THIS exceptional 17th century map, depicting settlements in Canada and North America, was unearthed by Somerset auctioneers Lawrences in the attic of The House of Glennie, near Huntly, Aberdeenshire.
The manuscript map, meticulously coloured and remarkably well
preserved on a 2ft 1in x 2ft 7in (68 x 80cm) sheet of vellum,
depicts North West America and Canada from Hudson's Straights [sic]
south through Labrador and Newfoundland to New England and New
Dated 1699, it is signed by the London "plattmaker"
(cartographer) John Thornton (1641-1708), a prolific member of the
Thames School of map and chart makers, who worked as a hydrographer
for both the English East India Company and the Hudson's Bay
The map's surprising appearance in Scotland is explained by the
business interests of the late vendor's father: Harold Fortington
had links with Canada and North America before the Second World
Expected to realise £50,000-80,000 when offered for sale in
Crewkerne on January 17, it attracted three keen telephone bidders
and three bidders in the room before it sold to Oxford-based map
specialist Daniel Crouch Rare Books at £170,000 (plus 19.5% buyer's
premium). Conscious that no similar map had been on the market for
50 years (the British Library own an earlier Thornton map of
Hudson's Bay, dated 1685), he was buying for stock.
Daniel Crouch, who was aided in his research by Maureen Dolyniuk
at the Hudson Bay Company (HBC) archives, told ATG: "John Thornton
was the main supplier of maps to the Hudson's Bay Company in the
latter part of the 17th and early 18th century, drafting ten or 11
maps and charts to the company between 1680 and 1702."
Committee minutes for 1700 record that the Company paid Thornton
£3 for the delivery of two "mapps of Hudson's Bay" that were used
to illustrate its claims and assert its rights over its domain in
North America at a time when the French were disputing the
company's proprietorship of all the shores and immediate territory
of Hudson and James Bays.
A feature of this 1699 map is a boundary line in vibrant red
running from the Hudson-James Bay watershed through Lake
Mistassini, north east to the Labrador coast just below 60 degrees
north latitude. At the time the French were insisting on a boundary
extending across James Bay at 52 degrees north, with their
ownership confirmed to the south of this line.
No John Thornton map now survives in the HBC archives, but they
do hold two similar maps of Hudson's Bay produced in 1709 by his
son, Samuel Thornton, who took over his father's map-making
John Thornton's map of 1699 appears again to have been the
template for these charts that were used during the negotiations
that led to the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 and, more recently,
during the 1927 Labrador boundary dispute between Canada and
Newfoundland which established the border between Quebec and
By Roland Arkell