1. Christopher Saxton 1575


During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries map publication was restricted largely to main-land Europe although a number of English cartographers were active during the sixteenth century. George Lily was a Roman Catholic priest living in Rome and in 1546 his map of Britain became the first copper plate printing of the British Isles. Laurence Nowell (not to be confused with the Dean of Lichfield) was employed by William Cecil (1st Baron Burghley) and completed a manuscript map of the British Isles in 1563 and this was followed by a map by Gerard Mercator in 1564. Abraham Ortelius printed maps based on the manuscript maps of Humphrey Lhuyd (1527-68) in 1573. But, it was not until 1583 that a large-scale map of the islands based on original work was produced by Christopher Saxton, the culmination of many years work which also saw the production of the first atlas of the English and Welsh counties, one of the first national atlases ever produced.

Christopher Saxton (1542-1610), the Father of English Cartography, was born near Dewsbury in Yorkshire. For most of his working life he was first and foremost a surveyor. He became, as a young man, an assistant to the vicar of Dewsbury, John Rudd1 an enthusiastic and skilled cartographer himself. Rudd had declared his interest in mapmaking as early as 1534 and by 1560 it was known that he planned to carry out a countrywide survey as a preliminary to the production of a map of England. A receipt for money signed by Saxton shows that he travelled with Rudd. In the company of Rudd, Saxton would have met the Lord Treasurer, Lord Burghley, and possibly through him also Thomas Seckford, a lawyer and influential court official as Master of Requests.

Working under the patronage of Seckford, Saxton began his own surveys in 1570 and the first maps were completed in 1574. He was granted a ten-year licence to make and market maps in 1577. There are no records of Saxton’s methods of survey but he would also have relied on the Lily and Mercator maps, estate maps, local surveys and on the results of John Rudd’s surveys.

It could not have been easy to find English engravers2 skilled enough for copper engraving and many maps were prepared by Flemish Protestant refugees. Nine maps in the atlas are signed by Remigius Hogenberg including that of Devon, five by Leonard (or Laenert) Terwoort and one each by Johannes Rutlinger and Cornelis de Hooghe. However, three English engravers did work for Saxton - Augustine Ryther (also known as Anglus) a Yorkshireman like Saxton, Francis Scatter3 and Nicholas Reynolds. After each county survey the maps were printed and sold separately at a price of fourpence each. Remigius (Remy) Hogenberg, together with his brother Franciscus (Frans) spent time in England although of German descent after fleeing from Mechelen. While Franciscus returned to the Netherlands, Remigius remained in England working for the Archbishop of Canterbury among others. He even engraved a map of Exeter based on the plan by John Hooker.4 Proof copies of all Saxton's maps were sent to Lord Burghley as early as 1574 and the proof copy of Devon was found in Burghley’s own set. Lord Burghley had become Secretary of State and leader of the Privy Council after a somewhat turbulent career that saw him in the Tower of London for some months.

Between 1579, when the atlas was entered in the Stationer’s Hall records, and 1590, with the advent of the definitive version some six editions are known with no changes to the Devon map (some changes to other maps were made) but differing contents pages and map order and four typesettings. There were also two versions of the portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. There was no title page. The maps were reissued with amended date by William Web, probably in response to demand during the civil war. By 1689 the original Saxton plate of Devon (and also that of Northumberland) had been destroyed or lost. Possibly victims of the Great Fire it does seem strange that only two plates were lost or damaged. However, Lea commissioned Francis Lamb to engrave a new copy of Devon for All the Shires of England and Wales (19). Saxton maps continued to be printed subsequently until about 1770.

The county maps are very attractive and considering the publication time and date very accurate, however, the boundaries of Devon’s hundreds are not outlined (only five counties show hundreds), nor is there any indication of roads, although river bridges are shown. The maps were not all drawn to the same scale. Devon is the only map with a compass, possibly as it was tilted a few degrees to fit the page. The Royal Arms are shown together with those of Seckford with his motto: pre-1576 Pestis Patriae Pigrities, (later it became Industria Naturam Ornat). The various collections can be dated by the variations outlined above and by alterations made to other county maps. Interestingly the village of Ashbrittel is in Devon in all editions but on the Somerset map it is in Somerset in one state and in the neighbouring Devon on the second state. 

Although watermarks have been used to date maps this is liable to be inaccurate and at best can only show the earliest possible date. The approximate dates for watermarks are:

                                             Bunch of Grapes with A left and F right         c.1575
  Bunch of Grapes with B left and C right        c.1579
  Bunch of Grapes with Fleur de Lys                c.1579
  Crossed Arrows                                              c.1588
  Kneeling Saint with Cross  c.1600


Size 400 x 445 mm.  Scala Miliarium (10 = 68 mm).

DEVONIAE COMITAT, RERUMQUAE omnium in codem memorabilium recens, vera pticularisq descriptio. Anno Dn. 1575 in strapwork frame with the arms of Thomas Seckford PESTIS PATRIAE PIGRITES above. Royal Arms with initials ER. Signature: Remigius hogenbergius sculp. 

1.   1575   Proof copy from Lord Burghley’s own collection. Added manuscript notes in wide margins left and right: dangerous landing places and amount of powder and ordnance in storage in different locations. See image for link to BL copy. BL.
2. 1579 As above but with imprint: Christophorus Saxton descripsit added above scale-bar. (KB). 
    An Atlas of England & Wales5  
    (London. C Saxton. 1579.)     I-VI, S1, BL, W, B, RGS, BCL.
3.   1642 Date in title altered to 1642. Now map no. 3.6  
    The Maps of all the Shires in England and Wales. Exactly taken and truly described by Christopher Saxton. And graven at the Charges of a private Gentleman for the publicke good. Now newly Revised, Amended, and Reprinted. (DevA). 
    London. William Web. 1645.7     VII, S27, BL, B, C.

[1] David Marcombe; John Rudd: a forgotten Tudor Mapmaker?; The Map Collector, No. 64, Autumn 1993.

[2] J B Harley; Christopher Saxton and the First Atlas of England; in The Map Collector; Issue 8 Sept. 1979; p.8.

[3] Generally regarded as English, Laurence Worms suggests this may be the émigré Franchoijs Schatter. See Skelton´s article England´s Gain in IMCoS Journal No. 112, Spring 2008. This article also has notes on the Hogenbergs.

[4] See A Decorated Screen Map of Exeter based on John Hooker´s Map of 1587 by William Ravenhill and Margery Rowe in Tudor and Stuart Devon; University of Exeter Press; 1992.

[5] Collections had no title page: Devon was map no. 24, 4 or 6, but unnumbered. There is a full page engraving of Queen Elizabeth I followed by 3 pages; shields, catalogue and index together with a general map of England and Wales.

[6] Although alteration of some map titles from Latin to English was carried out this was not done to Devon.

[7] Although the majority of the maps were not reprinted again until Philip Lea’s edition, Skelton speculates that an edition of 1665 was planned but not produced. Skelton entry 80, pp 121-3; based on the work of Lynam and Whitaker. As the Devon plate (and that of Northumberland) was destroyed or lost before the Lea edition (see entry 19) it cannot be determined which Devon plate may have been used, or whether the omission of these two counties necessitated delay.