Christopher Saxton’s map of Derbyshire was produced in the most active year of the works production. In this year 1577 a total of twelve counties were engraved. According to Evans and Lawrence this was likely due to the granting of a license to Saxton in July by Elizabeth I. From that month it is presumed Saxton’s name was added to the maps and as the first state of this map of Derby omits his name it has been assumed the Derby was finished in the first half of the year. This example is in the usual second state, the first being an early pre-issue, the engraver is unidentified.
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) pp. 2-11; Hind (1952-55) vol. 1 p. 73; Lawrence (1984) pp. 16-18; Shirley (1991) no. 128; Shirley (2004) T.Sax 1a & b; Skelton (1970) 1.