425 x 550 mm., with fine early outline colour, marginal browning due to earlier framing, otherwise in good condition.
Surveyed in 1576 this map remains a classic to this day. It was engraved by Lenaert Terwoort whose imprint is lower left, he was one of a number of Dutch engravers of the work and apart from the five maps he contributed and that he originated from Antwerp little is known of him. In the interim a number of alterations had taken place. The large title cartouche upper left is replaced by a beautiful view of Launceston although retaining the royal arms above, the title being moved to the right. The arms of Thomas Seckford are replaced by those of 8 ‘Persons Dygnifyed wth ye title of Cornwall’. An interesting note below records ‘That euer since K: Edw: ye 3d The title of Duke of Cornwall belongeth to ye Kings eldest Sonne’.
Following the death of Philip Lea 25 February 1700 his widow Anne continued the business. Although it is recorded that she sold some copper plates to George Willdey shortly after 1715 those belonging to the Saxton atlas were not amongst them. The date of her death is unknown but on 5 August 1730 the Daily Journal carried an advertisement announcing the sale by auction of ‘all the Copper Plates belonging to the Estate of Mrs. Anne Lea, deceased … with all the County Maps of Great Britain and Ireland’. From 1709 early in his career Willdey was advertising maps for sale. Willdey’s first advertisement announcing the county plates was placed in the Daily Post for 3 February 1732 (illustrated in Hodson I p. 142). They were sold individually for 4d. each. In none of his adverts up to his death in November 1737 does he mention the county maps be bound as an atlas with a title-page. However in 1721 when advertising his series of two sheet maps he stated that ‘This Set of Maps may be fitted up several ways and sizes, or bound in a Book, or sold single, to fit Gentlemen’s Conveniency …’ It can be assumed that he would be just as accommodating with the single sheet county maps and that therefore a c.1732 date is reasonable for the atlas.
Willdey was not able to secure all of the Lea plates despite securing those by Saxton. Some of the maps in the Saxton-Lea atlas were replacements by other cartographers and those of John Seller went to Thomas and John Bowles. Willdey did manage to acquire the John Ogilby map of Middlesex. However of a full complement of county maps Willdey did not have ones for Cambridgeshire or Hertfordshire. Willdey was compelled to have new maps of these counties engraved which might explain the delay between acquisition in August 1730 and the first advert in February 1732.
Willdey’s last advert was placed in the Daily Post, 12 November 1737, which carried in its news columns the announcement that ‘Yesterday Morning died of an Apopletick Fit, Mr. Willdey, who kept the noted great Toyshop at the Corner of Ludgate-street by St. Paul’s; said to have died very rich.’ Curiously although all the newspapers agreed he died on 11 November his will is signed 12 November. The business was continued by Thomas Willdey although it is not clear whether this is his brother, or son. Thomas died in 1748 and the business was closed as there were many creditors. This is a very rare atlas surviving in only five known examples. Evans & Lawrence (1979) pp. 53-8 & 163; Hodson (1984-97) no. 183; Quixley (1966) no. 1; Shirley (2004) T.Sax 1j.