When I was about 13 or 14 my father gave me one of the best birthday presents I've ever had - a map of the British Isles.
It's "dissected", which means that each page is presented separately and mounted onto a cloth backing that comes complete with a hanger to allow it to be displayed on a wall. It fascinated me at the time and indeed it still does.
Despite trying to follow all the clues available on line for doing so I've been unable to date it. The reference to "Cartographers to the King" puts it no later than 1952 whilst an address shown on the back cover was occupied by Bartholomew's from 1911. Ireland is included, divided into "Northern Ireland" and the "Irish Free State", which might narrow it down to between 1922 and 1937. Railways are shown far more prominently than roads, which also puts it before the age of mass motoring. At some point the price was reduced from a Guinea to 15-bob. (ask your dad!)
What particularly fascinated me was the way the counties were shown, with each one having a different coloured background to its neighbours.
Of course, the map shows the true boundaries of the counties - what are nowadays known as the "historic" or "geographic" counties - as opposed to modern administrative or ceremonial ones.
Look at "Lancashire"in yellow above. Incorporating Manchester and Liverpool as well as the detached area "over the sands" in the top left corner. Yorkshire (in pink) almost reaches Morecambe Bay with Cheshire (green) at the bottom and Derbyshire (orange) just creeping in bottom right.
We lived in Carmarthenshire (green) and rightly felt superior to the oiks in Glamorgan (pink) and the yokels in Pembrokeshire (yellow). I think that it was this strong differentiation of the counties that made me so interested in them and their history and so upset about the effects of local government changes in 1974 that attempted to sweep away the historic entities of Rutland, Herefordshire and for that matter, Carmarthenshire (all of which have now returned).
The map has survived every house move I've made since I left home in 1968 although most of that time it has laid undisturbed in various drawers and cupboards. Nevertheless I'm sure it was a major influence in my decision to undertake a marathon bus trip "Around the County Towns of England" which, despite some difficulties, I am currently pursuing. The map has certainly influenced my choice of route, especially in the part of the trip I am currently writing up on the trip's blog.
The top right corner of Northamptonshire (blue) is subtitled the "Soke of Peterborough". This name always fascinated me as a child and when I found out that between 1889 and 1965 it had had its own County Council (despite being considered part of Northamptonshire) I had to include it in the itinerary. Also included in this section of the trip was Huntingdonshire (pink). In 1965 Huntingdonshire and the Soke of Peterborough were merged to form the county of "Peterborough and Huntingdon", but that lasted less than 10 years after which it was incorporated into Cambridgeshire. Peterborough was located in three counties in ten years! Huntingdonshire survives as a District Council (subsidiary to Cambridgeshire). The next stage of the trip will take in the old Cambridgeshire (grey) and also something else that interested me as a child: "The Isle of Ely" (green). Again this had its own county council until 1965 but unlike the Soke of Peterborough was not considered to be part of anywhere else.
This area of "west Anglia", if I can call it that, has certainly been the most complicated part of my journey geographically but I'm still looking forward to visiting the rest of the 39 counties of England and their county towns - by bus of course.
I don't know where Dad got the map from, although as he worked for the MoD at the time I suspect he found it at the back of a cupboard somewhere, perhaps when he was being made redundant, and didn't even pay the reduced price of 15/- but however he came by it, I'm really glad he did.