ONE OF THE RAREST CHRISTOPHER SAXTON STATES. A good example of one of the most desirable maps in Christopher Saxton’s atlas. This map of Yorkshire is one of the five signed by Augustine Ryther as engraver and was surveyed during 1577. Christopher Saxton had just received his licence which encouraged him to produce 12 maps this year, the busiest. It is also this year in which his name began to appear on the maps for the first time. It has been suggested by Evans and Lawrence that this map was produced in the second half of the year. The reason being given is that the Burghley atlas contains this state of the map. Speculation surrounds the origins of Ryther. Ralph Thoresby stated in 1715 that he was ‘probably of Leeds’ and may well indeed be related to the ennobled family of that name from Yorkshire. He was one of the earliest English born copper plate engravers and signed five of Saxton’s maps. It is quite likely he was the author of others. He went on to collaborate on the sale of the Saxton’s atlas. Certainly, there is evidence to show that he continued to sell it after the Saxton’s ten-year privilege expired. His finest works are the plates for Robert Adams depicting the Spanish Armada published in 1590. Ryther was however in debtor’s prison for the winter of 1594-95 and thereafter there is no record.
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. The map is the only folding map in the atlas and is nearly always damaged as a consequence, this example is an above average example in fine wash colour.
William Web (fl.1629-52) was a bookseller from Oxford. In 1645 he published ‘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’, despite Web being a bookseller in Oxford. Quite how he came into possession of the Saxton plates is unknown. The fact that the court of Charles I was in Oxford for the duration of the Civil War (1642-46) and the atlas is dedicated to the King can be no coincidence. The war undoubtedly caused a delay as most maps including this one bear the date of 1642 despite the title imprint being 1645. Because it did not have the same impact and no doubt due to the Civil War this edition of Saxton’s atlas is one of the rarest surviving in ONLY THREE RECORDED EXAMPLES. Provenance: private English collection. Barber (2007) pp. 1623-31; Chubb (1927) I; Evans & Lawrence (1979) pp. 9–47; Harley, Brian ‘The Map Collector’ no. 8 pp. 2-11; Hind (1952-55) vol. 1 p. 73; Lawrence, Heather ‘Christopher Saxton’ in ‘The Map Collector’ 27 pp. 16-18; Rawnsley no. 1; Shirley (2004) T.Sax 1f; Skelton (1970) 27; Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).