The first printed chart of Casco Bay

Cyprian Southicke / Printed for & Sold by Rich[ar]d Mount Tho[mas] Page and Company / Em. Bowen Sculpt.  THE HARBOUR OF CASCO BAY AND ISLANDS Adjacent. By Capt. CYPRIAN SOUTHICKE.  London, 1720 [but 1721 or later.]
Engraving, 17”h x 21.5”w plus margins, uncolored

This is the earliest printed chart of Casco Bay. First issued in 1720, it remained in print for decades and was not superseded for more than half a century.

Cyprian Southack
Southack was born in London in 1662 and emigrated to Boston in 1685. A man of enormous energy, he was active for decades as a privateer, naval captain, navigator, all-purpose diplomat and “fixer,” and of course map- and chart maker. Given the times and the rigors of his service, he must have been a man of great durability and good fortune, for he lived to the age of 84, dying in Boston in 1745.

His most productive years were probably from 1696-1723, during which he commanded the Province Galley, Massachusetts’ one-ship navy (1696-1711); undertook numerous diplomatic missions to negotiate with the French over boundaries, prisoners, &c; oversaw the cleanup after the pirate ship Whydah foundered off Cape Cod (1717); and commanded the William Augustus, Nova Scotia’s version of the Province Galley (1721-23). Along the way he produced a number of landmark charts of the waters of British America, pursued fishing ventures in Nova Scotia, and fathered at least 11 children.

Southack left an abundance of records, in the form of diary entries, letters and reports laid in to his own annotated copy of The English Pilot. The Fourth Book (now at the Massachusetts Historical Society) as well as copious notations on his published charts. From these one gains the impression that he was everywhere, from New York to Quebec, though his activities were concentrated in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and Maine. Most of this was in the service of Massachusetts Bay in particular and the English Empire in general, as it sought to wrest Canada from the French while protecting the New England coast and its shipping from the depredations of the French and their allied Indians.

The chart
For many years English settlers in coastal Maine were targets for attack by the French-backed Abenaki and other indigenous groups. Southack consequently made many trips to Casco Bay, including one in 1702, when as captain of the Province Galley he raised a siege of Fort Casco.

“At Casco Bay Year 1702. the Indians came together being upwards of five Hundred besides French Commanded by Monsr. Bobasier who had ransacked & laid wast [sic] ye several Settlements before mention’d & being flush’d with success having taken one great Sloop and Two Shallops & much plunder attempted to undermine ye Fort by ye Water side in which they Proceede[d] two days & nights & probably would have affected their design if they had not been prevented by the Arrival of Capt. Southack in the Galley who rais’d the Seige made them burn their Sloop with all their Stores & Plunder, retook their Shallops and Shattered their Navy which was upwards of two Hundred Cannoes [sic].” (from Southack’s New England Coasting Pilot, ca. 1729)

During these visits he assembled a considerable body of knowledge, which is reflected in this chart of The Harbour of Casco Bay and Islands Adjacent. Intended as a working chart, it provides considerable information on soundings, shoals and other navigational hazards, as well as a dotted line indicating a “Channel Way” for safely circumnavigating the Bay. Interesting terrestrial details include settlements at Falmouth (now Portland) and Brunswick, the “Irish New Settlement” along the Kennebeck and “Casco Fort built by Col. Runamer” (“Runamer” was William Romer, a German military engineer serving in America under Governor Bellomont of Masssachusetts.) For all its merits as the first chart of the Bay, Southack’s work is deeply flawed, with islands seemingly drawn at random, missing peninsulas, and the whole rotated roughly 45 degrees from the correct orientation. Many of these errors, however, were likely the fault of publishers Mount & Page rather than Southack himself. Southack’s manuscript original still exists in the National Archives in London and is said to be far more accurate than this printed derivative.[1]

The chart seems to have been issued separately in 1720, but in 1721 was incorporated into The English Pilot. Fourth Book, published in London by Richard Mount and Thomas Page. The Pilot was originally developed by the London publisher John Sellers, who conceived it as an effort to break the Dutch monopoly on chart publication. During its publication history of over a century, the Fourth Book went through 37 editions, with all editions subsequent to 1721 including the Casco Bay chart. Presumably supported by its strong “brand,” the Pilot continued to be re-issued even after superseded by vastly superior works, in particular Des Barres’ Atlantic Neptune (Among others, the Neptune included a vastly-superior chart of Casco Bay as well as a large-scale plan of Falmouth Harbor.)

Offered here is a first edition of the chart. At some point in the mid-18th century a new edition of the chart was engraved, obviously by a different hand, bearing the imprint of John instead of Richard Mount, and with numerous small differences in geography, toponymy and hydrography.

Osher Map Library, “The Cartographic Creation of New England,” #23. Phillips, Maps of America, p. 211 (1720 and 1758 editions). Sellers & Van Ee, Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies, #841 (numerous editions). Biographical information on Southack is from Clara Egli LeGear’s “The New England Coasting Pilot of Cyprian Southack” (Imago Mundi no. XI, pp. 137-144).

[1] Osher Map Library, “The Cartographic Creation of New England,” #23


Small stain in upper-right margin and minor mends to lower centerfold, else excellent