Samuel Thornton Sea Atlas

- now available on colour microfiche -

Samuel Thornton Sea Atlas colour microfiche (17 of 22)
MicroColor International Inc., in co-operation with the New York Public Library, is proud to announce the availability of the Samuel Thornton Sea Atlas on Cibachrome colour microfiche.This outstanding English composite Sea Atlas is a monument to the Thames school of chartmakers centred in London from late 16th to early 18th centuries.

"No other single Thornton Sea Atlas or gathering of English Pilot charts in one unified collection contains anywhere as many charts, according to records in various national bibliographies and cartographic histories", said Alice Hudson, Curator of the new York Public Library Map Division. Tooley's listing of English Sea Atlases in his Maps and Mapmakers cites similar material, but none so comprehensive. This remarkable collection, of 172 charts on 21 colour microfiches may well be the finest surviving monument to the industry in the earliest years of domestic English trade in printed charts. The Sea Atlas was created from a variety of sources. The plates were purposefully gathered and arranged with a singular vision in a package unequalled in scope by any printed nautical atlas of the 18th century. All the charts are hand coloured -- some in bright outline colour, others with a full-colour transparent wash. Many plates are surrounded by a trompe l'oeil yellow frame, and many charts are decorated with baroque naturalistic leafy strands setting off insets. While the atlas opens with a Mercator world map, most of the regional plates are plane charts, without graduated latitudes. The plates stand up mightily to manuscript charts on vellum or paper.

In the first volume, the charts flow from one ocean basin to the next beginning with Halley's magnetic declination chart on Mercator's projection and Richard Greene's double hemisphere world maps. The atlas immediately moves into Scandinavian waters, and then to the Baltic and Netherlands coasts, across to the British Isles. the first volume ends looping to south of France, Spain and southwestern Europe. Volume two opens with the Great South Sea and finishes with the charts of the straights of Gibraltar.

The Samuel Thornton Sea Atlas was purchased by the New York Public Library by William H. Robinson, Ltd. of London in 1942. Robinson described it as the earliest portulan atlas to record Dampier's discoveries in the Pacific Ocean, and to contain Halley's magnetic world chart. It was probably published by Samuel Thornton in the early years of Queen Anne and most maps bear the imprint of Samuel Thornton, but some were issued about forty years earlier by other publishers. It was of course a common practice to utilise existing maps when making up atlases. Considered individually these charts are also very rare. Only two of Thornton's New World maps are recorded by Lee Philips in his list of "Maps of America".

John Thornton, not Samuel, created most of the plates in the atlas attributed to Samuel. John had been a major player in the production of the English Pilot, and many charts in the Sea Atlas are from the Pilot, Books III and IV. On his death in 1706, John's business passed to his son, Samuel. John's name was removed from the plates, crudely in some cases, and Samuel's name inserted. Samuel did however publish several atlases between 1706 and 1715, and became a member of the Drapers' Company in 1706 by patrimony. On Samuel's death in 1715, the Thornton plates were obtained by the Mount & Page firm which published the Forth Book of the English Pilot. Coolie Verner accuses "the vultures" of Mount & Page of reproducing old plates over and over, without updating them for bibliographical accuracy and sailor's safety.

Sailing the Thornton seas, embraced by coasts bound in ribbons of colour, the reader of today continues to be spectacularly transported by familiar names of romance and history. they pull us into the charts and send our imaginations soaring. magnificent in its conception, design and production, the Thornton Sea Atlas dazzles us today as it did the 18th century gentleman who first turned its pages and dreamed of overseas glory.

In order to make this atlas more accessible, the New York Public Library has embarked on a preservation micropublishing project in conjunction with MicroColor International. The revenue from the sale of the colour microfiche edition will be used to restore its fragile condition for the enjoyment of future generations.

Description Microfiche Qty.
Samuel Thornton Sea Atlas 22

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