Hidden clues in an old book are solved to expose a fantastic plot organised by Charles II against his own country. The seventeenth century comes to life in a completely new way.
The old book is John Ogilby’s Britannia. Ogilby is amazing enough in his own right: he went through nine careers at the heart of Stuart Britain’s dramatic and violent upheavals. Starting out as a child pedlar, his astonishing combination of luck and charm helped him make (and lose) three fortunes apparently without ever making an enemy. He was dancer, poet, publisher (the first crowd-funding publisher), Master of the Revels in Ireland and impresario. His final project, when he was over 70, was to create from scratch a new kind of map, the first national road atlas of any country in the world. Until this old man accurately measured 20,000 miles of roads, maps simply did not have roads on them.
The story of his life is a marvellous journey through a world in transition, with a man who goes through every kind of catastrophe and always rises again to new triumphs in new fields, dramatically experiencing the transformation of a country and world in ferment and experiencing its life on every level from abject poverty to wealth and ceremony. But his crowning glory is his final work, Britannia.
Published in 1675, it shows his measured distances between towns, villages, great houses, churches and castles along what he says were the principal roads of the kingdom. It includes hills, rivers, bridges, even gibbets. It was in every sense a landmark publication.
But Britannia is not what it seems. Once I began physically exploring the roads that Ogilby mapped through Wales, they seemed so strange that there was obviously an unsuspected mystery here. And the book is dense with deliberate clues as to its real meaning.
The Nine Lives of John Ogilby reveals that Britannia is the key to a major turning-point in British history, uncovering its place in a plot concerning a secret treaty, an invasion plan, a Royal mistress and a sinister eminence grise with a black patch on his nose. It involves sex, religion, money and the secret service.
"You actually seem to have discovered something new about history. The first road atlas of Britain has dirty political fingerprints all over it"
Ronald Hutton, Professor of History, University of Bristol
On August 3rd, 1621, John Ogilby produced a giant fart for the entertainment of the king. It was supposed to be the proudest moment in his young life.
It was an occasion of astonishing splendour. James I’s favourite courtier, George Neville, was showing off his new home, Burley-on-the Hill in Rutland. He had just married and acquired this magnificent property at the staggering cost of £28,000. He had made his way as the King’s favourite, being knighted and then promoted to Baron, Viscount, Earl and then, in 1618, Marquess of Buckingham. He was just shy of his 29th birthday, beautiful and athletic, and James I was in love with him. As a result, he was now extraordinarily rich.
All supporters get their name printed in every edition of the book. All levels include the ebook and immediate access to the author's shed.
Digital edition, your name in the back and access to the author's shed
Spend a weekend with Alan Ereira exploring the road to Aberystwith shown in Britannia discovering lost trackways and the most beautiful road in Britain. Includes travel from London, food and hotel. Plus1st edition signed hardback, ebook edition and your name printed in the back