Saxton’s map of Norfolk holds the position of being the first of the maps to be finished according to Evans and Lawrence. Only that of Oxfordshire was completed in the same year. This reflects both counties significance to Elizabethan England. They also show that the project was still in its infancy and its formula was still undergoing development. The Norfolk map includes all the Hundreds as do four other counties including Cornwall. It is however the only one to letter them to a key upper right. This example is in the usual second state, the first being an early pre-issue. It is the only map engraved by Cornelis de Hooghe who was a pupil of Philip Galle in Antwerp and the only known work by him during his time in England. He famously claimed to be a natural son of Emperor Charles V (Charles I of Spain) and was executed in 1583 after being implicated in a plot against the life of William I, Prince of Orange (William the Silent).
Christopher Saxton produced one of the earliest national surveys of any kind and the first uniformly conceived cartographic survey of England and Wales. It was begun in about 1574 and completed by 1579: ‘in the long list of British atlases the first name is also the greatest, the name of Christopher Saxton’ (Chubb). Saxton (c.1542–c.1610) was born in the Dunningley, West Riding of Yorkshire. While the details of his early life are sketchy, it is known that he attended Cambridge University, and in 1570 he was apprenticed as a map maker to John Rudd, vicar of Dewsbury. Saxton began work on his county maps in about 1574. In 1577 he received letters patent from Elizabeth I protecting his maps against plagiarism for the next ten years. As well as the Queen’s protection, Saxton also enjoyed the patronage of Thomas Seckford, Master of the Queen’s Requests, whose mottoes are found on the maps.
Evans and Lawrence wrote that he ‘left a legacy of maps of the counties of England and Wales from which succeeding generations of map-makers drew extensively … amazingly accurate in detail, [the atlas] survives as testimony to his expertise when surveying techniques and comprehension of the mathematical sciences were still limited.’ They are arguably the most highly prized by collectors of county maps. Barber ‘Mapmaking in England, ca.1470-1650’ in The History of Cartography volume 3 part 2 pp. 1623-31; Chubb (1927) I; Evans & Lawrence (1979) pp. 9–43; Frostick Norfolk 1.1; Harley, Brian The Map Collector no. 8 pp. 2-11; Hind (1952-55) vol. 1 p. 73; Lawrence, Heather ‘Christopher Saxton’ in The Map Collector 27 pp. 16-18; Shirley (1991) no. 128; Shirley (2004) T.Sax 1a & b; Skelton (1970) 1.