Christopher Saxton’s map of the county of Somerset is one of the earliest he produced. Only two were made in 1574 and according to Evans and Lawrence this was most likely one of the last to be prepared in the year 1575. Progress was still slow at this stage operating as he was without an official licence for support. It was engraved by Lenaert Terwoort whose imprint is lower left, he was one of several Dutch engravers of the work and apart from the five maps he contributed and that he originated from Antwerp little is known of him. This example is in the usual finished state, the earlier one being pre-issue.
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 at Dunningley in the 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 (2007) pp. 1623-31; Chubb (1927) I; Evans & Lawrence (1979) pp. 9–43; Harley (1979); Hind (1952-55) vol. 1 p. 73; Lawrence (1984); Needell (1995) p. 192; Shirley (1991) no. 128; Shirley (2004) T.Sax 1a & b; Skelton (1970) 1; Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).