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.
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.
- Christopher Saxton, William Ravenhill (introduction), Christopher Saxton's 16th Century Maps, Chatsworth Library ISBN 1-85310-354-3 (hbk, 1992) ISBN 1-85310-724-7 (pbk, 1995).
- Glasgow University article on the atlas of England & Wales
- How did Saxton make his maps?
- A False Start on Christopher Saxton's Wall-map of 1583