posted July 2006

The New England Coasting Pilot of Cyprian Southack
Clara Egli LeGear; John Nickelis; George Martin
Imago Mundi, Vol. 11. (1954), pp. 137-144.

The New England Coasting Pilot of Cyprian Southack

By Clara Egli LeGear, Washington

    One of the cartographical rarities of colonial America is a pilot guide of the northeast coast, of which only three copies are known (1). It bears the lengthy and descriptive title of The New England Coasting Pilot from Sandy Point of New York, unto Cape Canso in Nova Scotia, and Part of Island Breton. With the Courses and Distances from Place to Place, and towns on the Sea-Board; Harbours, Bays, Islands, Roads, Rocks, Sands: The Setting and Flowing of tides and Currents; with several other Directions of great Advantage to this Part of Navigation in North-America. By Capt. Cyprian Southack, who has been Cruizing in the Service of the Crown of Great Britain Twenty-two years (2).

    Southack, who was for seventeen years captain of the Massachusetts Province Galley, often supplied information to his fellow captains for bringing their vessels safely into port. As sailing charts were inadequate and harbor charts non-existent, Southack undertook the task of preparing some of these essential aids to navigation. He is known to have prepared upward of twenty maps. His most ambitious undertaking was The New England Coasting Pilot.

    The eight maps in the Coasting Pilot contain a wealth of information gathered by Southack as he sailed up and down the coast. There are over 100 descriptive notes on the places named, the longest of which accompanies the inset of Louisburg Harbor on the last map. Some of the notes mention Southack's participation in the several English expeditions against the French in Nova Scotia and Cape Breton. Others reflect his interest in safe harbors, navigational hazards, water depths, tides and currents, as well as natural resources, potential industries, fishing grounds, fish drying sites, timber for masts and for ship building. In the note on the Strait of Canso between Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, Southack claims to have been the first Englishman ever to have sailed through it in 1690.

    The arm of Cape Cod shown as an island is a characteristic of Southack's New England coast charts. He had good reason to draw a strait in the vicinity of Eastham, Massachusetts, for he sailed a boat through it on April 26, 1717, when he was commissioned to take charge of a pirate ship which had been wrecked near there (3). Southack was not averse to naming places for himself, so we find the present Chedabucto Bay in northeastern Nova Scotia called Southack Bay, and Monhegan Island on the coast of Maine called "Southacks Island or Monhegan", in the Coasting Pilot, though neither name has survived.

    The New England Coasting Pilot was published by subscription and the leaf following the title page lists "The Names of those persons that have Subscribed Towards the Charge of Engraving and Printing This Work, for the Publick Good. His Excellency Francis Nicholson, Esq; was pleased to subscribe near One half part of the whole Expence. The following Persons, One Guinea each". There follow two columns of 73 names to which eight have been added in ink. Little wonder, then, that Southack dedicated the Coasting Pilot "To His Excellency Francis Nicholson Esqr. Governour, Captain General, and Commander in chief, in and over His Majesty's Province of South Carolina, and Vice Admiral of y same ..." (4).

    Captain Southack was several times the object of Royal favor, which it pleased him to bring to public notice by having the following memorials printed on the verso of the list of subscribers:

"At the Court at White-hall, the 26th of February, 1694.  Present the King's Most Excellent Majesty in Council. Whereas Capt. Cyprian Southack, who has been for several years employ'd by the Government of New England at Sea, and has performed divers signal Services in  several Expeditions against the French, having this Day had the Honour to kiss His Majesty's Hand, presented to His Majesty a Draught of New England, New-found-

(1) One in the British Public Record Office, one in the British Museum, and one in the Library of Congress.

(2) The Coasting Pilot comprises a title page, a leaf containing on one side the names of subscribers, on the other two memorials, and eight folded maps, bound in a volume 33 X 28 cm. The maps are drawn to the scale of about 1:590,000 or 1 inch to 8 geographical miles.

(3) See J. Franklin Jameson's Privateering and piracy in the Colonial Period, New York, 1923, 290-311.

(4) The dedication is on the first map, within an ornamental cartouche.


Southack title page
Title page of The New England Coasting Pilot (from the copy in the Library of Congress)


land, Nova Scotia, and the River of Canada, and the Seas  and Territories thereunto adjoining, made by himself in the said several Expeditions: His Majesty taking into His Gracious Consideration the Service of the said Cyprian Southack, and for his farther Encouragement, is pleased to Order, as is hereby ordered, the Sum of Fifty Pounds, to be paid to him for the buying a Gold Chain and Medal, as a Mark of his Majesty's Royal Favour; and that the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury do give all necessary   Directions for the speedy Payment of the said Sum.        

John Nickelis

"These are to certify the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty of Great Britain and Ireland, &c. That Captain Cyprian Southack, who by her Majesty's Royal Instructions, was appointed to command the Province Galley during the present Expedition to Port Royal, from the 16th of September 1710, the Time  of our Departure from Boston in New England, to our Arrival at Port Royal; and during our Stay there did take Care, by my Order, of the whole Fleet, in Piloting us all within the Entry of Port Royal; and so up within random Shot of the Fort. Then my Orders to him was to be a Rendezvous Guard-Ship to the Bomb-Ship, Guard-Boats, and all other Boats that transported the Mortars, Cannon, and all other Stores, &c. to our Camp above the Fort. All which he executed with a great deal of good Management and Diligence.

George Martin

"Given under my Hand in the Bason of Annapolis Royal, on board Her Majesty's Ship Dragon under my Command, this 19th Day of October, 1710".

    The Year when The New England Coasting Pilot was published has not been established conclusively, but it was sometime between 1718 and 1734, more probably between 1729 and 1734. Southack advertised in the Boston News-Letter, May 19-26, 1718 (1), that he had finished his "general chart", namely the eight map sections comprising the Coasting Pilot, and would welcome corrections before it was engraved. According to a letter received from his London agent, Thomas Sandford, it appears that the Coasting Pilot was still unpublished in 1723 (2). The arrival from London of fifty of his "general charts in sheets, from Sandy Point of New York, unto Cape Canso in Nova Scotia," was announced in the Boston Gazette of June 30, 1729, and subsequently, and the importation of the plate with the continuation of Cape Breton and the Harbor of Louisburg was noted in the New England Weekly Journal of October 28, 1734. Since the date of October 30,1733 is printed on the Louisburg Harbor inset on the last map in the Coasting Pilot, the Library of Congress and British Museum copies are not likely to have been published before 1734. The title page of the Library of Congress copy has been altered by hand, following the words "Nova Scotia" to read: "and all the Island of Breton. The harbour of Louisbourgh, With the Courses and Distances ...". The British Museum copy has been similarly altered, but the British Public Record Office copy has an unaltered title page. This may indicate that the Coasting Pilot was published in two editions, first without the Louisburg inset at some time between 1723 and 1729, and second in 1734, with the Louisburg inset. Sabin's Bibliotheca Americana, vol. 22, 1932, p. 333-343 states that the Coasting Pilot was published at London about 1720 and again about 1734, citing the statements of John H. Edmonds, archivist of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in an article in the Boston Evening Transcript of October 6,1920. The "Catalogue of the Printed Maps, Plans, and Charts in the British Museum," 1885, lists it with the questioned date of 1710. John Green, in his "Explanation for the New Map of Nova Scotia and Cape Britain," London, 1755, p. 5, writes that Southack's "Survey, made before 1720, extends from Staten Island in New York River along the Coast, to Shegnikto Bason, and thence round the Peninsula of Nova Scotia ..." and that it was published in 1731.

    The Massachusetts House of Representatives entertained a memorial presented by Southack on Friday, November 9,1716 (3), "That he has drawn a Chart of this Coast from New York, to Quebec, and proposing,

(1) "To my Fellow Marriners, Gentlemen, I have now finished my general Chart of the Sea-Coast, from Cape Cancer to Sandy-Point, of New-York in North America, with the Harbours, Towns, Bays, Roads, Rocks, Sands, Fishing-Banks, Shoals and Shelves, Depths of Water, Latitudes, Bearings and Distances from Place to Place, the make of the Land, and the Variations. My Intent in putting out this Advertisement is for the Good of the Navigation, and that my Chart may be as Correct as possible before it is engraved: Therefore, lest my Chart should be imperfect, if any Gentlemen will let me wait upon them at my House and will assist me in any Thing they shall find uncorrect, or will inform me of any Discoveries they may have made, which my Chart makes no mention of, they will very much oblige their humble Servant, Cyprian Southack."

(2) London, the 28th February, 1723. To Capt. Cyprian Southack. Sir: My last to you was the 5th August last p. Capt. Lithered ... The plate cannot go forwards till more subscriptions come in ... I will do you all y? Service I can... Signed Tho: Sandford. (In the John H. Edmonds Papers, American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass.)

(3) Massachusetts (Colony) General Court. House of Representatives. Journals. 1715-1717. Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1919, 132, 143.


Cape Cod map
Plate IV of The New England Coasting Pilot showing Cape Cod and the coast of Massachusetts.

That it may be cut on a Plate, at the public Charge, for the Service of the .Navigation, and when so many Copys are taken off, as ye Government pleases, the Plate may be given to him." This memorial received favorable consideration on Saturday November 17, 1716, and so "William Payne, Esqr. is desir'd to take care to have the Plate engraven, And to have a Copy thereof taken for each Member of Ye Court, And then to deliver the Plate to Capt. Southack for his own use; Provided that One Hundred & fifty of the said Charts be reserved for the use of the sd. Court." No subsequent report appears to have been filed to indicate that William Payne completed the assignment. In the following year Southack published his "New Chart of the English Empire in North America" (1), which extends from the St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Atlantic to the Mississippi. He dedicated it to Governor Samuel Shute and to the Honble. Council and Representatives in General Court Assembled at the Sessions held at Boston the 7th of November, 1716," and included the following explanation: "As far as the Prick't Line runs I have been Cruising in the Service of the Crown of Great Brittain from y Year 1690 to y Year 1712. Which General Chart distinct from this will be Compleated with the Maps of the Harbour in Six Months time Fit to be Printed for the Use of My Brother Mariners, it being my twenty two Years hard Labour and Pain." In the light of this dedication and explanation, one may assume that his "New Chart of the English Empire in North America" was published on the order of the Massachusetts House of Representatives in consequence of Southack's memorial, and that the Coasting Pilot appeared at a later date.

    The New England Coasting Pilot is undoubtedly Southack's most important work, for which he seems to have received less praise than blame. John Fry commented thus in his "Scheme for a Paper Currency," 1739 (2):

"As for the worthy and ingenious Capt. Southack, I have not heard that he has received any Gratuity by way of Bounty for his great Labour and Pains in serving this most noble Province ... This Coasting Pilot gives me a just Idea of the Coast of his Majesty's Provinces from New-York to the Bay of Funday. The very Islands are able to contain Millions of People; which absolutely destroys that vile selfish Principle of some People which say they are not for Strangers coming amongst them, because they shall not have Land enough for their Children."

    John Green, in his "Explanation for the New Map of Nova Scotia and Cape Britain," 1755, p. 5, remarked:

"Though, for the general, a very coarse and erroneous Draught, yet not without its use; and would have been more useful had he mentioned the parts which he viewed with most care, such as that of Cape Sable seems to be.  It does not appear, however, that in making this chart he employed any instruments excepting the Log and Compass. On which occasion I must observe, this is the first time perhaps that ever a person bred to the sea undertook to make a chart of so great an extent of coast, without ever taking a single latitude; and for the honour of navigators, as well as safety of navigation, I hope it may be the last".

    William Douglass was considerably less charitable, and in his "Summary, historical and political ... of the British Settlements in North America," Boston, vol. 1, 1749, p. 362, had this to say:

"His large chart of the coast of Nova Scotia and New England being one continued error, and a random performance, may be of pernicious consequence in trade and navigation; therefore it ought to be publickly  advertised as such and destroy'd wherever it is found  amongst sea charts".

    If this advice was heeded, it may account in part for the rarity of the Coasting Pilot. Nevertheless, Southack was reputed to be one of the best navigators in New England, as well as an excellent map maker.

    A portion of Southack's Coasting Pilot, namely from New York to Newburyport, Mass, was reproduced in the Report of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, 1890. Captain Charles Hervey Townshend of New Haven saw the British Public Record Office copy and had a tracing made of it. He believed it to be a hydrographic survey made by British naval officers between 1715 and 1720 (op. cit., Appendix No. 20, p. 775 and pl. 71). The Cape Cod portion of the tracing was reproduced in the Year-book of the Society of Colonial Wars

(1) The only known first issue is in the John Carter Brown Library at Providence, Rhode Island. That Library published a facsimile in 1942. A later issue is in the British Public Record Office, and a copy of the revised 1746 edition is in the Library of Congress.

(2) This pamphlet is in Colonial Currency Reprints 1682-1751 vol. 3, 1911, 273-276.


in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for 1900, Boston, 1901, p. 77, and in the Boston Evening Transcript, Sept. 29, 1920, pt. 3, p. 3.

    The eight map sections of the Coasting Pilot were issued as a single map, about 1758, with the title: "An actual Survey of the Sea coast from New York to the I. Cape Briton ... by Capt. Cyprian Southack ..." London, Wm. Herbert and Robt. Sayer, scale 1 : 590,000, 107 by 252 cm. It was reissued in 1775 with the same title, by Mount, Page and Mount. A map based on the Coasting Pilot was issued as a single map, scale 1:1, 400,000, 61 by 81 cm., by John Senex about 1744. It is entitled: "A map of the Coast of New England, from Staten Island to the Island of Breton; as it was actually survey'd by Capt. Cyprian Southack." Subsequently this map without Senex's name was included in the "English Pilot. Fourth Book," at least seven times between 1775 and 1794.

    Cyprian Southack was born in London on March 25, 1662 and died in Boston on March 27, 1745 at the age of 83. He was the son of Cyprian Southack, a lieutenant in the British Navy, and Elizabeth Oakley of Stepney, Middlesex, England. He came to Boston in November 1685, and here on February 19,1690 married Elizabeth Foy, by whom he had 10 children. He turned privateer in 1689 when war broke out between England and France. Among the vessels he commanded were the Porcupine (1689-90), Mary (1690), William and Mary (1692), Friends Adventure (1693), Seaflower (1703), the Massachusetts Province Galley (1697-1712), and the William Augustus (1721-23). He accompanied the expedition of Sir William Phips to Nova Scotia in the spring of 1690 and helped to take Port Royal. In 1692, he was guarding the coast against enemy vessels in the William and Mary. The following February he went to London to present his "Draught of New England, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and the River of Canada, and the Seas and Territories thereunto adjoining," to King William III, and for it he was handsomely rewarded. Upon his return to Boston later in 1694, he prepared a map of Boston Harbor. In August 1696, he was in the St. John River besieging the French Fort Nachouac (Naxoat) and at that time probably made a survey of that river which has since been lost. The Treaty of Ryswick, signed September 20,1697, restored to the French the territories the British had captured. In December 1698 Southack convoyed Major James Converse and Colonel John Phillips in the Province Galley to the Casco Bay region to make peace with the Indians. While he was thus engaged, the Massachusetts General Court voted the sum of £ 18 to buy him a piece of plate in appreciation of his services and for the "Draught" he had presented to the Court. This "Draught" has likewise not been identified.

    After the outbreak of Queen Anne's War in 1703, there are numerous records of Southack's cruisings along the coast in pursuit of enemy ships, and of trading with the Indians at Casco Bay. Periodically he went to the rescue of ships that were being harassed by belligerents. Southack sailed in Colonel Benjamin Church's fifth expedition against the French and Indians in Maine and Nova Scotia in May 1704. He also accompanied the expedition of Colonel John March to Port Royal in Nova Scotia in 1708, and was with Colonel Francis Nicholson at the final capture of Port Royal.

    Sir Hovenden Walker arrived at Boston in June 1711 to organize an expedition to capture Quebec from the French, and made Southack's home his headquarters. Southack drew a chart of the St. Lawrence River and Gulf from the latest available information, for Sir Hovenden Walker's use on the expedition. When it was printed, fifty copies were presented to the Admiral for the service of H.M. ships; others were distributed among ship masters, but no copies appear to have survived. Queen Anne had commissioned Southack to pilot the expedition, but he was unwilling to accept the commission on the plea that he had never been in the St. Lawrence River beyond its mouth, and that the Province Galley was sorely in need of repair. He consented to join the expedition only after Sir Hovenden, himself, ordered the Province Galley to be outfitted, and Southack to follow after the fleet as soon as possible. Sir Hovenden's expedition left Boston July 30, 1711 and on the night of August 23, in fog and storm eight transports and some 900 men were lost near Egg Island at the mouth of the St. Lawrence. The expedition was abandoned and the remainder of the fleet returned to England. Meanwhile, Southack had sailed in the repaired Province Galley and met the returning transports off Port Roseway in Nova Scotia. The failure of this expedition worked great hardship for him, as the Admiralty declined to honor the repair bills of the Province Galley since she did not actually accompany the expedition. Two years later, after several petitionings, the Massachusetts Council agreed to pay two-thirds the cost. The war ended in August 1712, and by the Treaty of Utrecht, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland were ceded to Great


Louisbourg chart
Plate 8 of the New England Coasting Pilot with the Harbor of Louisbourg and the Boston Light House
(Library of Congress Washington D.C.)

Britain, and Cape Breton and the islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, to France. At the close of that year, the Province Galley was sold and Southack ended his public service as its captain.

    Southack was commissioned to go to Cape Sable to notify the French and Indians that the war was over, in March 1713, and later that year he returned to Boston to prepare a memorial on the development of the fishing industry in Nova Scotia. The following year he was sent to Quebec to negotiate with the French governor Marquis de Vaudreuille for the exchange of prisoners of war. While on this expedition Southack prepared a plan of Quebec and made a survey of the St. Lawrence River which was sent to the Lords of Trade and Plantations in 1715. A manuscript map of this description is preserved in British archives.

    In April 1717, Southack was sent to Eastham on Cape Cod to take charge of the pirate ship mentioned above, and in the following year he was commissioned with others to inspect the plan for a lighthouse at the entrance to Boston Harbor and also to report on the state of Boston's fortifications. Also in 1718 Southack was sent to see the French governor de Brouillion concerning the boundaries of Nova Scotia and French encroachments on British fishing grounds. Early in 1719 he presented a plan he had drawn of Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, to its new governor, Richard Phillips. Later that year his chart of the sea coast and River of Piscataqua was presented to the New Hampshire Assembly. Southack's charts of Casco Bay and the Harbor of Canso in Nova Scotia were published in 1720.

    Governor Phillips named Southack to be a member of the Council in Nova Scotia and for the next two years he commanded the Nova Scotia schooner William Augustus. Southack continued his great interest in Nova Scotia fisheries after he returned to Boston to pass his declining years.

    Following is a list of Southack's maps, several of which have not been located. The Library of Congress has copies (printed or photostat) of all that have been identified.

1.  A Dravght of Boston-Harbor. By Capt. Cyprian: Sovthake: Made by Avgvstine Fitzhvgh, anno 1694. (British Museum Add. MS. 5414, Roll 17) Photograph in A. B. Hulbert's Crown Collection, vol. 5, 1908, no. 15.

2.  Draught of New-England, Newfoundland, Nova-Scotia, and the River of Canada, and the Seas and Territories thereunto adjoining. 1694. (Mentioned in the testimonial in the New England Coasting Pilot. Not located).

3.  Map of St. John iliver, surveyed by Southack, 1697. (Noted by W. F. Ganong as an important lost map in his "Monograph of the cartography of the Province of New Brunswick", Ottawa, 1897, p. 369 and 412, Trans. R. Soc. of Canada, ser. 2, vol. 2; also noted by John Green in his Explanation for the New Map of Nova Scotia, 1755. Not located).

4.  The draught that Southack presented to the Massachusetts General Assembly, for which it voted him £ 18 on December 22, 1698 (Noted in Massachusetts Archives Council Records, vol. 2, 1698, p. 572-573. Not located).

5.  A Map of the Sea Coast of New England according to the actual survey made thereof by Capt. Cyprian Southack. As also the outlines of several of the Provinces and Colonys lying thereon according to the respective grants and charters [17—] (British Museum Add.MS. 15487, page 104).

6.  [Chart of the Gulf and River St. Lawrence] "This Chart drawn by Cap: Cyprian Southack". MS. [1710?] (British Public Record Office. Colonial Office — Canada no. 1)

7.  Plan or draught of Canada River prepared and made by Captn. Cyprian Southack [Dec. 14, 1714] (Noted in Massachusetts Archives, vol. 5, p. 285. Not located).

8.  A New chart of the English Empire in North America, by Capt. Cyprian Southack. Engraven and printed by Fra. Dewing, Boston, New England, 1717. (Copy in the John Carter Brown Library, Providence, Rhode Island. A copy with MS annotations in the British Public Record Office, Colonial Office, North American Colonies no. 4)

9.  Carte du Capn. Ciprian Soudric présentée à M. de St. Ovide le 24 septembre 1718 pour les limites de la pêche. MS. (French Service Hydrographique archives, no. 132-2-12).

10.  A Chart of the Bay of Annapolis Royal which Southack sent to Governor Phillips in Nova Scotia in 1719 (Noted in Calendar of State Papers, America and West Indies, 1719, no. 137. Not located).

11.  Draught of the Sea-Coast, and River Piscataqua, by Cap*. Cyprian Southack. (Noted in New Hampshire Journal of the Council and General Assembly, September 25, 1719. New Hampshire Provincial Papers, vol. 3, 1889, p. 766. Not located).

12.  The Harbor of Casco Bay and islands adjacent. By Cap*. Cyprian Southicke ... 1720. (Published in "English Pilot". 4th Book. London, 1721, no. 16, and in subsequent editions to 1760; and without Southack's name to 1794) (Published also in "Neptune Americo-Septentrional", 1778-80, no. 16).

13.  The Harbour and islands of Canso, part of the boundaries of Nova Scotia ... by Captain Cyprian Southack. Engraven and printed by Fra. Dewing, Boston, 1720. (British Public Record Office. Colonial Office—Nova Scotia, no. 6).

14.  Spanish River, part Island of Bretton. This map is Dr[awn] by Cyprian Southack, Gentl. MS. [1720?] (British Public Record Office. Colonial Office — Nova Scotia, no. 7).

15.  View of the Fort on Great Island, Piscataqua River, by Cyprian Southack. MS. (Noted in a manuscript "List of Maps, Plans, &c. belonging to the Right Honble. the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations ... 1780", New England no. 8-28).


16.  View of Fort William and Piscataqua River, by Cyprian Southack. MS. (Noted in the above "List", New England no. 8-28).

17.  The New England Coasting Pilot. From Sandy Point of New York, unto Cape Canso in Nova Scotia, and part of Island Breton. [London, 1734?].

18.  An Actual Survey of the sea coast from New York to the I. Cape Briton, with tables of the direct and thwart courses & distances from place to place. By Capt Cyprian Southack. London, W. Herbert & R. Sayer [1758?] A

reissue of no. 17, it was published also by Mount, Page and Mount [1775?].

19.  A Map of the Coast of New England, from Staten Island to the Island of Breton: as it was actualy survey'd by Capt. Cyprian Southack. Sold by John Senex .. . [London, 1744?] A reduced edition of no. 18.

20.  A New Chart of the British Empire in North America with the distinct Colonies granted by letters patent from Cape Canso to St. Matthias River. 1746. A revised edition of no. 8.