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Etched on Devon's Memory

Use the map or place listing to search for prints ☞
Click on Pigot's 1835 map of Devon for listings of prints for specific places.

Dedicated to the memory of John Somers Cocks

Introducing the project

The following introduction was written at the end of the Etched on Devon's Memory project in 2003. These introductory comments explain its Renaissance on this new website. In February 2017 Devon County Council withdrew the website which hosted the data, effectively removing it from the public domain. While the data has been transferred to a new website, hosted by the South West Heritage Trust, the data is not as accessible as it was after the completion of the project. The reliance on a database to access the site was seen as an advantage but in fact has proved a disaster when it comes to archiving the site, as only some of the introductory pages were archived on the website and the bulk of the images are inaccessible as they can only be reached through the search engine. This website seeks to make the data accessible again, not through a database, but through a range of free-standing listings. The data is currently held on an Excel spreadsheet, which is used to generate the listings but much work remains to be done to improve the standard of the bibliographical records and link to images. The opportunity is being taken to extend the information provided, for example by including new resources on the theme of Devon topographical prints.

Ian Maxted
March 2017

What is the project? / Who is Somers Cocks? / What are topographical prints? / How is the website arranged? / How can I navigate the website? / What technical standards are used? / What is the cast list? / How can I help the project?

What is the project?
Etched on Devon's Memory is a project funded by the Big Lottery Fund (formerly the New Opportunities Fund) NOF-Digitise initiative over a twelve month period from February 2002 to February 2003 with an extension to September 2003 which set out to digitise as many as possible of the topographical prints of Devon listed by Somers Cocks. They are presented on this website with historical text to provide an illustrated view of Devon in the period 1660-1870. It was a relatively small-scale project having received from NOF-Digitise a grant of about £60,000 out of an estimated total of £100,000 for the project. The aim was to produce a simple website which can be easily integrated into the continuing work of a small department after the project has finished. For this reason two staff were recruited who spent part of their time releasing permanent staff from the Westcountry Studies Library so that expertise would be retained within the department.

Who is Somers Cocks?
John Somers Cocks, who died in 2001, was a historian who collected prints of Devon. Although severely disabled by polio, he visited many collections in Devon and beyond, gathering details of early topographical prints and the works in which they appeared. His resulting work, Devon topographical prints, 1660-1870: a catalogue and guide, listed over 3,500 items and was published by Devon Library Services in 1977 but even after that Somers Cocks continued to collect information. The project consolidates all the unpublished typescript supplements provided by Somers Cocks until shortly before his death, as well as some prints that were completely unknown to him. Despite its wealth of detail, the published work contained no illustrations or location information and the present project aimed to update this catalogue and match images to the catalogue entries together with historical text, often taken from the sources where the prints first appeared.

What are topographical prints?
These are prints showing views of landscapes, townscapes or buildings as well as some interior views. Prints are illustrations published in multiple copies using a variety of techniques. Normally they are used for images which were produced separately from text, either individually or in portfolios, but in many instances they were also issued as plates illustrating books. Somers Cocks did not normally list illustrations which only appeared as part of a book or periodical and on the same page as text, for example wood engravings.

There are thee main types of print, depending on whether the ink is taken from the raised surface of the printing block or plate (relief prints), from recessed areas (intaglio prints) or from different areas of a flat plate (planographic prints). These are discussed in more detail in Thematic Guide 2.

How is the website arranged?
The images and associated historical texts are held in a database. Not all database records have images linked to them. The homepage provides search options for images as follows:

  • Places. The place depicted, normally at a parish level.
  • Subjects. The main subject of the image.
  • Artists. Where known, the engraver is considered as the primary printmaker, but you can also search for the artist. At times the publisher, the printer or even the author whose work it accompanied may be listed as printmaker, but these may be better searched for under keywords.
  • Titles. You can search for significant words in the title.
  • Date. This is the date of publication, often only approximate. It may help to use truncation to search e.g. 184* for prints dating from the 1840s.
  • Keywords. This is useful to look for terms when you are uncertain where they may occur in the record. It also includes words to be fund in the accompanying historical text.
Apart from the search facilities there are listings and other pages:
  • Biographical dictionary. This is an alphabetical listing with biographical details of printmakers, including engravers, lithographers, artists, publishers and printers.
  • Sources. The source in which the print first appeared, listed in chronological order of publication, with details of the prints included in each work.
  • Themes. A range of topics have been selected, illustrated with details from the images and works of the period.

How can I navigate the website?
The searches will take you to a listing of records giving the Somers Cocks catalogue number, the title and an indication of whether there is an image available. The catalogue number is a hot link, which will take you to the individual record. Once in that record you can scroll down to read the historical text and then either click "return to list" or step through the records on the "next / previous / first / last record" links.

As the Etched records are now integrated with the larger local studies database, if you wish to remain within the Etched website it is better to click "return to list" and then the "back" button to return to the Etched home page, rather than click "home page" or "search" as this will enter the more general local studies database.

An 1835 map of Devon is also available with hot spots that link to images of particular localities.

What technical standards are used?


The pages for individual images were generated from a d-Base database system which supported Dublin Core style metadata. These have been transferred to an interactive content management system supplied by System Simulation. The following table of metadata elements shows the fields that are being used in this database. Most fields are text fields of variable length and where appropriate they can be repeated within a record:

Field NameSample dataNotes
RECTYPEECode e.g. E=Etched B=Book M=Map
CREATORWallis, HenryThe author, artist etc of the original item
CREATOR_TYPEPCode: personal, corporate, title word
TITLEKenwith Lodge, North DevonWhere possible quoted from the item
SUBTITLE[none]Where it is present
RESPONSDrawn by W.H.Bartlett ; engraved by H.WallisStatement of responsibility
PUBPLACELondonPlace of publication
PUBLISHERR.Jennings & W.Chaplin 
PUBDATE1831Date of publication
FORMATSteel line engravingPagination of book or note of medium
EMBELLISH[none]Embellishments (e.g. ill, col)
SIZE103x161mmHeight x width
SERIESS103 - [53] 
NOTESReissued: London: G.Virtue, 1833Shorter notes on item itself
LINKS[to be completed]Free text note of associated websites
TEXTTedrake's illustrated guide to Bideford and North Devon. Bideford: "Western Express" Office, 1894. pp.61-2.
Visitors to the district should not fail to visit this historical spot. It is about a mile and a quarter to the west of Bideford up the North Down Road. It is not equal in appearance to Okehampton [etc ...]
Extended associated text
RIGHTS_OROwner: DCCRights in the original item
CONTROLNOSC0001E.g. ISBN, Somers Cocks no
CONTRIBUTORBartlett, W.HAdded entry to creator
CONTRIBROLEAE.g. editor, artist, joint author
CLASS728Dewey decimal classification
NAMEKenwith LodgeName of subject of work
NAMETYPE[to be completed]E.g. personal, organisation
ASPECTFrom parkWay in which subject is treated
DATESPAN1831Period covered by subject of work
WEBPAGESc0001.htmURL for web location of record
RIGHTS_WPDCCRights in webpage (Default DCC)
WEBIMAGESc0001.jpgName of JPG or GIF file on web
WEBIMAGEKB36Size of web image in Kb
RIGHTS_WIDCCRights in web image (Default DCC)
MASTERFILESc0001.tifName of TIF master image
MASTERDPI300Master image resolution(default 300)
MASTERSIZE8.1MbSize of master image in Mb
MASTERLOC[to be completed]Location of master image (CD no)
MASTERSPECNOFCode linking to more detailed information*
MASTERDATE2002Date master image prepared
RIGHTS_MADCCRights in master image (Default DCC)
COPYWSLCode for holding collection
SHELFM SC001Shelfmark within collection
ACCNOSC0001Accession number of item
PUBLICYWhether this copy publicly available
COPY_NOTES[none]Notes on individual copy


The images have also been produced following certain standards. These are documented below, but information on individual images is also held in the image records as tabulated above.

Etched master images:

  • Format: TIFF, 24 bit colour
  • Scanning software: Silverfast A1
  • Scanner: A3 Epson 1640x4
  • Resolution: 300 dpi up to a maximum size of 2500 by 3500 pixels
  • Settings: Colour balance and autosharpen normally on
  • Editing software: Adobe Photoshop 5.5
  • Rotation: through 90 degrees if required
  • Cropping: to remove excessive margins but to retain any lettering
  • Editing: No action taken to descreen image or touch up blemishes
  • Archiving: on CD-ROMs
  • CD-Burning software: Nero

Etched web images:

  • Format: JPG, 24 bit colour
  • Image size: height 300 pixels, resized from master TIFF image
  • Compression factor: 5
  • Watermark: none
  • Editing software: Adobe photoshop
  • Editing: JPG images may be adjusted to improve visual effect on web. The original TIFF image would not be edited.

There are often problems with a moiré effect, giving the impression of shot silk, especially in areas of sky. This is caused by the parallel lines on the engraved image intersecting with the grid of pixels generated by the scanning process and is difficult to remove without loss of definition. For this reason, while no attempt was made to edit this on the master image, when creating the JPG for the web, descreening and colour adjustment have sometimes been used to create an acceptable image. A few of the largest images were scanned from reduced photographs of the original items and in a very few instances where it was not possible to have access to the original, scanning was from copies.


The equipment used to generate the images and associated texts was not out of the ordinary. It included:

  • PC with 60 Gbyte hard disc and CD-writer
  • A3 flatbed scanner (Epson 1640x4)
  • A laptop, largely used for text capture
There was also access to a digital camera and the partnership with the University of Exeter Humanities Computing Unit provided technical advice and facilities. The project is also part of the Sense of the South West consortium which provides a forum for the discussion of technical problems.


Problems encountered, which may be relevant for similar projects include:

  • Time required converting the catalogue to the interim d-Base database - identification, consistency, dating, additional items, variant states.
  • Time required to assess and locate the Westcountry Studies Library's own resources - items in volumes etc. This has meant that there was no time to approach other collections where prints may be held.
  • Scanning problems, especially the moiré effect (see above)
  • Storage: extra capacity was required as the slowness in backing up onto CD-ROMs had not been appreciated and it was necessary to access all images on-line.
  • Content management system: the unexpected delay in commissioning the system meant a delay in transfer of data and developing some aspects of site. Implementation and transfer of data has provided a web search option and more effective maintenance of the website using more flexible record structure than the original d-Base system with its fixed listings.
  • Rights were NOT a problem for this project - all items are out of copyright and most were owned by the Library Service, a simple agreement with owners of originals is therefore possible.

The Cast

John Somers CocksHistorian and bibliographerCompiler of original catalogue
Peter WaiteDevon Library ServiceProject manager
Tony RouseDevon Library ServiceProject supervisor
Katherine DunhillDevon Library ServiceProject officer
Susan TurnerDevon Library ServiceProject assistant
Geraint HughesDevon Library ServiceAdministration and finance
Dr Mike DobsonUniversity of ExeterTechnical advice
Ian MaxtedDevon Library ServiceProject concept and design
Geraldine PageNew Opportunities FundCase officer
Alison SoppNew Opportunities FundCase officer
Steven ValensNew Opportunities FundCase officer
... and the extrasstaff and publicwho helped in many ways

How can I help the project?

  • By pointing out any errors in links.
  • By letting us know the location of any prints we have yet to discover. If you are willing to provide a digital image you would agree to let us have the use of a 300 pixels high JPG image on this and other educational websites. Any TIFF master image file would not be used without reference to the supplier unless written agreement was obtained.
  • By suggesting suitable historical text that could accompany individual images.
  • By suggesting possible themes that could be illustrated by the images and providing outlines of the content.
The project staff would be most interested in any feedback or suggestions on the project.
This page last updated 15 March 2017