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  Christopher Saxton / Philip Lea. “The County Palatine of Chester,” 1693–1694.
Christopher Saxton, Palatine Chester

Christopher Saxton / Philip Lea. “The County Palatine of Chester by C. S. Corrected and Amended with many Additions by P. Lea” (London: Philip Lea, 1693–1694). Published in The Shires of England and Wales. Double-page copperplate engraving with excellent old hand color. 15 x 20" at neat line. Framed size: 23 1/4 x 27 3/4". Large inset map of “Chester,” u. l. (5 1/2 x 7 1/4"). Coats of arms of earls of Chester, l. r. Old centerfold visible. Overall, clean and bright. Excellent (by sight). Handsome in gold-tone frame.


This striking edition of Christopher Saxton’s influential county map of Chester was reissued by Philip Lea between 1689 and 1694 using Saxton’s original copper plates. Lea was one of the most substantial London map publishers of the late 17th century and into his hands passed much of the stock of the older map firms. Lea’s reissues contained new features and updated information—most importantly, the addition of roads, which had been lacking from British county maps up to this time. Having just taken on a special importance from the development of highway law in Restoration England, roads were now drawn on many new maps and added onto the copper plates of older maps, such as those of Saxton’s prototypical ones from the 1500s still in circulation in the late 1600s.

Saxton began his seminal survey of England and Wales in 1574 under the patronage of Thomas Seckford, a wealthy lawyer and officer of Queen Elizabeth’s court. On completion of each county, the maps were printed and sold separately. They were compiled in 1579 into the masterly Atlas of England & Wales, the first printed set of maps of Great Britain’s counties and one of the first national atlases to be produced anywhere. The atlas was recognized even in Saxton’s day as a work of major importance. For the next two hundred years, it established the standard upon which nearly all county maps of England and Wales were based.

The plates for Saxton’s atlas remained in use until about 1775, passing through the hands of a variety of publishers. William Webb acquired the plates in the 1640s and reissued the atlas without updating the maps. In about 1685, Lea bought the plates and began to revise their content by adding the aforementioned roads, boundaries of hundreds, and insets of town plans that he adopted wholesale from John Speed’s famous series of county maps first published in 1612–14.

The map offered here is from the definitive 1693–94 edition of Lea’s atlas, The Shires of England and Wales. It retains the flavor and basic design of the Saxton map and includes the inset plan of Chester from Speed. Cartouches and lettering have become less ornate, while decorative touches have been relegated primarily to the seas in which appear galleons, sea monsters, and fish. Large dividers identify the mileage scale and contain a banner crediting the originator of the map: “Christophorus Saxton descripsit.”

This is a beautiful 17th-century edition of a pioneering work by the “father of English cartography.”

Refs.: Christie's Antique Maps, pp. 146, 162; Skelton, Decorative Printed Maps, pp. 71–72; Tyacke and Huddy, Christopher Saxton and Tudor Map-Making, pp. 38–39.

Copyright 2003, William R. Talbot