Cyprian Southack’s Correct Map of the Coast of New England

[Cyprian Southack?], A Correct Map of the Coast OF NEW ENGLAND. London, [1731/1749-1773].
Engraving on two sheets joined, 18 3/8”h x 42”w at neat line plus margins, recent outline color.  Heavily restored (and priced accordingly), with residual soiling and discoloration, mended tears, including some extending into image, and extensive reconstruction of the graticule and margins, particularly at lower left.

An important chart of New England waters by Cyprian Southack, one of Colonial America’s most colorful early figures. 

A Correct Map of the Coast of New England depicts the northeast coast from Sandy Hook to the southern edge of Cape Breton.  Intended as a working chart, it provides much information on soundings, banks and shoals, and other navigational hazards, particularly in the waters off Nova Scotia and Cape Cod.  The coastal geography is rather haphazard, immediately apparent in the depictions of the Boston peninsula and the Outer Cape.  Worth noting is the strait shown running through Cape Cod in the area of present-day Eastham: in the 18th century this was at high water a navigable passage, through which Southack himself had sailed.  The appearance and utility of the chart are enhanced by a large and detailed chart of Boston Bay and Harbor at upper left.

This chart is important as a reduced version of the unobtainable New England Coasting Pilot (ca. 1719-30), Cyprian Southack’s heroically-scaled, 8-sheet chart of the waters from New York Bay to Nova Scotia.  Southack (1662-1745) was a Boston-based sea captain, privateer and map- and chart maker.  During his eventful life he was involved in campaigns against the French in Nova Scotia, Quebec and Maine; engaged in diplomatic missions related to the ongoing wars with France; was commissioned to oversee the salvage of the wrecked pirate ship Whydah, sunk off Cape Cod in 1717; advocated for development of the Nova Scotia fisheries; and produced a number of highly important maps and charts.  Along with the Coasting Pilot, the most famous of these was A New Chart of the English Empire in North America (1717), the first chart engraved on copper in the colonies.

The chart appeared in editions of The English Pilot. Fourth Book between 1732 and at least 1773, though from 1749 on the date “1731” in the cartouche was erased and other changes introduced (See here for an example of the 1731-dated variant.) The Pilot was originally developed by the London publisher John Seller, who conceived it as an effort to break the Dutch monopoly on chart publication.  While the two-volume first edition focused on European waters, later editions achieved worldwide coverage, with the Fourth Book focusing on the Americas first appearing in 1689.  During its publication history of over a century, the Fourth Book went through 37 editions. Presumably supported by its strong “brand,” it continued to be re-issued even well after far more valuable atlases such as Sayer and Bennett’s North American Pilot and Des Barres’ Atlantic Neptune became available.

It is not clear that Southack himself actually drew this reduced edition of his New England Coasting Pilot.  While McCorkle credits Southack, Baynton-Williams cites only Mount & Page as publishers, and Le Gear does not include it in her list of Southack productions.  A similar chart, titled A Map of the Coast of New England from Staten Island to the Island of Breton, signed by Southack and much more detailed, was first issued separately around 1735 and then appeared in the English Pilot from 1775 through 1789 or possibly later.

Baynton-Williams, “The Charting of New England,”, no. 2, checklist #84; McCorkle, New England, #731.1; and Phillips, List of Maps of America, p. 469.  The Boston inset is referenced in Boston Engineering Department, List of Maps of Boston, p. 39.  Not in Sellers and Van Ee, Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies.

Clara Egli LeGear’s “The New England Coasting Pilot of Cyprian Southack” (Imago Mundi no. XI, pp. 137-144) provides an extensive discussion of Southack’s life and work, as does Sinclair Hitchings’ “Guarding the New England Coast: The Naval Career of Cyprian Southack” (Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Seafaring in Colonial Massachusetts, 1980, pp. 43-65).