Clive A. Burden LTD. Rare Maps, Antique Atlases, Books and Decorative Prints

The Mapping of North America

Mr. Philip D. Burden‚Äč
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John Seller (c.1627-97) was born the son of Henry Sellers, a cord wayner, between 1627 and 1630 in Wapping, London. He was apprenticed to Edward Lowe who was presumably an instrument maker as this was the profession chosen by Seller. He appears to have been a Baptist at a time when Nonconformists were not popular. Following the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660, there were understandably a number of treasonable plots against him. In 1662 six men were arrested in one such plot led by Thomas Tonge, amongst them was John Seller. The trial was held in the Old Bailey in December. The published details show that Seller was clearly not involved although he was a friend of one of the men and had been seen talking to another. In spite of the evidence he was convicted and sentenced. Seller and one James Hind escaped execution, the others being hanged on 22 December. Seller remained in Newgate Prison until the spring of 1663. He was granted release on bail and eventually granted a pardon.

Seller’s main income derived from instrument making and navigation, and he was even interested in their use. He wrote ‘Praxis Nautica or Practical Navigation’ in 1669, dealing with all aspects of navigation such as instruments, mathematics, almanacs and tables. It was an immediate success and was issued in numerous further editions. It was at this time he turned to publishing maps, at first specialising in sea charts for which he saw a domestic market.

This chart of the south coast of Cornwall and part of Devon displays the coast from Portland Bill to Lands End and the Silly Isles. This plate has a fascinating history, it was first published by Jan Jansson in the Het Licht der Zeevaert in 1620, in direct competition to Willem Blaeu’s sea atlas. The plate’s later history is a remarkable transformation. In 1669 John Seller acquired sixty-three old copperplate sea charts from the Netherlands. These mainly consisted of the plates Jansson used in the Het Licht der Zeevaert and included this plate. Seller anglicised some of the map’s placenames, added an English title in place of the Dutch one and erased the French title remnants of which can still be seen. It was published in Seller’s English Pilot First Book, 1672. Not in ‘Scarcer Maps of the Isles of Scilly’; Koeman (1967-70) IV M.Bl 15 (J) no. 19 (Jansson edition); Palmer (1963) no. 6; not in Quixley (1966); Shirley (2004) M.Sell 1a no. 29.2.


A Chart of the West part of England from Portland to Scilly, describing all the Roads, Havens and Harbors etc.

London, 1620-[72]
175 x 530 mm., some early colour, restored and laid on archivist tissue, some loss to the left side with extended margin, a pencil neatline added here and to lower border which is present but due to plate wear not printed, otherwise a fair example of this extremely rare chart.
Stock number: 5228


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