A previously unrecorded Atlantic Pilot
By BISHOP, Captain Robert; John STEPHENSON; and Robert SAYER , 1796

The Atlantic Pilot, Including the British Channel, Bay of Biscay, and all the Atlantic Islands; with the Gulf and windward Passages, and Old Channel of Bahama. By Capt. Bishop, John Stephenson, and other Navigators. On Eighteen Plates.

  • Author: BISHOP, Captain Robert; John STEPHENSON; and Robert SAYER
  • Publication place: London
  • Publisher: Printed and Published by Laurie and Whittle, No.53 Fleet Street, Successors to the Late Mr Robert Sayer
  • Publication date: ?c.1796
  • Physical description: Folio atlas (560 by 400mm), letterpress title and contents list, pasted on, 12 engraved charts (of 13) of which four are on two sheets, publisher's label of Laurie and Whittle to front paste-down, vendor's label of 'Mark [?L]alor Ship Candler and Sail Maker' to lower paste-down, half-calf, over blue-marbled paper boards, spine in compartments separated by raised bands, gilt.
  • Inventory reference: 1097


The atlas comprises 12 charts. Of these, charts 3,4,5,6,7, and 11 were first issued by Sayer in Thomas Jefferys’ ‘West India Atlas’ first published in 1775; chart 2 was issued in Jefferys’ Neptune Occidental; and chart 1 in Sayer’s Channel Pilot.

Three of the remaining charts are of particular interest and rarity: the first two, one detailing the waters between Florida and Cuba, and the other a more detailed chart of the waters between the northern coast of Cuba and the Bahamas, are by Captain Robert Bishop. Little is known about Captain Bishop, although he states in the key to his chart of the Bahama channel that he was on board HMS ‘Alarm’, a 32-gun Niger-class frigate of the Royal Navy, during its tour of the Caribbean of 1758-60. It was during this time that Bishop set about drawing the charts. Upon his return to London he decided to issue them himself, as can be seen by the imprint on the British Library examples: “Publish’d by the Author May 20, 1761. According to the Act of Parliament, and sold at the Jamaica Coffee House in St. Michaels Alley Cornhill, London”. The BL examples also bear the imprint of Laurie and Whittle May 12th 1794, as do the only other recorded copies: those in the Spanish National Library and the Richter Library at the University of Miami. The current map, as well as an example in a private collection in Tampa, Florida of which we have been made aware, have Bishop’s name, and both imprints removed.

Careful comparison with the example in the Richter library reveals that the title cartouche on that map is a completely different engraving from both the present map and the map in Tampa. There are other subtle differences between the maps that suggest that they were not printed from the same plate. Further, Emmanuel Bowen’s name is not present as the engraver of the chart on the present example, whereas it is on the Richter copy. Furthermore, whilst the paper used for the Richter library is the same Auvergne paper as our example, and bears the same watermark of a coronet over a fleur-de-lys, our map also bears the French revolutionary watermarked date “VI” for 1794.

The above information suggests the following tentative conclusions:

1. There was an original 1761 edition of the map (and possibly ‘The Atlantic Pilot’ – the atlas) engraved by Emmanuel Bowen and published by Bishop. No known extant example.

2. There was an edition of the atlas published by Robert Sayer (for which our atlas has the contents leaf): again, no known extant example.

3. There was a 1794 edition of the map as engraved by Bowen, but published by Laurie & Whittle. This is the Richter Library map. There was a 1794 edition of the atlas NOT engraved by Bowen, but also published by Laurie & Whittle – the present example.

A plausible explanation for this might run along the following lines: Bishop published his own suite of charts (not necessarily an atlas) in 1761. Robert Sayer incorporated these charts into his “Atlantic Pilot”, the plates for which were inherited by Laurie and Whittle along with Robert Sayer’s business, but the charts were starting to wear. At some point in 1794, Laurie and Whittle commissioned a re-engraving of the plate by a new engraver, who removed Bowen’s name, but did not insert his own.

The third chart details the Leeward Islands and is by a Captain Holland. This is most probably Samuel Holland (1728-1801), the first Surveyor General of British North America. Although his output was prolific, drawing many important charts and maps for both Jefferys’ ‘North American Pilot’ and the ‘American Atlas’, we are unable to trace any institutional examples of this chart.

List of Charts

1. STEPHENSON, John. A New Chart of the British Channel, from the Mouth of the Thames to Ushant, and the Scilly Islands, From an Actual Survey revised, corrected, and improved By John Stephenson, a Master of the Royal Navy. London, Printed for Robert Sayer, No. 53 Fleet Street as the Act directs, June 4th, 1788. (Two sheets)
2. PERIGNY, Mr. De. The Bay of Biscay, with the Soundings, taken by the King’s Order, from Ushant to Bayonne. By Mr de Perigny. Officer in the French Navy, from the French Chart. Composed by Mr Bellin for the use of the King’s Ships, with Several Additions and Improvements. London, Publish’d for Rob[er]t Sayer, Print, Map, and Chartseller, No. 53 Fleet Street.
3. JEFFERYS, Thomas. The Atlantic Ocean By Govenor Pownall, F.R.S. [Appears in the West India Pilot – Heavily re-engraved].
4. JEFFERYS, Thomas. A Chart of the Maderas and Canary Islands, According to the Surveys Published at Madrid By Don Thomas Lopes Geographer to His Catholic Majesty and Ascertained by the Astronomic Ocservations of the Chevalier de Fleurieu. Made By Order of the French Governmentin 1769. London, Printed for Robert Sayer as the Act Directs, 1st Jan[uar]y 1787. [Appears in West India Pilot – later state with new title and imprint moved].
5. D’APRES DE MANNEVILLETTE, Mr. The Cape Verde Islands, laid down from the Remarks and Observations of Experienced Navigators, By Mons. D’Apres de Mannevillete with Several Additions. London, Printed for Robert Sayer, Map and Printseller No. 53 in Fleet Street, as the Act directs, 10th April 1788. [Appears in West India Pilot. Later state with imprint changed to 1788 and text added to chart].
6. D’ANVILLE, Mr. Chart of the Açores (Hawks) Islands, called also Flemish and Western Islands. London, Printed for Robert Sayer, as the Act directs. [Appears in the West India Atlas. A later state with D’anvilles name erased from the title and text on the observation on the Formigas, in 1783].
7. LEMPRIERE, C. The Bermudas or Summer Islands from a Survey by C. Lempriere. Regulated by Astronomical Observations. London, Printed for Rob[er]t Sayer, Map & Printseller, No. 53 Fleet Street, as the Act directs 20th February 1787. [Appears in the West India Pilot. Date of imprint changed to 1787].
8. SAYER, Robert. A New Chart of the West Indian Islands, as they are Possessed by the European Powers; Drawn from the most Recent Authorities. London, Printed for Rob[er]t Sayer Print Map and Chart Seller, Fleet Street: as the Act directs January 28th 1788.
9. [BISHOP, Captain Robert]. An Accurate Chart of the Gulph Passage from Jamaica with the West End of Cuba &c. Humbly Dedicated (by Permission) To the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. [Two sheets. Later state with the imprint of Bishop erased. “Publish’d by the Author May 20, 1761. According to Act of Parliament, and Sold at the Jamaica Coffee House in St. Michaels Alley Cornhill London”].
10. [BISHOP, Captain Robert]. An Accurate Draught of the Old Straits of Bahama, made from Remarks taken in the Year 1762: By leave from the Lord Commissioners of the Admiralty, in Order to render the Navigation of those Parts more safe, is Humbly Dedicated By Permission to Sir George Pocock Knight of the Bath Admiral of the Blue, and Commander in Chief of the His Majesty’s Fleet at the Havana. [2 sheets. As above].
11. SAYER, Robert. Turks Islands, From a Survey made in 1753 by the Sloops l’Aigle and l’Emeraude, By Order of the French Governor of Hispaniola. With Improvements from Observations, made in the Sir Edward Hawke King’s Schooner. London, Publish’d for Rob[er]t Sayer Map & Printseller, No. 53 Fleet Street, as the Act directs, 20th Feb[ruar]y, 1775. [Appears in West India Pilot. First State].
12. HOLLAND, Captain. A New Chart of the Leeward or Caribee Islands, with the Virgin Islands and Portorico; Comprehending also Part of Hispaniola and of the Spanish Main, with the Adjacent Islands of Trinidad, Margarita, Bonair, Curasoa, Aruba &ca. Regulated and Ascertained by Astronomical Observations By Capt. Holland. London,Printed for Rob[er]t Sayer No. 53 Fleet Street, as the Act directs Jan[uar]y 1st 1787. [Two sheets].


  1. Bishop charts BL Maps 149.e.33
  2. Biblioteca Nacional de España
  3. c.f. Sellers 1738 for 1788 edition
  4. Not in Van Ee.

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