John Norden is noted as being the first person to undertake a complete series of county histories. Unfortunately, he suffered financial issues during his life which limited the reach of the project. This is largely due to ‘the Puritan tracts he wrote to raise money and his flattering dedication to Essex shortly before the uprising of 1599 set him so far out of political favour that he never received the patronage necessary to finance expensive surveys’ (Globe). The first part was successfully published in 1593 which covered Middlesex, Hertfordshire followed in 1598. No others were published during his lifetime, but he left a few further county histories in manuscript form. Norden’s maps were pioneering. Two books were published at his own expense, those of Middlesex and Hertfordshire, the remainder of his manuscripts remained unpublished apart from the maps of Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex, which were privately financed. That of Surrey survives in just one example and is engraved by Charles Whitwell, the Sussex similarly is known in just one example and is engraved by Christopher Switzer. There are no known printed examples of the Hampshire in its first issue. Indeed, even the second state Peter Stent (fl.1642-65) is only known by the one example.
Norden introduced the graticule or grid system to maps with reference numbers and letters in the margins. This was to enable the easier location of places. A list of the 40 Hundreds of the county is found on the left side with below a note on the scale which ‘goeth rounde about the mapp’. An explanation sits beside it with the arms of the Marquis of Winchester and the Earl of Southampton on the right side. His surveying was considered superior to that of Saxton and as such was the preferred source by the likes of John Speed, William Hole and William Kip. Stent died from the plague 29 September 1665, which was raging in London that year and which before it was done would claim 20% of its population. He bequeathed his estate to his wife Susanna, shortly after it was sold to John Overton (1640-1713) the printseller. Stent’s stock was arguably the largest collection of prints on the market at the time. Amongst this he found twelve copper plates of the English counties by William Smith. These formed the nucleus of a set of maps of the English Counties. Those counties which Overton could not provide from his own stock were supplied by the acquired maps of Speed, Blaeu or Jansson. These county atlases were an English version of a rich seam of similar Dutch composite atlases published from the mid-seventeenth century. They are exceedingly rare SURVIVING IN JUST FOUR KNOWN EXAMPLES, none complete. Later atlases sold by his son Henry are similarly rare, only seven survive. This is an example of the third state of the map which judging by the large margins was issued by Overton’s son Henry. Provenance: Phillips 11 December 1997 lot 53; private English collection. Baynton-Williams (2006) ‘John Overton (1640-1713)’ in ‘Map Forum’ no. 9 pp. 18-24; Globe (1985) p. 98 & no. 344; Hind (1952-64) I pp. 195-202; Hodson (1984-97) I p. 61; Rodgers (1972) 163; Shirley, R.W. (2004) T.Ove 3a, no. 14; refer Skelton (1970) 89; Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).