400 x 520 mm., early wash colour, cut close and laid down on paper possibly in the seventeenth century, very light offsetting otherwise in very good condition.
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 (fl.1575-91), a native of Antwerp who contributed five maps to the work. His imprint is found lower left. He was one of several Dutch engravers of the work.
Christopher Saxton (c.1542–c.1610) 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 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.
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.
Philip Lea flourished from 1683-1700 as a cartographer, globe and instrument maker and mapseller. 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.
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. This is an example of the early state without Lea’s imprint.
On the Somerset, Lea’s first known state included the addition of roads following the publication of John Ogilby’s landmark ‘Britannia’ in 1675. The date of 1665 engraved for the unpublished edition is here altered crudely to 1689. The final state of the Lea issue dating to 1693 included a new title including Lea’s imprint, an additional border line added to the right of the shields alongside the plan of Bath and the blank arms lower right being filled by those of the Duke of Somerset. One example resides in the British Library (Maps C.21.e.10). Provenance: acquired c.1978 for a private English collection. Barber (2007); Chubb (1927) I; Evans & Lawrence (1979) pp. 9–43, 62 & 161; Harley (1979); Hind (1952-55) vol. 1 p. 98; Lawrence (1984); Needell (1995) 97.1689 i; Shirley (2004) T.Sax 1g; Shirley (2007); Skelton (1970) 110; Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).