John Seller

Birth: 1632


John Seller (1632-1697), hydrographer to the king, compiler, publisher, and seller of maps, charts, and geographical books, was for many years settled at the Hermitage in Wapping (Notes and Queries, 7th ser. xii. 515); he had also a shop in Exchange Alley, near the Royal Exchange. In June 1667 he answered a set of magnetic queries propounded to the Royal Society (Phil. Trans. i. 478).

In 1671 he published a folio volume of charts and sailing directions, under the title of 'The English Pilot,' and another called 'The Sea Atlas,' to which were prefixed letters patent from the king, setting forth that as he (Seller) had been for several years collecting and composing these works, it was forbidden 'to copy, epitomize, or reprint' the treatises of navigation; 'to counterfeit any of the maps, plans, or charts' in them, or to import them or any part of them from beyond the seas, 'either under the name of Dutch Waggoners or any other name whatsoever,' within the term of thirty years.

Notwithstanding the declaration on the title-page of the 'English Pilot' that it is 'furnished with new and exact draughts, charts, and descriptions gathered from the experience and practice of divers able and expert navigators of our English nation,' the maps and charts were taken from the Dutch, and were, in many instances, printed from the Dutch plates, from which the original Dutch title had been imperfectly erased, and an English title, with Seller's name, substituted. The 'English Pilot' ran through many editions, till the end of the eighteenth century, new maps from time to time taking the place of the old.

The number of maps which Seller published was very great; some of them, no doubt, drawn by himself or under his direction; but there is no reason to suppose that he was a surveyor or hydrographer in any other sense than a compiler and seller of charts. Besides these, he published almanacs for the Plantations - for Jamaica and Barbados; a 'Pocket Book containing several choice Collections in Arithmetic, Geometry, Surveying, Dialling,' &c. (12mo, 1677); and 'The Sea-Gunner, shewing the Practical Part of Gunnery as it is used at Sea' (sm. 8vo, 1691). John Seller, jun., had a shop at the sign of the Star, near Mercer's Chapel in Cheapside, where the older man's publications were on sale.

[General and Map Catalogues in the British Museum; his own publications, information from Mr. C. H. Coote.]


John Knox Laughton, Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 51. pgs. 227-228.

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