Riding the wave


John Seller and The English Pilot

In 1669 John Seller, a producer of nautical instruments and a bookseller, publicly expressed his belief that Britain should produce its own " Waggoner - which would emancipate English mariners from the costly supplies of nautical documents purchased in Holland - and therefore declared his willingness to undertake the compilation of a pilot - book, accompanied by charts and nautical instructions for navigating the seas of the world. However, this was too ambitious a project that he could only partially fullfill, publishing in 1671 just the first volume of the English Pilot, for sailing along the Atlantic coast from Europe to Africa.

Immediately after him, and throughout the following century, other cartographers continued his work, enriching it and adding other volumes and charts, and almost completed global coverage. Seller, however, had drawn from previous Dutch works, of which he sometimes reused the original plates, dated even decades before, which he adapted to the English market with a few minor changes. The Pilot included nautical instructions and was therefore a compromise between a pilot book and a nautical atlas, following a pattern that persisted until the end of 1700.

England, east coast from the mouth of the Thames at Norfolk. John Seller, [1671]
The paper, undated, belongs to the first volume of The English Pilot which was the second nautical atlas produced in England, after the Book of Sea Platts compiled in 1657 by Joseph Moxon, and met with great success. watercolor engraving, mm. 540 x 435, graphic scale in English leagues, [1:500.000], North to the right. In the cartouche "A chart of the River of Thames / with at the Sands Soundings Buyes / Beacons and, at the Mouth of the / River, and also Along the Sea Coast / from Dover to St Edmons. / Newly Corrected and Published by / John Seller, and are to be sold at tea Marrinors Compas, at the Hermitage / Stayres in Wapping. Above the cartouche, in an inset oriented with the North downwards, there is the River Thames from London to its mouth; in a small cartouche "The River of / Thames.
(Greenwich, National Maritime Museum.

The chart has been reproduced in Coste del Mondo nella cartografia europea: 1500-1900 by Paola Presciuttini, (179 p., about 300 images), published by Priuli & Verlucca, Ivrea, 2000.)