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Rare Sea Charts of North and South American Ports from an Influential Atlas
This composite sea chart shows Newfoundland, Havana Harbor and the Bay of Honda, both in Cuba, and the River Plata in South America.
The chart shows the coastlines and approaches of several important parts of America. The chart at the left depicts the British settlements on the east coast of the Avalon Peninsula with good coastal detail. The other major chart shows the entrance to the La Plata River in South America, with Buenos Aires and other towns on the banks. Two small charts provide detailed plans of Havana Harbor (Cuba) and the Bay of Honda (Cuba).
Atlas Maritimus et Commercialis
These charts were included in an important English maritime atlas of the early-eighteenth century, the Atlas Maritimus et Commercialis. The atlas included a geography text, sailing directions, and sea charts. It was published by, among others, the Knapton brothers, who were also responsible for some of the bestselling voyage accounts of the early- to mid-eighteenth century, including those of William Dampier.
The atlas was published specifically to rival the English Pilot, a five-volume work that was published first by John Seller, and then by his son, Jeremiah, and his partner, Charles Price, and then by Mount & Page. To differentiate it from the competition, the Atlas was published in one volume. It also featured the western and southern coasts of the Americas, which were not included in the Pilot.
Much of the text of the work is attributed to Daniel Defoe who, in addition to writing Robinson Crusoe, was also an eager advocate of colonial expansion and overseas trade. The atlas is usually attributed to John Senex, John Harris, and Henry Wilson. Nathaniel Cutler is thought to have contributed to the charts and to have written the sailing directions, which Edmund Halley supposedly edited. Edmund Halley is also mentioned on the title page as approving the projection, which most likely refers to a globular projection developed by Senex, Harris, and Wilson.
In 2015, a complete example of the atlas sold for £27,500 at Christie's in London. While the collaboration was impressive, the atlas never achieved the same commercial success. As such, the charts are quite scarce on the market.
John Senex (1678-1740) was one of the foremost mapmakers in England in the early eighteenth century. He was also a surveyor, globemaker, and geographer. As a young man, he was apprenticed to Robert Clavell, a bookseller. He worked with several mapmakers over the course of his career, including Jeremiah Seller and Charles Price. In 1728, Senex was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society, a rarity for mapmakers. The Fellowship reflects his career-long association as engraver to the Society and publisher of maps by Edmund Halley, among other luminaries. He is best known for his English Atlas (1714), which remained in print until the 1760s. After his death in 1740 his widow, Mary, carried on the business until 1755. Thereafter, his stock was acquired by William Herbert and Robert Sayer (maps) and James Ferguson (globes).
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