Cartographer: Saxton, Christopher
Medium: Engraving, coloured
This is a map of Dorset by Christopher Saxton, dating from 1575. It forms
part of an atlas that belonged to William Cecil Lord Burghley, Elizabeth I’s
Secretary of State. Burghley used this atlas to illustrate domestic matters.
This map is actually a proof copy of one which forms part of Christopher Saxton’s Atlas of England and Wales.
This atlas was first published as a whole in 1579. It consists of 35 coloured maps depicting the counties of England and Wales. The atlas is of great significance to British cartography as it set a standard of cartographic representation in Britain and the maps remained the basis for English county mapping, with few exceptions, until after 1750.
During the reign of Elizabeth I map use became more common, with many government matters referring to increasingly accurate maps with consistent scales and symbols, made possible by advances in surveying techniques. Illustrating the increasing use of maps in government matters, Lord Burghley, who had been determined to have England and Wales mapped in detail from the 1550s, selected the cartographer Christopher Saxton to produce a detailed and consistent survey of the country. The financier of the project was Thomas Seckford, Master of Requests at the Court of Elizabeth I, whose arms appear, along with the royal crest, on each map.
Lord Burghley added several place names. In the lower margin there are
notes concerning 'Dangerous places for landing of men in the county'. These
notes were probably written by an assistant of Lord Burghley and show the
concern felt about the south coasts vulnerability to invasion. Due to the
presence of a Protestant Queen in the form of Elizabeth I, England was under
threat from a catholic crusade from Philip II of Spain. This threat culminated
in the events of the Spanish Armada in 1588.