The Golden Age of Piracy! -- Earliest Obtainable English Language Sea Chart of Jamaica, Bahamas and parts of Cuba and Hispaniola.
Faacinating regional chart of Western Caribbean, focusing on the primary theater of Piracy in the Caribbean, first published by John Seller in London in 1670.
The present chart is the earliest chart of this region engraved and printed in England. Issued in some (but not all) examples of the Atlas Maritimus, it is the most regionally focused sea chart to appear in Seller's atlas. Curiously, the map is bounded be several of the more important lairs of English Piracy, including Tortuga, the primary base for Sir Henry Morgan (Morgan the Pirate, later Pirate hunter), New Providence (which had first been regularly inhabited a decade earlier and was then one of the primary hubs of English Piracy, pre-dating the sacking and burning of Nassau by the Spanish in 1684) and the primary English naval base at Port Royal, Jamaica.
Oriented with east at the top, the chart shows the following islands, many of which appear for the first time on an English sea chart.
- Providence (Nassau, New Providence Island)
- Isle Atheria (Eleuthra)
- Xuma (Exuma)
- Long Island
- Crooked Islands (Crooked Island and Long Cay)
- Sancte Speritas (Great Guana Cay?)
- I. Nagua (Inagua Islandsd)
- Formigos (Formiga Reef)
The present example is the second state of the map, bearing the names of John Seller, John Colson, William Fisher, James Atkinson and John Thornton. The first state of the map names Seller only. The map first appeared in John Seller's sea atlas:
Atlas maritimus, or A book of charts
Describeing the sea coasts capes headlands sands shoals rocks and dangers the bayes roads harbors rivers and ports, in most of the knowne parts of the world. With the true courses and distances, from one place to another: Gathered from the latest and best discoveryes, that have bin made by divers able and experienced navigators of our English nation: Accomodated with an hydrographicall description of the whole world
The map is very rare. We note only a copy offered by Martayan Lan in the late 1980s.
John Seller was one of the most notable map and instrument makers in England in the late-seventeenth century. He was especially known for the sea charts, many of which featured in his influential English Pilot and Atlas Maritimus. Seller was born in London in 1632. His father was a cordwainer and John was apprenticed to Edward Lowe, of the Merchant Taylors’ Company. He was made free of that company in 1654. Later, he also was made a brother of the Clockmakers’ Company, which housed several instrument makers. He started business as a compass maker but expanded his offering to include navigational instruments and charts.
Seller’s career was halted temporarily, and fantastically, when he was tried for high treason in 1662. He was accused of involvement in a plot led by Thomas Tonge. While Seller likely only unwisely repeated rumors, he was convicted. The other conspirators, who did admit some degree of guilt, were executed, but Seller maintained his innocence and, via insistent petitions, he eventually secured his release from Newgate Prison.
This episode did not seem to slow Seller’s rise too much, however. Seller was granted a royal license to publish English-language maritime atlases. This gave him a near-monopoly and led to his being named hydrographer to the King in 1671. Although the point of the project was to produce English charts of Dutch dominance and bias, Seller ended up using many Dutch plates as his base material. The first volume of The English Pilot was published in 1671, followed by more volumes as well as The Coating Pilot (1672) and the Atlas Maritimus (1675). Seller was commercially successful, but some of his projects required further support. The English Pilot was eventually taken over by John Thornton and William Fisher, for example, and his proposed English atlas only produced maps of six counties.
Seller’s sons, John and Jeremiah, followed in their father’s profession. Seller also apprenticed several promising young men, including Charles Price, with whom his sons partnered. Through Price, Seller can be seen as the founding figure of an important group of London mapmakers that included Price, John Senex, Emanuel Bowen, Thomas Kitchin, and Thomas Jefferys.