son. He died from overwork on 14 Oct. 1836.

The younger James Wyld was educated for the army at Woolwich, but soon decided to continue his father's pursuits. He acquired the map business of Faden, and in 1830 joined the Royal Geographical Society. In 1854 he had establishments in Charing Cross East, the Royal Exchange, and at 11 and 12 Charing Cross. The last became the resort of public men, whom he kept supplied with maps of those countries whose affairs occupied the attention of the moment, with full statistical details appended. Among these the chief were a map of Afghanistan, with a pamphlet containing geographical notes and the routes of troops, at the time of the first Afghan war; ‘A Map of the Gold Regions of California, with Geographical and Mineralogical Notes,’ in 1849; ‘Notes on the Distribution of Gold throughout the World, with a Gazetteer of the Gold Diggings of Australia’ (3rd ed. 1853); maps of the Ottoman empire and Black Sea with geographical and hydrographical notes, and of Sebastopol at the time of the Crimean war; and ‘A Map of Central Asia and Afghanistan’ in 1878. Wyld's ‘Popular Atlas,’ which still holds its ground, was a reproduction in lithography of the large maps he issued in cheap monthly numbers. His ‘Atlas of Battles’ was a reproduction of Sir Thomas Mitchell's ‘Survey of Peninsular Battles.’ The ‘Wellington Atlas,’ founded on this and other materials, contains in its text many additions to and corrections of Napier. His greatest geographical achievement was ‘Wyld's Great Globe,’ which was exhibited in Leicester Square between 1851 and 1862. The globe, sixty feet high, lighted with gas and approached by galleries, was about forty feet in diameter, and far the largest hitherto constructed. Upon its interior side were delineated the physical features of the earth, the horizontal surface being on the scale of an inch to ten miles, and mountains, shown by mechanical devices, on thrice that scale. The concave surface was made of some six thousand casts taken in plaster of Paris, three feet square and an inch thick, screwed to beams and joined together, and afterwards painted over. The top of the globe outside was painted with stars. It was surrounded by a large circular building, approached by four loggias opening into each side of the square. The walls of the circular passages were hung with the finest maps, and atlases, globes, and geographical works were displayed upon tables.

The great railway mania of 1836–7 was of some service to Wyld, who supplied prospectus, maps, and plans for parliamentary deposit. But when, two years later, the collapse came he was left with heavy claims against unsuccessful companies, and he and other creditors were unable to obtain favourable decisions from the courts (see A Consideration of the Judgment of the Court of Exchequer, by a Barrister of the Middle Temple, 1846).

Wyld's interests were not confined to geography. He represented Bodmin in parliament as a liberal from 1847 to 1852, and again from 1857 to 1868 (except for a few months in 1859), having in the meantime unsuccessfully contested Finsbury. He was instrumental in passing the mines' assessment bill, and introduced the first county financial boards bill. He was an active supporter of vote by ballot. As a governor of the city and guilds institute and as master of the Clothworkers' Company, he took a leading part in the promotion of technical education; and the cities of Manchester, Leeds, and Bristol are largely indebted to him for their technical schools. He had a wide reputation as a man of science, and possessed no fewer than seventeen European orders, including the Legion of Honour, and a gold medal for scientific merit from the King of Prussia.

Wyld died at his house in South Kensington on 17 April 1887. He left a daughter and a son, Mr. James John Cooper Wyld, a barrister of the Inner Temple.

[Gent. Mag. 1836, ii. 656; Dict. of Living Authors, 1816; Times, 19 April 1887; Athenæum, 11 June 1887, by C. H.; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Foster's Alumni Oxon. and Men at the Bar. For lists of maps and charts see Cat. of the Map Room of the Roy. Geogr. Soc. 1882, where there are sixty-five entries under J. Wyld; see also ‘The Great Globe itself,’ an art. in Chambers's Journal (1851), copied in Littell's Living Age (Boston, Mass.), October 1851; Journal of the Roy. Geogr. Soc. vol. xxi. p. lxix; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. v. 488.]

G. Le G. N.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.286
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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234 i 39 Wyld, James: after 1868 insert (except for a few months in 1859)