A great rarity of New England charting

Sold by I. Thornton at ye Platt in the Minories. And by Will. Fisher at ye Posturn [sic] gate on Tower hill. , PART OF NEW ENGLAND , London, [1689/1706] .
Engraving on laid paper, 16 ¾"h x 18 ¾"w plus margins, uncolored

A very rare chart first produced for the 1689 first edition of The English Pilot. The Fourth Book. It was the largest-scale and most detailed chart of coastal New England issued through the end of the 17th century.

Thornton and Fisher’s chart depicts the northeast coastline and nearby waters from the mouth of the Kennebec River to New London, with the South Fork of Long Island just visible. Designed for use at sea, it provides much information on soundings, banks and shoals, and other navigational hazards, particularly in the complex and dangerous waters off Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. All the major coastal features are present, though some in surprisingly distorted form. Most notable in this respect are the overstated east-west extent of Boston Harbor, the attenuated Cape Cod, and the hyperextended Buzzards Bay. There is little inland detail, though it is worth noting the tiny mill on Nantucket Island, marking the first time a published chart or map gives any interior detail for the island.

The chart was compiled by John Thornton, whom Coolie Verner describes as “(at the time) certainly the most competent and distinguished chart maker in England,” producing work “distinguished by a bold but functional simplicity in design and a clarity of engraving that is equal to or superior to anything produced by his contemporaries.” Beginning in 1673 Thornton had produced a series of charts covering the American East Coast, and Part of New England is essentially an enlargement of the New England section of his ca. 1685 chart of the coast from Newfoundland to North Carolina (Burden #622). However the much larger scale of the new chart allowed for the inclusion of more place names, soundings and other details, and Thornton also appears to have made other improvements based on new information. Chappaquiddick is for example properly shown as an island to the east of Martha’s Vineyard, while small unnamed islands-presumably Tuckernuck and Muskeget-are introduced to the west of Nantucket.

This chart first appeared in The English Pilot, which was originally conceived by London publisher John Seller as an effort to break the Dutch monopoly on chart publication. The earliest volumes of the Pilot appeared in the 1670s and concentrated on European waters, with later editions achieving worldwide coverage. Seller however ran into financial difficulties early on and some time in the 1680s sold his interest in The Fourth Book to John Thornton and William Fisher. They brought out the first edition of this volume in 1689, with Fisher supplying the text and Thornton the 17 charts, including Part of New England. During its publication history of over a century, the Fourth Book went through some 37 editions, though Part of New England appeared only in editions through 1713. The chart is also found in some examples of the Atlas Maritimus, a composite atlas published to order throughout this period.

Offered here is an example of the second state of the chart, with the addition of a line of soundings extending south by southeast from Montauk Point and other changes. According to Burden and Verner it first appeared in the 1706 edition of the Pilot. The 1713 edition included a third state of the chart with the Thornton and Fisher imprints eliminated after the death of Thornton in 1707-08.

Early editions of The English Pilot. The Fourth Book are very rare, as is the chart. Antique Map Price Record lists but a single example having appeared on the market since 1983, being the sale of this copy by the firm of Martayan Lan in or around 1994.

Baynton-Williams, “The Charting of New England,” MapForum.com, no. 2, checklist #64. Burden, Mapping of North America II, #665. Krieger & Cobb, Mapping Boston, pp. 94-95 (plate 13). McCorkle, New England, #689.6. Phillips, List of Maps of America, p. 467. Verner, Facsimile Edition of The English Coast Pilot The Fourth Book, chart #14. Additional background from Burden, Mapping of North America II, pp. 348-350.


Very good. Gently toned, with some very minor soiling largely confined to extremities, lower margin trimmed rather close especially at lower right. Small mend to verso of lower center fold.