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Rare First State of Sayer's Map of Table Bay

Scarce chart of Table Bay and the Cape of Good Hope, published by Robert Sayer.

The route of the Salt River is shown entering the bay just to the east of Capetown, which is shown in detail with the fort, Company Gardens and the Gallows highlighted. Table Mountain is shown, flanked by Devil's Mount and Lyon's Mount.

In the bay the Anchoring Ground and Robben Island are surrounded by soundings and to the top left there is an inset engraving of A South View Of The Cape by Monsieur L'Abbé de la Caille.

While the later Sayer & Bennett and Laurie & Whittle editions appear on occasion, this first edition is very rare.

The chart includes a central compass rose oriented north to the left and there are two scales in Dutch miles and sea leagues.

The map is drawn from Joannes Van Keulen's earlier chart of 1753, published in the so-called Secret Atlas.

Condition Description
Minor soiling.
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.