Sea Charts of the British Isles takes the reader on a circumnavigation of 'these sceptred isles', as Shakespeare referred to them, to explore, through the chart, this multitude of sea ports, fishing and commercial harbours, naval bases and dockyards, and sea-side havens that have supported local life, and defended and imported for the populace at large. Travelling along the coastline the book displays a beautiful collection of charts containing a wealth of information about Britain's maritime history and the story of charting and surveying itself. The great names in British chart-making are all included, such as Captain Greenvile Collins, Professor Murdoch Mackenzie and his nephew of the same name, Graeme Spence and William Bligh. Between them they created the first structured attempts to survey and chart particular areas of the coast of mainland Britain as well as the more remote islands.
Examples include several from Collins' 'Great Britain's Coastal Pilot', such as charts of Edinburgh and the Forth, the Orkney Islands, the coast of Ireland and the River Thames; the Chart of the Coast of Wales in St George's Channel and that of Milford Haven by Lewis Morris; The River Clyde and Glasgow by John Watt; and the Observation by Trinity House Pilots and Surveyors of the Downs covering the coast of Kent and the Goodwin Sands, as well as charts by other well-known European chart-makers such as the magnificent example of the Coast of England from Dover to the Isle of Wight showing the Cinque Ports by Lucas Janszoon Wagenaer that dates from 1583. Maritime archives such as the Admiralty Library, the National Maritime Museum, the Pepys Library, the UK Hydrographic Office and the National Archives have yielded up their unseen nautical records to portray the development of the sea chart in our own coastal waters, and each is explained through extensive captions.
Lieutenant Commander John Blake served nearly twelve years as a sea-going officer in the Royal Navy, followed by five years in the Reserve. In 1996 he and his wife initiated the licensing of the archives of maritime cartography in the UK's Hydrographic Office - producers of Admiralty charts - gaining an in-depth knowledge of them. John is the author of the acclaimed The Sea Chart, also published by Conway Maritime Press. He lives in Devizes, Wiltshire.