Inc., in co-operation with the New York Public Library, is proud to announce
the availability of the Samuel Thornton Sea Atlas on Cibachrome colour
microfiche.This outstanding English composite Sea Atlas is a monument to
the Thames school of chartmakers centred in London from late 16th to early
"No other single Thornton
Sea Atlas or gathering of English Pilot charts in one unified collection
contains anywhere as many charts, according to records in various national
bibliographies and cartographic histories", said Alice Hudson, Curator
of the new York Public Library Map Division. Tooley's listing of English
Sea Atlases in his Maps and Mapmakers cites similar material, but none
so comprehensive. This remarkable collection, of 172 charts on 21 colour
microfiches may well be the finest surviving monument to the industry in
the earliest years of domestic English trade in printed charts. The Sea
Atlas was created from a variety of sources. The plates were purposefully
gathered and arranged with a singular vision in a package unequalled in
scope by any printed nautical atlas of the 18th century. All the charts
are hand coloured -- some in bright outline colour, others with a full-colour
transparent wash. Many plates are surrounded by a trompe l'oeil yellow
frame, and many charts are decorated with baroque naturalistic leafy strands
setting off insets. While the atlas opens with a Mercator world map, most
of the regional plates are plane charts, without graduated latitudes. The
plates stand up mightily to manuscript charts on vellum or paper.
In the first volume, the
charts flow from one ocean basin to the next beginning with Halley's magnetic
declination chart on Mercator's projection and Richard Greene's double
hemisphere world maps. The atlas immediately moves into Scandinavian waters,
and then to the Baltic and Netherlands coasts, across to the British Isles.
the first volume ends looping to south of France, Spain and southwestern
Europe. Volume two opens with the Great South Sea and finishes with the
charts of the straights of Gibraltar.
The Samuel Thornton Sea Atlas
was purchased by the New York Public Library by William H. Robinson, Ltd.
of London in 1942. Robinson described it as the earliest portulan atlas
to record Dampier's discoveries in the Pacific Ocean, and to contain Halley's
magnetic world chart. It was probably published by Samuel Thornton in the
early years of Queen Anne and most maps bear the imprint of Samuel Thornton,
but some were issued about forty years earlier by other publishers. It
was of course a common practice to utilise existing maps when making up
atlases. Considered individually these charts are also very rare. Only
two of Thornton's New World maps are recorded by Lee Philips in his list
of "Maps of America".
John Thornton, not Samuel,
created most of the plates in the atlas attributed to Samuel. John had
been a major player in the production of the English Pilot, and many charts
in the Sea Atlas are from the Pilot, Books III and IV. On his death in
1706, John's business passed to his son, Samuel. John's name was removed
from the plates, crudely in some cases, and Samuel's name inserted. Samuel
did however publish several atlases between 1706 and 1715, and became a
member of the Drapers' Company in 1706 by patrimony. On Samuel's death
in 1715, the Thornton plates were obtained by the Mount & Page firm
which published the Forth Book of the English Pilot. Coolie Verner accuses
"the vultures" of Mount & Page of reproducing old plates over and over,
without updating them for bibliographical accuracy and sailor's safety.
Sailing the Thornton seas,
embraced by coasts bound in ribbons of colour, the reader of today continues
to be spectacularly transported by familiar names of romance and history.
they pull us into the charts and send our imaginations soaring. magnificent
in its conception, design and production, the Thornton Sea Atlas dazzles
us today as it did the 18th century gentleman who first turned its pages
and dreamed of overseas glory.
In order to make this atlas more accessible, the New York Public Library has embarked on a preservation micropublishing project in conjunction with MicroColor International. The revenue from the sale of the colour microfiche edition will be used to restore its fragile condition for the enjoyment of future generations.
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