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The only answer, as it seemed to auctioneer Simon Cottle, involved the seating plans at the high table of a royal banquet for which it may have been specially commissioned. The visit by King George IV to Edinburgh in 1822 was the first by British monarch since JamesVI and a special dinner was held on August 24. It is the view of Mr Cottle, supported by curators at the National Museum of Scotland, that the map may have been positioned below the king at the head of the table in such a way that the monarch alone could read the inscription and know that he was sovereign of the country he surveyed.

Whether or not this provenance was strictly true, the map itself was probably unique, as the amount of work involved in impressing the names of principal cities, lochs, rivers and mountains would be difficult to replicate. Painted in shades of blue, green, pink and grey, the sea of sponged turquoise, the map measured 161/2in by 131/2in (42 x 34cm) and had been consigned in near-perfect condition, excepting a small chip, from a private Scottish source.

As a one-off piece, expectations as to the eventual price were hard to place and the auctioneers opted for an estimate of £6000-8000. The reserve was not reached, but after the auction the sale was
re-negotiated and a final price of £4000 was agreed.