On this sea chart, the east coast of Scotland between the Cromarty Firth and St Abb’s Head is easily recognisable today in terms of its outline, but the rendering of some of its place-names may at first sight seem strange. Nairn appears as Nardin, Leuchars as Lucund, Cromarty as Comar, and Aberdeen as Alberdin. Dudley’s sources also led him to misplace some places, such as Haddington being given a coastal situation, and St Monance being sited far inland from its real position on the coast of Fife! But Dudley has included information which sailors and navigators would find useful, such as evidence of sandbanks, anchor symbols indicating a safe anchorage, and soundings, particularly near river mouths and ports.
Italian map- and chart-making peaked in the mid- to late-16th century, and though this sea chart was not published until the mid-17th century in Florence, its engraver, Antonio Francesco Lucini, continued the elegance and fineness of engraving associated with the earlier Italian tradition. Its originator, Sir Robert Dudley (born 1574), was English, and an illegitimate son of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I.
The younger Dudley fell out of favour and moved to Italy, settling in Florence where he set about producing what was to be the first English sea atlas to cover the world, his Dell’ Arcano del Mare, first published in 1646-47 with a second edition in 1661. Dudley’s important work, of which this is one sample chart, also contained the first set of sea charts to use the famous map projection created by the great geographer and mathematician, Gerard Mercator in 1569, which allowed sailors and navigators to set a ship’s course and direction correctly.