William Norman's chart of the North Carolina coast is the earliest obtainable chart of the region published in America and is believed to be the only surviving map to show the work of Daniel Dunbibin's chart of 1761, which is known through an advertisement in the Boston Gazette of September 14, 1761, although no example of the map is known to have survived.
Dunbibin's map is one of great legend's of 18th Century Americana maps. Wheat and Brun surmise that the original version of this map was separately published in 1761, based upon a note in the Boston Gazette which stated:
The Navigation on the Coast of North and South Carolina being very dangerous on account of the many Bars, Shoals, Sandbanks, Rocks, etc. The late Daniel Dunbibin, Esq. of North Carolina, has, at very great Expence and Labour, draughted the Sea Coast of both the Provinces in a large whole Sheet Chart of 33 inches by 23; together with all the Rivers, Bays, Inlets, Islands, Brooks, Bars, Shoals, Rocks, Soundings, Currents, &c. with necessary Directions to render the Navigation both easy and safe, and are much esteemed by the most expert Pilots...
For the first edition of his The American Pilot of 1791, it is believed that John Norman either re-engraved the Dunbibin plate or copied it from a then surviving example of the chart, as the size and credit to Dunbibin make it clear that Dunbibin's map is the source of the information for this chart. This example of Norman's chart of the North Carolina coastline is the fourth state. Cohen & Taliafero note:
This is state four . . . of Norman's version, with the lettering for "Dl. Dunbibn" and "Coast of America" in the title now fully shaded. The chart shows a much greater area than the title implies, extending from Charleston, S.C. to north of Cape Hatteras. The principal rhumb lines radiate from Cape Fear, and from a compass rose near the lower edge of the chart. Soundings are clustered around the numerous inlets, and a number of sandbars and shoals are shown . . .Guthorn notes that the "style of rendering and lettering is typical of the century preceding publication,"a fact that supports a date of ca. 1760 for the engraving of the chart.
The American Revolution brought to an end Britain's leading role in the mapping of America. The task now fell to the American publishing industry, still in its infancy, but with first-hand access to the new surveys that were documenting the rapid growth of the nation. In particular, there was a need for nautical charts for use by the expanding New England commercial fleets. The first American marine atlas, Mathew Clark's A Complete Set of Charts of the Coast of America, was published in Boston in 1790. Two of Clark's charts had been engraved by John Norman, who was inspired to launch his own enterprise. In January 1790, Norman published a notice in the Boston Gazette stating he was currently engraving charts of all the coast of America on a large scale. These were assembled and published as The American Pilot, Boston, 1791. Norman's Pilot, the second American marine atlas, indeed the second American atlas of any kind, marked an advance over the earlier work of Mathew Clark.
New editions of the Pilot appeared in 1792 and 1794, and after John Norman's death, his son, William, brought out editions in 1794, 1798, 1801, and 1803. Despite the seemingly large number of editions, The American Pilot is one of the rarest of all American atlases, and one of the very few published during the eighteenth century. Wheat and Brun (pps. 198-199) locate just ten complete copies for the first five editions: 1791 (Huntington, Harvard); 1792 (LC, Clements); 1794(1) (LC, JCB, Boston Public); 1794 (2) (Yale); 1798 (LC, Boston Public).