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Highly detailed sea chart of the area around Hilton Head, South Carolina, based upon a survey by Captain John Gascoigne.

Gascoigne's finely engraved chart was produced at the beginning of the American Revolution, at a time when the outcome among the combatants was still very much in doubt. The chart covers the coastal region of South Carolina, from Port Royal Sound in the north, down past the mouth of the Savannah River and Tybee Island, Georgia, in the south, centered on Hilton Head Island (called "Trench's Island") and "D'Awfoskee Sound," which is today known as Calibogue Sound.

The area around Hilton head was first settled in 1562 by Jean Ribaut, who founded a Huguenot settlement called Charlesfort, which was soon destroyed by the Spanish. The Spanish founded the fort and Jesuit mission of Santa Elena in 1566.

Hilton Head was named in 1663 by Captain William Hilton, on a reconnaissance mission from Barbados, shortly after the creation of the Carolina Colonial Grant in 1661. English settlers arrived in the region in the 1670s, but it was not until 1717 that the first Englishman, Col. John Barnwell settled on Hilton Head, having been given a grant of 100 acres in the northwest corner of the island.

This sea chart was one of the most detailed and accurate of any of the American coastline. The map is based upon the surveys of Captain John Gascoigne in 1728, assisted by his brother James. In 1729, the chart was corrected and improved by Francis Swaine, before languishing until it was published by William Faden and by Sayer & Bennett in 1776.

The area was the site of extensive naval battles in 1778 and 1779, with the British led by General Augustin Prevost, who seized Savannah in December 1778, and the Americans, led by General William Moultrie, who successfully defended he American positions at Hilton Head in September 1778.

The chart was originally issued in 1773 by Faden, with later issued in 1776 and 1790, by Sayer & Bennett. All editions of the map are very rare.  

Sellers & Van Ee, Maps & Charts of North America & the West Indies, 1525. Stevens & Tree, "Comparative Cartography," in Tooley, The Mapping of America, 16 (a); Cf. Cumming, British Maps of Colonial America, pp.47-49. Cumming, The Southeast in Early Maps, 204.
Robert Sayer Biography

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 Biography

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.