A rare American chart of the waters off Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Chart from New York to Timber Island Including Nantucket Shoals was engraved and first published in 1791 by John Norman, Boston’s most notable post-war map engraver. It is usually found in Norman’s American Pilot, one of the earliest atlases published in […]
John Norman was born in England around 1748 and probably apprenticed with London printer William Faden, father of the great engraver and publisher of the same name. He moved to America in the early 1770s and first appears there in a May 11, 1774 Pennsylvania Journal advert offering his services as an “Architect and Landscape Engraver.” In 1781 he moved to Boston, where he operated at several addresses as an engraver and publisher before handing his business to his son William in 1801. He died in Boston in 1817.
The work of John Norman almost entirely lacks the refinement of even middling European engraving of the time, but it often has a kind of crude power, and his entrepreneurial energy involved him in some of the most interesting and important American maps and atlases published in the late 18th century. Among these were Matthew Clark’s Complete Set of Charts of the Coast of America (1789); Norman’s own American Pilot (1790); and Osgood Carleton’s maps of Boston, Maine, Massachusetts and the United States.
Norman also performed numerous non-cartographic engravings, particularly in his earlier years in Boston. Among these were portraits for Murray’s Impartial History of the War in America (1781), illustrations for the Boston Magazine (1783-84), and architectural images in the important work The Town and Country Builders Assistant (1786).