Herman Moll (1654?-1732) was born it is believed in Bremen, Germany, although he is often thought of as being Dutch. He is first recorded in London working on the Moses Pitt atlas in 1678. Much of his early work was undertaken for others or in partnership with the likes of Christopher Browne, Philip Lea or Robert Morden. Moll’s earliest world atlases were geographical texts, the ‘Thesaurus Geographus’ of 1695 was enlarged to become the ‘System of Geography’ in 1701. The small maps were issued in a number of differently entitled works at the time. He then moved to the opposite end of the size spectrum with the ‘World Described’ offering a series of elephant folio sized maps. A first attempt at a quarto sized atlas was the ‘Atlas Geographus’ issued in parts from 1711-17 which is extremely rare.
Moll returned to the quarto format later in his life issuing in parts Thomas Salmon’s ‘Modern History’ from 1725. Many but not all of these plates were published in an atlas without text c.1727 entitled ‘A Set of Thirty-Two New and Correct Maps of the Principal Parts of Europe’. This included a set of world and four continental maps but as Moll expanded production he was able to publish a complete set in 1729 under the title of ‘Atlas Minor’. Although in the last years of his life Moll did not slow down, he was constantly updating his maps and these were no exception. The biggest alteration came however following his death in 1732 when the atlas was acquired by Thomas and John Bowles. Their imprints were added to all the plates as were plate numbers.
This is an example of the pre-Bowles atlas which is extremely rare, indeed only two examples are recorded in the auction records in the last forty years. It includes a typographic title page which was replaced by an engraved one by Bowles. Evidence of the continual alteration of the plates is found in this example as here he has replaced the map of Persia with another signed by him July 1732. Moll died in September 1732. This date as with almost all of the others were either removed or updated to 1732 by Bowles almost immediately.
One of the more significant sections of the atlas are the eighteen maps which relate to the Americas. All of them are present in their earliest dated state. There are regional maps of North America supplemented by a larger folding map of the Bay of Fundy with detailed inset of Annapolis Royal. Captured finally by the British in 1710 it was fought over for many years after. There is also a large scale map of Port Royal in South Carolina, one of the best harbours in the area. Fortified by the French in 1562 it would remain an important area. Just to the left of Port Royal on the map is the better known island of Hilton Head. Arguably the most important of these maps is that of New England which illustrates the postal route from Philadelphia to Boston. The legend lower right states ‘An Account of ye Post of ye Continent of Nth. America as they are Regulated by ye Postmasters Genl. Of ye Post House’. It describes how the post leaves Philadelphia every Friday and arrives in New York on the Sunday night. It leaves Monday morning arriving at Seabrook Thursday noon “where the Post from Boston setts out at the same time”.
With an additional map inserted entitled ‘The Abissine Empire, as it now is; and the true Source of the Nile’ from ‘The Travels of the Jesuits in Ethiopia’, 1710, by Balthazar Tellez. Provenance: Astle Library formed by Thomas Astle, the palaegrapher and Keeper of the Records in the Tower (purchased by the Royal Institution in 1802), later blue ink rectangular stamp inserted inside library binding. With their withdrawn bookplate retained from earlier library binding. McCorkle (2001) 729.2; Shirley BL T.MOLL-9a; Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).