Joseph Moxon

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Joseph Moxon
Mechanick Exercises by Joseph Moxon 1694.jpg
Frontispiece and title page of Joseph Moxon's Mechanick Exercises, 1694
Born (1627-08-08)8 August 1627
Died 28 February 1691(1691-02-28) (aged 63)
Nationality English

Joseph Moxon (8 August 1627 – February 1691 [1]), hydrographer to Charles II, was an English printer of mathematical books and maps, a maker of globes and mathematical instruments, and mathematical lexicographer. He produced the first English language dictionary devoted to mathematics. In November 1678, he became the first tradesman to be elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Moxon’s Map with a view of the world as known in 1681. The seven days of creation are illustrated in the panels at the top of the map.


Between the ages of around 9 and 11, Moxon accompanied his father, James Moxon, to Delft and Rotterdam where he was printing English Bibles. It was at this time that Moxon learned the basics of printing. After the First English Civil War the family returned to London and Moxon and his older brother, James, started a printing business which specialized in the publication of Puritan texts, with the notable exception of A Book of Drawing, Limning, Washing or Colouring of Mapps and Prints of 1647 which was produced for Thomas Jenner, a seller of maps.

In 1652, Moxon visited Amsterdam and commissioned the engraving of globe-printing plates, and by the end of the year was selling large celestial and terrestrial globes in a new business venture. He specialized in the printing of maps and charts, and in the production of globes, and mathematical instruments made of paper.

In January 1662, he was appointed hydrographer to the King, despite his Puritan background. His shop at this time was on Ludgate Hill ; afterwards, in 1683, it was 'on the west side of Fleet Ditch,' but always 'at the sign of Atlas.'[2]

Moxon's 1683 book, Mechanick Exercises, provides descriptions of contemporary printing methods that have proved useful for bibliographers.

Moxon theorized that the Arctic was ice free, and warmed by twenty-four hours of sunlight in the summer. He also speculated that Arctic ice was created near land, and that if one sailed far enough northwards, one would be free of northern land masses and, subsequently, ice.

These views led him to believe that the Northwest Passage would be found by sailing near the North Pole. These views later influenced Daines Barrington and Samuel Engel, whose refinement of Moxon's ideas would in turn influence Captain Cook's Third Voyage in search of the Northwest Passage.


  • A tutor to astronomy & geography. Or, The use of the Copernican spheres, London, 184 p. (1665)
  • Regulæ trium ordinum literarum typographicarum or The rules of the three orders of print letters: viz. the roman, italick, English, capitals and small. Shewing how they are compounded of geometrick figures, and mostly made by rule and compass. Useful for writing masters, painters, carvers, masons and others that are lovers of curiosity. London (1676)
  • A collection of some attempts made to the North-East, and North-West, for the finding a passage to Japan, China, &c. (1676)
  • Mechanick dyalling. London (1697)
  • J. Moxon and Tho. Tuttell. Mathematicks made easie, or, A mathematical dictionary explaining the terms of art and difficult phrases used in arithmetick, geometry, astronomy, astrology, and other mathematical sciences (1700)
  • Mechanick Exercises or Doctrine of handy-works (1703) [2]


  1. ^ Royal Society archives state his death date as 28 February; the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states that he was buried on 15 February
  2. ^ a b Laughton 1894.