Early Pocket Atlas of the World.
A wonderful pocket-sized atlas issued by John Seller (1632-1697), a versatile English publisher and seller of maps who put out the English Pilot in 1671, the same year he was made Hydrographer to the King. All of the maps and tables in the Atlas Minimus are neatly engraved (as are the frontispiece and titlepage), with ornamental cartouches.
The present copy has all fourteen maps relating to America: A Mapp of All the World; America; Mexico or New Spain; the English Empire in America; Brazil; Terra Firma; New Mexico [showing the Baja California peninsula as an island]; Paraguay; The Chief Islands of ye Antilles and Lucayes; Canada or New France; Florida; Mexico or New Spain [different than the first map of that title]; the West Coast of South America; and the Artick Pole.
Notably, the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America is left undelineated on both the world map and the New Mexico map; both of these maps show Baja California as an island. According to Henry Wagner, the world map is based on Goos. And while Wagner says that this map is "too small for names," this is not strictly true, as California is prominently labeled, as are most of the major countries and continents, including "Hollandia nova" and "Zeladia Nova."
One of the African maps, which depicts the eastern part of the continent, is styled "the Country of the Negro's or Blacks"; the engraved table for this map has a striking illustration of two Black men.
While a complete copy should have a total of 53 maps, it appears not all copies were issued with the full complement of maps. The present example lacks four of the single-page maps: Biledulgerid, Congo (note: the engraved table for this map is present); Asiatick Islands in the Oriental Ocean, and the Peninsula of India Within ye Ganges. The atlas was issued with or without the text; the present copy is without the text. As a practical pocket atlas from an early date, given the considerable wear one would expect to see on such a volume, the present example is in notably nice condition withal.
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.