The Finest Map of the Chesapeake Published in the 18th Century
Flawless uncolored example of the first edition, second state, of Anthony Smith's map of the Chesapeake.
Smith's map is a cartographic landmark, widely considered to be the finest map of the Chesapeake published in the 18th Century.
Both states of this first edition were published by Sayer and Bennett in London. It is a revision of the Walter Hoxton chart with additions and revised soundings. It became an important guide for both the English and French forces during the revolution.
Nothing is known of the actual authorship of this chart, although it is assigned to Anthony Smith of St. Marys. Nothing has been found on this man, who, to judge from the charts, must have been exceptionally well informed regarding the subaqueous and littoral characteristics of the Chesapeake Bay and its estuarine rivers.
Edition 1, State 2 of the chart has an indication in the upper right "Observations ..." that the work was done by the naval officer who employed Smith as his pilot. Such certainly was the arrangement in making a survey of the Potomac, although earlier less authentic but apparently no less accurate soundings had been made with considerable system. Apparently all the prominent houses visible from the water are indicated with a manifest effort to represent the shape, size and relative positions of the different structures, which are distinguished by the names of their owners. On the blank portions of the sheet are given sailing directions involving the mention of many of the buildings placed on the headlands, besides these features, there are many figures and lines showing the courses to be followed, the bearings of prominent landmarks, and the depth of water along the streams and bay." (Huntingfield Map Collection)
Robert Sayer (ca. 1724-1794) was a prominent London map publisher. Robert’s father was a lawyer, but his older brother married Mary Overton, the widow of prominent mapmaker Philip Overton and the proprietor of his shop after his death. Mary continued the business for roughly a year after her marriage and then, in early 1748, it passed to Robert. Robert became a freeman of the Stationers’ Company later that year; his first advertisement as an independent publisher was released in December.
Sayer benefited from Overton’s considerable stock, which included the plates of John Senex. In the 1750s, Sayer specialized in design books and topographical prints, as well as comic mezzotints. In 1753, he, along with John Roque, published a new edition of Thomas Read’s Small British Atlas, the first of several county atlases that Sayer would publish.
Sayer’s business continued to grow. In 1760 he moved further down Fleet Street to larger premises at 53 Fleet Street. In 1766, he acquired Thomas Jefferys’ stock when the latter went bankrupt. In 1774, he entered into a partnership with John Bennett, his former apprentice. The pair specialized in American atlases, based on the work of Jefferys. They also began publishing navigational charts in the 1780s and quickly became the largest supplier of British charts in the trade.
Bennett’s mental health declined, and the partnership ended in 1784. As Sayer aged, he relied on his employees Robert Laurie and James Whittle, who eventually succeeded him. He spent more and more time at his house in Richmond. In 1794, he died in Bath.
John Bennett (fl. 1760-d. 1787) was a London printer best known for his role in the successful partnership of Sayer & Bennett. In 1760, Bennett became a servant of Robert Sayer (ca. 1724-1794), the prominent print and map seller, and was apprenticed to him in 1765. In 1774, Bennett became a free journeyman and entered into a partnership with Sayer. They issued joint advertisements and publications. In 1777, Bennett owned 1/3 share in the business. The partnership was likely to continue fruitfully, but in 1781 Bennett began to show signs of mental illness. In 1783, he was admitted to an asylum for nine months and, in 1784, Sayer filed papers to dissolve their business partnership. Bennett died in 1787.