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The First Commercial Sea Chart To Incorporate Clement Lempriere's Survey of Bermuda

Fine example of Robert Sayer's early edition of Clement Lempriere's rare chart of Bermuda, the single most influential map of the Island published in the 18th Century.

Lempriere's very rare chart of Bermuda, published in 1738, was the first major cartographic advance in the charting of Bermuda since Richard Norwood's survey in the 1660s. Lempriere's map would become the prototype for all subsequent maps of Bermuda for more than 50 years. It shows the island divided into the domains of the various 'tribes', the names given to the various private proprietors of the island, who originally received royal patents from King James I in the early 17th century. The island's capital, St. Georges, is located in the far right of the map (Hamilton would not be made the capital until 1815) and various forts, parish churches and roads are labelled throughout the chart. The placement of crosses in the coastal waters identifiy the dangerous reefs which surround Bermuda. All considered, it is a very advanced survey for its time, having been conducted by a combination of trigonometric and chain surveys.

The original Lempriere chart was separately-issued, perhaps accounting for its low survival rate. The work was dedicated to Alured Popple, who served as Governor of Bermuda from 1738 to 1744.

The Lempriere chart formed the basis for all published maps of the island for the duration of the 18th century, with versions being issued even as late as 1829. These most notably include the present chart, which was first published in Thomas Jefferys' West-India Atlas (1775).

Clement Lempriere (1683-1746) is best known as a sea captain, surveyor and artist from the Island of Jersey. He most notably, was the designer of Henry Popple's (the brother of Alured Popple) famous Map of the British Empire in North America (1733), the first large-scale map of America. While Lempriere was a very consequential figure, his biography remains somewhat vague. What is known from sketches which survive is that he was well travelled, although it is not known at what stage of his life or in what order he visited Scotland, Portugal, the Balearic Islands and Bermuda.

In 1725, he drew up an important military map of roads in the Scottish Highlands, following the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion. In 1727, he was appointed Draughtsman to the Civil Branch of the Ordnance Office (the British Army's mapping division) with a salary of £100 a year and an office in the Tower of London, a position he held until his death. He seems to have mixed his professional life with his art, publishing a map of Bermuda, engravings of his paintings of warships and an important map of the Channel Islands, A General and Particular Prospectus of the Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Serc, Arm and Jethou (1755).

Although the dates of his residence in Bermuda are not known, Lempriere likely visited the islands in the early 1720s before traveling to Scotland to create his road map. He was likely commissioned to make the survey by the island's governor or some of the local proprietors. The survey thus remained only in manuscript form for about 15 years. Lempriere's survey represented the first general mapping of the island since Richard Norwood completed his final survey in 1662. Richard Norwood conducted the first survey of the islands in 1616, being the first survey of any English colony. Amazingly, at the age of 72, Norwood re-surveyed Bermuda in 1662. Norwood's surveys formed the basis of all 17th century maps of the islands, including those by John Speed (1627) and Willem Blaeu (1630). Arent Roggeveen published the first proper sea chart focusing on Bemruda in 1675 and the present chart is the natural successor to this work.

The original Lempriere chart is extremely rare, making this the best obtainable version of the chart.

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.