Christopher Saxton

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Example of Saxton's cartography

Christopher Saxton (c.1540 – c.1610) was an English cartographer who produced the first county maps of England and Wales.


Saxton was probably born in the parish of Dewsbury, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England around 1540. He grew up in the hamlet of Dunningley, near Tingley in the parish of Whitkirk. As a young man he was employed as a servant of John Rudd, the vicar of Dewsbury and Thornhill, a keen cartographer who passed his skills to Saxton. In 1570 Saxton began a survey of the whole of England and Wales on the commission of Lord Burghley. This was a significant undertaking at the time, and yet by 1574 the first plates had been engraved and in 1578 the survey was complete.

John Dee, warden of the Manchester's collegiate church employed Saxton to survey Manchester's parish boundaries in 1596 but no copy has survived..[1]

Saxton died around 1610.


The maps were produced in the Atlas of the Counties of England and Wales published in 1579, the first atlas of any country. It contained 35 maps, each bearing the arms of Elizabeth I and Thomas Seckford, Saxton's patron. The maps show hills and mountains but do not provide precise information as to their location or altitude. A variety of symbols show buildings and settlements. The maps produced set the standard for cartographers to follow, and base their own maps on.

The maps drawn by Saxton were engraved by Augustine Ryther, Remigius Hogenberg, William Hole, William Kip, Leonard Terwoort of Antwerp, Nicholas Reynold of London, Cornelius Hogius, and Francis Scatter. The engravers were of Dutch or Flemish origin. There is no evidence on the maps that Saxton engraved any of them himself, but, according to one account, he engraved those of the Welsh counties and Herefordshire with his own hand. Saxton obtained a license to sell these maps for a term of ten years.[2]

Chetham's Library in Manchester has a copy of the atlas.[3]


  1. ^ 101 Treasures of Chetham's: Material associated with John Dee (1527-1608), Chetham's, retrieved 16 April 2014 
  2. ^  "Saxton, Christopher". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  3. ^ 101 Treasures of Chetham's, Chetham's, retrieved 31 October 2012 


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