WRIGHT, Edward (1558-1615). Certaine Errors in Navigation, arising either of the ordinarie erroneous making or using of the Sea chart, Compasse, Crosse staffe, and Tables of Declination of the Sunne, and fixed Starres detected and corrected. London: Valentine Sims, 1599.
4 (194 x 133mm). With first blank. Title within typographical border, 2 large engraved plates, 1 folding table and 13 text illustrations. (Map of the Azores supplied in facsimile, a few leaves with small marginal restorations, errata leaf remargined, light dampstain at some lower hinges, occasional light spotting.) Modern red morocco by Zaehnsdorf, slipcase. Provenance: John Lucas (contemporary inscription on initial blank, extensive marginal annotations); Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872, modern Bibliotheca Phillippica booklabel recording sale of the library to:): William H. Robinson (bookseller, Pall Mall, London); Harrison W. Horblitt.
FIRST EDITION OF THE LANDMARK WORK ON NAVIGATIONAL SCIENCE. A mathematician and cartographer, Wright was prompted to examine map projections on his trip to the Azores in 1589, accompanying George, earl of Cumberland; land was sighted when 'we should have been 50 leagues short of it'. Certaine errors in navigation contains his subsequent justification of the Mercator map projection, 'the greatest advance ever made in marine cartography' (Waters, p.121). Recognising that lines of latitude must by lengthened in greater proportion to the degrees of longitude for cartographic representation as straight lines, Wright devised tables for calculating projectons which are still in use today. Wright's work was taken up even before its publication and resulted in new, significantly more accurate maps by Hondius, Hakluyt and William Barlow. This free use of his work prompted Wright finally to publish Certain errors in navigation in 1599. He includes his account of his travels to the Azores with the Earl of Cumberland, which had previously been published in Hakluyt's Principal Navigations (1598-1600); it is accompanied by a chart of the Azores made on the new projection, which 'has been judged to be more significant than the world charts, since it was large enough to be used' (DSB).
As Wright explains in the preface, his work consists of four parts: hydrographical, 'wherein are set downe the errors of the common sea chart'; magnetical, 'because it intreateth of the variation of the Compasse, showing how the same may be found at sea (the latitude being given)'; geometrical, 'intreating of the Crosse staffe, and shewing how such errors may be avoyded, as have beene commonly committed by the uses thereof'; and astronomical, 'wherein my chief intent was to correct the errors that are in the ordinairie tables of declinaition of the sunne, and fixed starres'. 'Nobody had done more to "set the seal on the supremacy of the English in the theory and practice of the art of navigation at this time"' (DSB). Wright made significant contributions to other scientific works of the day, most notably to Gilbert's De magnete (see following lot). RARE, no copy of the first edition has been offered at auction since the sale of the Kenney collection in 1966. Cf. W. Waters, The Art of Navigation; Sabin 105572; STC 26019; PMM 106.