Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula, from The English Pilot. The Fourth Book

[Henry Southwood], A New and Correct CHART of the Coast of NEW FOUNDLAND from Cape Raze to Cape Bonavista, With Chebucto Harbour in NOVA SCOTIA Done from the latest Observations. [London:] W. & I. Mount & T. Page [i.e., William Mount, John Mount & Thomas Page], [1753, or later].
Engraving on two sheets joined, 16 ½”h x 40”w at neat line plus good margins, uncolored. Minor soiling, staining and creasing, but very good.

Uncommon English chart of the Avalon Peninsula at the south-eastern corner of Newfoundland, based on surveys performed by the English hydrographer Henry Southwood in the 1670s.

Henry Southwood is the most significant figure in the mapping of Newfoundland prior to Captain James Cook in the 1750s. For all that, remarkably little is known about him. In 1675 the British sent an expedition to Newfoundland, led by Sir John Berry in HMS Bristol and accompanied by HMS Swann under Captain Carter and with Southwood as ship’s master. Southwood was tasked with making a head count of English fishermen and settlers found arrayed along the coast and, while making these trips in a ship’s boat, he made surveys of the coast and harbours, drew coastal profiles and compiled sailing directions, and tables of courses and distances. He was back in Newfoundland in 1677, presumably continuing this work.

Southwood’s chart of the Avalon Peninsula was published in the mid-late 1670s, engraved by the Scottish engraver James Clarke (Clerke) on two separate but contiguous sheets and titled “The Coast of NEW=FOUND= LAND From Cape-Raze to Cape S.t Francis. Described by Henry Southwood Anno 1675.” and “The Coast of NEW=FOUND=LAND From Salmon Cove to Cape Bonavista. Described by Henry Southwood Anno 1675.” This is the first detailed printed chart of any part of Newfoundland (See Burden, Mapping of North America, #528-529.)

For the 1689 first edition of The English Pilot. The Fourth Book, John Thornton, “Hydrographer” pirated the Southwood charts, combining the two in a single image under the title “A New Chart of the Trading Part of Newfoundland” without credit to Southwood (Burden, Mapping of North America, #660.) The chart appears only periodically in successive printings of The Fourth Book, though more commonly from 1716 onwards. The Fourth Book contained much else from Southwood, including his tables; the “True Description of the Course and Distance of the Capes, Bayes, Coves, Ports and Harbours in New-found-land; with Directions how to sail in or out of any Port or Place between Cape Race and Cape Bonavista”; and four harbor charts, “Harbour Grace”, “Bay Bulls”, “Cattalina Harbour” and “Port Bonavista.” Indeed, Penney observes that Southwood’s material comprises nearly 20% of the 1689 edition of The Fourth Book. (Penney, p. 13)

The English Pilot was originally developed by the London publisher John Seller, Sr., 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. Around 1675-78 Seller planned a fourth volume of The English Pilot focusing on North America, but his financial and business problems led him to abandon the project. The only extant copy has the text ending on page 12, midway through the description of Newfoundland. 

The planned volume finally appeared in 1689 under the title The English Pilot. The Fourth Book, having been brought to completion by John Thornton and William Fisher. The Fourth Book became the most popular and successful chart-book of British waters in North America and the West Indies—and the most reprinted, going through no less than 37 editions through 1794. Presumably supported by its strong brand, The Fourth Book continued to sell well after far more valuable atlases such as Sayer and Bennett’s North American Pilot and Des Barres’ Atlantic Neptune became available.

As a consequence of frequent reprinting, the quality of impressions of the charts in the The English Pilot. The Fourth Book often dramatically declined, to the extent that the plates had to be re-engraved or replaced entirely. Later publishers were not as conscientious as Seller and his immediate successors, so they frequently simply replaced existing (but out-dated) plates with close copies. Thus, this example of the chart is printed from the replacement plates added to the 1753 edition. The cartography is very similar to the original, but the dense network of rhumb lines has been simplified, the decorative nautical vignettes abandoned, and, more significant, an inset chart of Chebucto (aka Halifax) Harbour in Nova Scotia has been added, reflecting the founding of Halifax in 1749.

Kenneth Kershaw, Early Printed Maps of Canada, 2.3: Newfoundland, Entry 523 (plate 377), attributing the first printing to 1755. Rumsey #12434.19. Background on Southwood from Gerald Penney, “The Earliest Known Map of St. John’s”: Henry Southwood’s Inset of St. John’s Harbor”, in Association of Canadian Map Libraries and Archives Bulletin, no. 123 (Spring-Summer 2005), pp. 7-16.