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SAXTON, Christopher-ANONYMOUS

Universi Derbiensis Comitatus graphica descriptio 1577

London, 1577-[c.1665]
400 x 500 mm., with double folds as issued, otherwise in good condition condition.
THE ONLY KNOWN EXAMPLE OF THIS UNPUBLISHED STATE. Indeed, there are only three known examples surviving of any county in this c.1665 edition. Those of Lancashire and Suffolk are found in the Manchester Public Library copy (B.R.F. 912 42 S6), that of Staffordshire is found at the Cambridge University Library (Atlas 4.69.2). All are bound into Philip Lea atlases (Skelton, 1970, p. 177 and Evans & Lawrence, 1979, p. 49).

Christopher Saxton’s map of Derbyshire was engraved in the most active year of the works production, 1577. A total of twelve counties were issued in that year. 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 Derbyshire omits his name, it has been assumed the Derby was finished in the first half of the year. There is no identified engraver.

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. 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 to protect 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.

Evidence seems to indicate that George Humble (1572-1640) acquired the Christopher Saxton and William Smith plates to keep them away from competition with his own issues of the John Speed ‘Theatre’ (Skelton pp. 135 & 234-5). There is even the possibility that his partner, John Sudbury, acquired them earlier. Following Humble’s death in 1640 the plates of Saxton fell into the hands of William Webb (fl.1628-55) who issued them in 1645 as ‘The Maps of all the Shires in England and Wales. Exactly taken and truly described by Christopher Saxton’. The imprint states ‘Printed for William Web at the Globe in Cornehill, London’. Quite how he came into possession of the Saxton plates is unknown. The atlas is dedicated to Charles I, whose court was in Oxford for the duration of the Civil War (1642-46). The conflict undoubtedly caused a delay as most maps bear the date of 1642, despite the title imprint being 1645. No doubt because of the Civil War this edition of Saxton’s atlas is one of the rarest, surviving in only three recorded examples.

The next known edition was by Philip Lea c.1689. What happened to the plates between Webb is unclear? The map of Somerset had been reported by Thomas Chubb in 1914 as illustrating an earlier state than that of Lea, in a copy of the atlas in the Douce Collection at the Bodleian Library. When Edward Lynam wrote the introduction to a facsimile of the Saxton atlas in 1934, he suggested that there might have been a projected earlier edition. His reasoning was the fact that many of maps had the engraved date of 1665 crudely altered to that of 1689 for the Lea edition. Also, a number had the royal cypher C.R. added since the Webb addition which had to have occurred prior to James I ascending to the throne in 1685. ‘Crosses, crowns and mitres, which appear n all the maps in the edition of c.1689, are almost certainly Lea’s additions; they show uniformity from map to map and appear to be an innovation pertaining to the whole set of county maps, not merely the extension of a practice which had been applied to only nineteen maps at a previous date.’ (Evans & Lawrence).

The first person to tackle this issue was Harold Whittaker in 1939 who discussed the later history of the Saxton plates. In his article he identified nineteen of the maps in a state between those of Webb and Lea. The likely conclusion is that either the plague of 1665 interrupted production or any printed stock was destroyed in the Fire of London the following year. The latter may well be the reason for the disappearance of the plates for Devon and Northumberland which are not seen again. An issue of Saxton’s ‘Britannia Insularum’ map from 1583, printed on mid-1640s paper, is attributed to Webb. A later issue in 1678 was published by John Cade, who was apprenticed to him in 1640. He used the same address and undoubtably continued ownership of other items of Webb’s stock also, including feasibly the Saxton county plates. It is possible that this Cade was the attempted publisher of the maps in 1665. If he retained ownership beyond 1678 that might help explain why it was not until c.1689 that we see them again.

Very little is known about Cade; he is not listed in the BBTI and is briefly identified under the entry for Webb in Worms and Baynton-Williams. The House of Lords Journal records that he went to Fleet Prison with others in July 1663 for publishing libel against Lord Gerard of Brandon. The same Lord Gerard secured their release in August 1663. We do know that he took subscriptions for John Ogilby’s ‘English Atlas’ in 1669 and was mentioned regularly in the diary of Samuel Pepys as a supplier of stationary. He is recorded at three addresses: Three Golden Lions (Cade’s Tavern), Cornhill, the Globe, Cornhill and the Royal Exchange, Cornhill. This map of Derbyshire now adds a fourth known county map in the ‘lost’ edition of c.1665. The following table identifies the earlier states of the Saxton plate of Derbyshire.

1 – 1577-[79] Saxton – with title ‘Universi Derbiensis Comitatus graphica description 1577’.
2 – 1645 Webb – ‘An Exact Map of Darbieshire Anno: 1.6.4.2.’
3 – c.1665 Anonymous – Seckford’s arms are replaced by a plan of Derby lower left. The royal cypher C.R. is added above the Royal arms, 4 coats of arms added to the right of the title (Whittaker only identified 2) and 3 vignette views and a further coat of arms are added on the right side. ‘Staffordiae’ re-engraved to the right of the title, the names of the hundreds are given and new topography is added to the neighbouring counties.
4 – c.1689 Lea – ‘Corrected and Amended with Additions by P. Lea’ added to the title. Crosses added to market towns and in addition a crown to Derby.
5 – 1693 Lea – Title altered to ‘Derby Shire Described by C. Saxton Corrected & Amended with many Additions as Roads, & c. by P: Lea’. Roads are now added.

Provenance: From a composite William Camden ‘Britannia’, 1695, acquired for a private English collection pre-1978. Barber (2007) pp. 1623-31; BBTI; Chubb (1927) I & VII; Evans & Lawrence (1979) especially pp. 47-50, 58-65 & 155-62; Harley (1979); House of Lords Journal Volume 11: 9 May 1664; Lawrence (1984); Shirley (2004) T.Sax 1a-g; Skelton (1970) 1, 27, 80, 110 & 112, p. 135; Whittaker (1939); Worms (1986) pp. 6-7; Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).
Stock number: 10463

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