On 23 June 1681 Charles II commissioned Captain Greenville Collins to make a survey of the coasts of Great Britain, a task undertaken between 1681 and 1688. Collins was an officer in the Royal Navy who from 1669 to 1671 had sailed with Sir John Narborough on his expedition to the Straits of Magellan and the Chilean coast. He was master of the frigate ‘Charles’ from 1676 to 1679 and served extensively in the Algerian war. He was promoted to Commander in 1679 and retained that rank until his death in 1694.
This is one of the finer engraved plates in the atlas depicting the waters of the Scilly Isles. Verner identified three states of the map but did not surprisingly pick up on another brought about by one of the worst naval disasters in British history. In 1707 Sir Cloudesly Shovell was returning with the fleet from Gibraltar. The voyage was mired by bad weather and by 22 October (old calendar, 7 November by the current Gregorian calendar) they believed they were safely in the English Channel. A combination of the storms and the inability to measure longitude correctly meant that the fleet was heading directly for the Scilly Islands. Four vessels were lost; the flagship HMS Association with Shovell aboard, HMS Eagle, HMS Romney and HMS Firebrand. Estimates of the loss of life vary from 1,400 to 2,000 men.
For the second edition of the atlas the chart was updated with a note lower left identifying ‘Sr. Clously lost’. The nearby ‘Pednanthyes’ is reengraved further east with ‘Gillston’ being added. The latter being the rock which was struck by Shovell’s flagship. A further alteration is ‘Little Nornuer’ and ‘Great Nornuer’ south west of St. Martins are renamed ‘Innesvouls’ and ‘Little Gannell’ respectively. Interestingly the plate had already been revised before being issued in the first edition of 1693 by having its latitude figures in the margins erased. This maybe reflects an awareness of how inaccurate they were being incorrect to the tune of 8.5 nautical miles. Verner goes on to state that from 1738 there should be pasted on the bottom of the map a typographical sheet entitled ‘A true Description of the Setting of the Tides … in and about the Islands of Scilly’ by Abraham Toovey as found here. The ‘Coasting Pilot’ is a remarkable surveying achievement, and a landmark in the charting of British coastal waters. ‘Scarcer Maps of the Isles of Scilly’ no. 8; Palmer (1963) no. 10; Sanderson (1971) 335; Shirley (2004) M.Coll 1f; Verner ‘Captain Collins’ ‘Coasting Pilot”, in ‘Map Collectors’ Circle’ no. 58 no. 12.
The Islands of, Scilly