Artist / Author / Cartographer:

Norie, John William


A new chart of the Sooloo Archipelago




copper engraving


63 x 92 cm



A New Chart of the Sooloo Archipelago, Exhibiting All the Islands and Passages between the Islands of Borneo & Magindanao, Together with those Between Borneo and Palawan, Drawn from the Best Authorities, by W. Heather.
A New Edition, with Corrections by J.W. Norie, Hydrographer. 1820.
J Stephenson, Engraver.
London. Published as the Act directs, Jany. 27th 1807 by W. Heather, at the Navigation Warehouse, No. 157, Leadenhall Street.
A spectacular and very rare sea chart of the Sooloo (Sulu) Archipelago published (with corrections) in 1820. The chart extends from northeast Borneo across the Sooloo Archipelago (from Tawee Tawee to Sooloo (now Jolo) to Baseelan) and over to the island of Magindanao (Mindanao, shown almost in its entirety); the southern tip of Palawan, the Entrance to the Straits of Macassar, the Mindanao Channel, and the northern part of the Celebes islands are also shown. Within the outline of Magindanao there are three finely drawn views (of the Southern Part of Magindanao, Sanguey Island, and Kabroang Island), and another view (of the North Part of Borneo) is in the lower left-hand corner.   
As stated below the cartouche and at the bottom of the plate, this chart is an updated edition of the chart first published on 27 January, 1807 by William Heather. Heather, an engraver and chart publisher, worked for John Hamilton Moore, an established publisher and teacher of navigation in London. In 1793 Heather opened his own business "at the sign of The Little Midshipman, No. 157 Leadenhall Street", later called the "Navigation Warehouse". His earliest charts were produced for the British coasting trade, followed by charts for the American trade, but by 1805 Heather had added 23 charts covering the route to Asia and was in a position to compete with the firm of Laurie & Whittle whose East India Pilot had become the leading English guide to eastern seas since its original publication (by Sayer & Bennett) in 1778. Heather’s The Maritime Atlas or Complete Pilot for all the Principal Places in the Known World was first published in London c1805.
The chart is "Drawn from the Best Authorities", and these would undoubtedly have included the charts of Alexander Dalrymple (1737-1808), a very active compiler and publisher of marine charts who served the East India Company for over 40 years (as its Hydrographer from 1779) and was subsequently appointed as the first Hydrographer to the British Admiralty. Dalrymple visited the Philippines on three voyages between 1761 and 1764, and published three detailed charts of the Sulu area: A Map of part of Borneo and The Sooloo Archipelago(1769),Chart of Felicia and Plan of the Island Balambangan(1770), and The Sooloo Archipelago (1771). These three charts were copied by the French cartographer Jean-Baptiste-Nicolas-Denis d'Après de Mannevillette (1707-1780) and published in the second edition of his Le Neptune Oriental in 1775.
William Heather died in 1812 and the business was acquired by one of his trustees, John William Norie (1772-1843), in partnership with George Wilson (1753-1831). Norie became a prolific hydrographer, publisher of charts (including revised editions of The Maritime Atlas), and author of navigation textbooks and pilots (sailing directions). The catalogue of "J.W. Norie & Co. (Successors to the late William Heather) Chartsellers to the Admiralty, and the Honourable East India Company" dated March 1, 1817 lists 143 charts, of which 27 cover "Eastern Navigation. Cape of Good Hope, Isle of France, Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal, East Indies, China, New Holland &c." These include (as no. 138) A New chart of the Sooloo Archipelago, exhibiting all the Islands and Passages between the Islands of Borneo and Magindanao, together with those between Borneo and Palaway (sic), priced at 7s 6d.
A New Chart of the Sooloo Archipelago is a magnificent example of the William Heather / J.W. Norie house style, with the title set in decorative florid scripts within a simple round frame, the four views, delicately engraved mountain ranges, much hydrographic detail (especially around the archipelago itself), numerous rhumb lines, three symmetrically-placed compass roses (each surmounted by a small fleur-de-lys indicating true north), and the tracks of four East Indiamen: the Jason, the Swallow, the Anna and the Northumberland.
William Heather first employed an outside engraver, John Stephenson of Wilmot Square, Bethnal Green, in 1794; this "proved the beginning of a long association and Stephenson engraved all the firm's charts for over 30 years" as J.W. Norie continued to use him after Heather’s death in order to retain the characteristic appearance of the charts.
In 1820 the English commercial "blueback" chartmakers were at their zenith. Following the appointment in 1795 of Alexander Dalrymple as its first Hydrographer, the Admiralty started publishing its own charts in November 1800; the new charts were functional (with a more modern, undecorated look) but were principally for the use of the Royal Navy. Admiralty charts were not offered for sale to the public until 1821, and were slow to be adopted because most merchant shipmasters continued to prefer the blueback charts available from J.W. Norie and other commercial publishers because of their familiar (albeit elaborate) style, convenient scales, and use of inset plans showing ports and narrow passages.
This chart is scarce; it is not listed in WorldCat, and we have found no copies in the British Library, the National Maritime Museum (Greenwich) or the National Library of Australia. The Fundação Biblioteca Nacional in Brazil has a copy of William Heather's chart of 1807, and one copy of this New Edition by J.W. Norie is in the Dutch Nationaal Archief in Den Haag, with another held in a private collection in Manila. We have found no record of the chart itself having been offered for sale by auction, although an early edition of Heather’s Maritime Atlas with 52 charts dated from 1795 to 1808 was sold by Sotheby’s in London in May 2012.
Although produced in large numbers, working sea charts from the early 19th century are inherently scarce; as a result of their use aboard ships, the vast majority of them were lost at sea, destroyed by use, or intentionally discarded when updated, more accurate versions were obtained. A New Chart of the Sooloo Archipelago is a rare and beautiful chart, and a wonderful example of the skills and artistry of the best English chartmakers that will enhance any comprehensive collection of maps and charts of the Philippines or of the Eastern Seas.
Susanna Fisher    The Makers of the Blueback Charts, Imray Laurie Norie & Wilson, 2001.



Item Code: