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Maps and views, correspondence and journals from the first global war

William Roy (1726-90)

Battle of Minden, 1759

To Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, / This Plan of the Battle of Thonhausen gained / August 1, 1759: by HIS Britannic MAJESTY’S Army, / under the command of His Serene Highness, / over the French Army, commanded by... 1760

Engraving and etching; printed on paper; hand coloured; laid down on linen | Scale: 1:30,900 approx. | RCIN 732111.a

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A map of the Battle of Minden, 1 August 1759. Seven Years War (1756-63). Oriented with south-south-west to top (compass rose). 

Different stages of the battle are engraved on two flaps which are pasted to the base map. This map was apparently used in the trial, which began in London on the date of publication engraved on this map, of Lord George Sackville for disobeying orders during the battle. 

A recollection of the construction of the map was given by Sir James Campbell (born 21 October 1745) who was aged just thirteen when he was present at the battle and who knew Roy: 'As this was the first great battle in the gaining of which the English had participated, his Serene Highness the Commander-in-chief, was pleased to require that plans of it should be presented to him by the various engineers in the army, in addition to those which were furnished by the gentlemen whose province it was to prepare such returns in their official capacity. Mr Roy was one of those who volunteered his services on this occasion, and, from his previous habits, combined with superior ability, he succeeded in exhibiting the operations of the day in a much more intelligible and satisfactory form, than had hitherto been attempted by military engineers. The plans received by others were prepared in the only mode which was known at the time, showing upon one paper the first formations of the armies in the order of battle, and in another their formation when the enemy gave way. Mr Roy's design was totally different. As the basis of his plan, he had first a general representation of the field of battle; and as during the day there were three distinct dispositions of the adverse armies, he had formed three separate papers, which were so adjusted as to coincide in all the fixed positions, such as roads or rivulets, with the general plan which formed the basis of the work; and were so adapted and attached to it, as to convey a much clearer conception of the relative positions of the troops, at the three most critical and important periods, than could be afforded by the ordinary methods. The idea, in short, was entirely new; and the Duke was so much pleased with the work, that Mr Roy was soon afterwards attached to his Serene Highness's personal staff. During the time he remained in the 51st, he was so good as to teach me the first principles of military drawing, and with his assistance I was enabled to make a plan of this great battle, which I sent home, as I remember, to the great delight of my father.' (Campbell, 1832, pp. 32-4). In fact, Roy was not the inventor of the system of using flaps pasted to a base map to indicate different positions for this technique had been used since the sixteenth century.   

Although this account relates that Duke Ferdinand was pleased with Roy's map of Minden, it should be noted that in his letter to Holdernesse, written on 3 February 1760 (TNA SP. 87/37, f.36.2) the Duke states the 'Le Plan des mouvements faits par les deux Armées depuis le 15 de Juillet jusqu'au 1 d'Aôut, qui a été levé par le Capitaine Bauer, et qui a eté gravé en Hollande explique tout ce que jue viens de dire ...'. A copy of Bauer's plan, which was published in 1759, before Roy's plan came on the market, is at RCIN 732113.   

Roy's map was advertised by Thomas Major in the Public Advertiser on Monday 31 March 1760 (Number 7917) at a price of 10s. 6d. coloured or 7s. plain. The public were desired to 'take Notice, that this is the only authentic Plan that has been published.'

  • William Roy (1726-90) (surveyor and draughtsman) [bottom left, between border and platemark:] Survey’d & Drawn by Cap.t William Roy.

    Thomas Major: The Golden Head, in Chandos Street the upper end of St Martins Lane, London (engraver and publisher) [bottom right, between border and platemark:] Engrav’d by Tho:s Major Chief Engraver to His Majesty, and to His R.H. the Prince of Wales.

  • Watermark: On paper strip pasted to verso: indistinct device in double oval

  • Scale: 1:30,900 approx. Scale bar: Scale of Paces, Two Feet and a half each [148 mm = 6000].

    48.3 x 33.9 cm (neatline)

    48.6 x 34.2 cm (image)

    51.4 x 36.8 cm (sheet)

  • Printed title:

    To Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, / This Plan of the Battle of Thonhausen gained / August 1, 1759: by HIS Britannic MAJESTY’S Army, / under the command of His Serene Highness, / over the French Army, commanded by / Marshal Contades, and taken from an / Actual Survey, is with the greatest Respect, humbly / dedicated by William Roy Captain of Engineers, / & assistant Quartermaster General of the British forces. [bottom left, on a flag with the union in the top left corner, superimposed on the colours of the 51st Regiment of Foot, flying above a captured French cannon on the carriage of which sits a grenadier of the 51st, the butt of his gun resting on the ground, with bayonet fixed, and his feet on the emblems of France, with fallen French standard]

    Additional text:

    [left, in irregularly shaped panel:] JOURNAL of the Motions of HIS BRITANNIC MAJESTY'S / ARMY, from July 14. to August 2. 1759. [Bottom right, in irregularly shaped panel:] RELATION OF THE BATTLE.


    George III heading: Battle of Minden 1 August 1759.

    Other annotations: (Recto) none. (Verso) The number of the old heading is annotated in black pencil in Yolande Hodson's hand: (1) YH.2.9.86.

    George III catalogue entry:

    Minden Plan of the Battle of Thonhausen gained on the of August 1759 by His Britannic Majesty’s Army under the command of Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick over the French Army commanded by Marshal Contades: from an actual survey by Captain W.m Roy Eng.r engraved by Tho.s Major, 1760: with a Journal of the motions of His Britannic Majesty’s Army from the of July to the 2.d of August 1759, and a Relation of the Battle in the margin: and the same translated into French,

  • Probably from the collection of military and naval maps and prints formed by Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1721-65), third son of George II; subsequently acquired by George III (1738-1820)

  • Subject(s)

    Minden, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany (52°17'00"N 08°55'00"E)

  • Bibliographic reference(s)

    Sir J. CAMPBELL, Memoirs of Sir James Campbell, of Ardkinglas. Written by Himself, 2 vols., London 1832

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