Rare chart of the South Carolina and Georgia coast from Norman’s “ American Pilot ”

[John Norman], A CHART of SOUTH CAROLINA and GEORGIA. [Boston: William Norman, 1798].
Engraving on laid paper, printed area 20 ¾”h x 16 ½”w, uncolored.

A rare 18th-century chart of the South Carolina and Georgia coasts, from John and William Norman’s American Pilot, one of the earliest atlases published in the United States.

The chart covers the coast from St. John and Key Way (now Kiawah) Islands in the north to the St. Johns River in modern-day Florida, including numerous soundings and faint dotted lines delineating shoals. It also provides a scattering of useful information such as lighthouses at Coffin Island, South Carolina and Tybee Island, Georgia; Forts St. Andrews and Prince William at Cumberland Island in Georgia; and an anchorage at the mouth of the St. Johns in Florida. A large inset at right depicts Charleston Harbor in detail, including three channels for negotiating the tricky shoals at its entrance.

Norman’s sources for the chart are not entirely clear. From the St. John’s River north to Tybee Island there is a close resemblance to the depiction of the area in Matthew Clark’s Set of Charts of the Coast of America (Boston, 1789), though Clark includes no soundings or other navigational data. Above Tybee Island the similarity with Clark’s work breaks down completely, but there is a strong resemblance, including the soundings, to de Brahm’s Map of South Carolina and a Part of Georgia (1780). I do not find any resemblance to the charts of these areas (see here, here and here) in The Atlantic Neptune, which was published in the late 1770s and early 1780s and served as the source for many Federal-era American chart makers.

The chart first appeared in the 1791 first edition of The American Pilot, a rare atlas of American waters first published by John Norman in Boston, and was included in all subsequent editions. Per Wheat & Brun, the impression offered here is from the second of three known states, which may have appeared only in the 1798 edition of the Pilot, with “Shules Folly” in the inset corrected to “Shutes Folly” but the coastlines not yet recut. For comparison purposes, the Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library holds impressions of both the first and third states.

John Norman and The American Pilot
John Norman (1748-1817) first appears in the historical record in an announcement in the May 11, 1774 Pennsylvania Journal offering his services as an “Architect and Landscape Engraver.”  In 1781 he moved to Boston, where one of his first endeavors was engraving maps and portraits for the American edition of the Reverend Murray’s Impartial History of the War in America.  Later in his career he was involved in important cartographic projects such as An Accurate Map of the Four New England States (1785), Matthew Clark’s Complete Set of Charts of the Coast of America (1789), and Osgood Carleton’s Accurate Map of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1797).

Clark’s Complete Set of Charts from 1789 was a major landmark, being the first atlas of any sort published in America. It does not seem to have sold well, but Norman was undeterred, began making his own charts, and in 1791 advertised The American Pilot. This work, reissued a number of times over the next two decades, contained between nine and twelve charts depicting the coast from Maine to Georgia, including the Chart of the Coast of America from Wood Island to Good Harbour offered here. Though Norman lived until 1817, editions of the American Pilot issued from 1794-1803 bore the imprint of William Norman, thought to be his son. In 1810 the “John Norman” imprint reappears, followed by that of Andrew Allen in the final, 1816 edition of the Pilot.

In all, a rare and desirable chart of the South Carolina and Georgia coast and a substantial rarity of early American mapmaking.

Phillips, Maps of America, p. 821. Wheat & Brun, Maps and Charts Published in America before 1800, #607 (state II of II).


Minor-moderate foxing, some minor repairs and reinforcements along edges.