The Huntington acquires 16th century sea chart of Scotland

The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens has announced the purchase of a copy of the first printed sea chart and navigational guide for Scotland.

The Huntington purchased the copy of La Navigation du Roy d’Escosse (The Navigation of the Scottish King), which was published in 1583. It will be included into the California-based library’s collection, which already has many valuable sea charts and atlases, in both print and manuscript.


In 1540, King James V of Scotland embarked from Leith on a mission to assert his authority over the remote parts of his kingdom. With Alexander Lindsay, as pilot, the king’s fleet rounded the north of Scotland, remote territory, visiting Orkney, and then Skye, Lewis, Ross, Kintail, and Dumbarton. Lindsay’s rutter, a text of sailing directions compiled to navigate Scotland’s perilous coastline, was an indispensable guide, providing nearly 200 pieces of information and 150 place names.

Image courtesy The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

More than 40 years later, Nicolas de Nicolay, cosmographer to the King of France, published Lindsay’s manuscript in a French translation, along with an illustrated guide for the modern mariner, and—most significant—the first printed sea chart for Scotland, a map that would not be equaled for accuracy until the 18th century. The publication of La Navigation du Roy d’Escosse coincides with the Throckmorton Plot to place Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne.


“As a final work from Nicolay, the publication embodies ideas critical for his era: the local in the context of an increasingly global world connected by improvements in seafaring and navigation, the state as territory, and power through cartography,” noted Claudia Funke, Avery Chief Curator and Associate Director of Library Collections.

The Huntingdon also announced the purchase of other important historical works, including the manuscripts by the British author Amelia Opie (1769–1853), the private journal of U.S. Navy officer Henry Cadwalader (1817-44) about a secret trade mission to the Indian Ocean and East Indies, and the world’s first published English-Japanese and Japanese-English dictionary (1830).

To learn more, please visit the Huntingdon website.