Fine example of Sayer and Bennett's chart of the Gulf of St. Laurence, based on the surveys by James Cook and Michael Lane.
At the conclusion of the French and Indian War, the British needed accurate charts of the territories that had been awarded to them in the Treaty of Paris. The areas that were of particular interest to the Admiralty included Labrador and Newfoundland. "On 19 April 1763 James Cook, Master R.N. was ordered by the Admiralty to proceed to Newfoundland 'in order to your taking a survey of the Parts of the Coasts and Harbours of that Island'" (Tooley & Skelton, in Tooley's The Mapping of America p.177). His appointment would have been based, in no small part, on the glowing endorsement of his commanding officer, who had written to the Admiralty in December 1762 "that from my experience of Mr. Cook's genius and capacity, I think him well fitted for the work he has undertaken, and for greater undertakings of the same kind".
"The charting of Newfoundland and southern Labrador by Cook... and by his successor Michael Lane ... was unequalled, for thoroughness and method, by any previous hydrographic work by Englishmen [and also allowed Cook to master the art of practical surveying and navigation, in a way that brought him to the attention of the Admiralty and Royal Society at a crucial moment. More immediately.] it produced the first charts of this extensive and difficult coastline that could (in the words of a later hydrographer) 'with any degree of safety be trusted by the seaman'" (Tooley & Skelton op. cit.).
Cook started by surveying the northwest stretch of coastline in 1763 and 1764, then in 1765 and 1766 the south coast between Cape Ray and the Burin Peninsula, and in 1767 the west coast. His work was interrupted by what was to prove to be the first of his three great voyages to the Pacific, and the work on Newfoundland and southern Labrador was finished by Michael Lane between 1768 and 1773. Thomas Jefferys used the charts by Cook and others to form the "Collection of Charts of 1769-70, a prototype ... for the celebrated North-American Pilot which was to be published in five English editions from 1775 to 1806" (Tooley & Skelton op. cit.).
Unlike many of the other charts in the North American Pilot which appeared in other forms in earlier publications, the present chart first appeared in the 1775 edition of that great atlas. As the title suggests, Sayer and Bennett drafted this map by compiling information from other sources, with the charting of southern Labrador and the western and southern coasts of Newfoundland entirely based on the surveys by Cook and Lane. The map would be republished in successive issues of the North American Pilot (with changes to the imprint) as well as copies of The American Atlas (with "Pl. No." added to the upper right corner in advance of "XI").
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.