Lovely needlework map of the world

Barwick, A MAP of the WORLD, ACCORDING to the latest DISCOVERIES. [England?] June 3, 1783.
Embroidery in several shades of silk thread on a satin ground. Framed. Map 17 7/8”h x 28 ½”w (sight), with frame 19 5/8”h x 31 3/8”w.

A large and ornate needlework map of the world embroidered in silk on satin. In unusually bright, fresh condition, with almost none of the splitting or toning that almost always affects needlework maps of the period.

The map is executed in silk thread embroidered on silk satin, with the border and coordinate grid in black and national and regional boundaries in a varied palette of blues, browns, greens and reds. The cartography reflects European knowledge of the world in the late 18th century, with the border and coordinate grid with the outline of Australia is more-or-less resolved and the northwest coast of North America recognizably modern though with a distorted Alaska predating the findings of Cook’s third voyage, and still no sign of a southern continent. Though the map is dated June 1783 the United States is not named, as its independence was not recognized until the Treaty of Paris later that year.

The map is signed and dated by S. Barwick, almost certainly an English girl of school age. The execution and overall effect are both elegant and impressive, far superior to most such needlework maps embroidered in the 18th-19th centuries by well-to-do English girls as part of their formal education. Regarding another map of this genre, the Leventhal Map Center tells us that:

“Recent international conflicts and voyages by Captain Cook and others made the study of geography exciting at the time this map was made. Elaborate embroidered maps … were executed by wealthy girls in formal academic settings using costly materials such as satin and silk. Such projects were designed to combine instruction in both geography and needlework, as sewing skills were essential for the production of clothing and monogramming linens at the time.”

One lingering question is the identity of the template used by Ms. Barwick to guide her embroidery. This may have been a map of the same title published by Robert Sayer, for which I find dates as early as 1750 and as late as the 1790s. I have been unable however to locate an image for the purpose of comparison. Alternatively, Ms. Barwick may have used one of the specially-engraved patterns known to have been supplied by embroidery shops. Such pattern maps would of course have been destroyed in the embroidery process, explaining their rarity today.


Minor spotting to satin, a few tiny holes in lower-right border, small chip to upper edge, and a hint of staining at upper-left corner.