The original Saxton plate was prepared in 1577, the busiest year of production with twelve maps so dated. The presence of Saxton’s name on the Burghley proof example led Evans and Lawrence to conclude that the Monmouth was one of those produced later in the year. The plate is unsigned and has not been attributed to any particular engraver. As explained above when Philip Lea acquired the maps he appears to have produced them in two distinct states. The earlier issue is dated to c.1689 and survives in just three known examples. This is an example of this RARE EARLIER STATE before the addition of the roads after John Ogilby and the arms of James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, which would occupy the right hand shield.
Philip Lea flourished 1666-1700 as a cartographer, globe and instrument maker and map seller. His atlases were rarely uniform usually being made to order and his editions of Saxton’s atlas are similarly varying in content although built around his stock of the original plates. These he acquired sometime around 1689, but from whom is unknown.
The fate of some of the plates is unclear but two, Devon and Northumberland, never reappear suggesting that they might have been lost in the Fire. They were replaced by a plate engraved for Lea; that of Devon is signed by Francis Lamb and is offered here under Philip Lea. That of Essex appears to have been unavailable for reasons unknown as Lea issued another. However the original was eventually acquired as examples of Lea’s second edition often utilise the Saxton plate. Middlesex was first replaced by John Ogilby’s plate of the county c.1673 which had been acquired by Lea. Then Lea acquired five county’s published by John Seller which included a Middlesex, he tended to prefer Seller’s version. Kent was not bought. Lea had acquired the county maps of Seller by 1693 as the Whitaker copy of the Saxton-Lea atlas can be securely dated to that year and contains the five maps.
After acquisition of the Saxton plates Lea set about updating them for publication. This process involved extensive re-engraving of the old plates by incorporating new geographical and decorative material. However during this process some copies of the atlas were sold and two distinct issues have been identified with two different versions of the title page. The early edition dated to c.1689 survives in just three known examples.
Lea gradually effected the alterations to the plates he desired which included converting the remaining Latin titles to English, the addition of crowns, crosses and mitres to represent various categories of town. Roads were added to the maps following the publication of John Ogilby’s landmark ‘Britannia’ in 1675. Similarly Hundreds were added to the remaining maps as were town plans. The finished set of plates were completed by 1693 and represent their final cartographic form as only the imprints were altered after this date. In the finished form they also appeared in a French edition entitled ‘Atlas Anglois contenant Les Cartes Nouvelles tres Exactes …’ surviving in a unique example. Evans & Lawrence (1979) pp. 50-3, 61 & 160; Michael (1985) p. 33; Shirley (2004)) T.Sax 1h; Skelton (1970) nos. 110, 112 & 113.