FADEN, William (1749-1836). Le Petit Neptune Francais: or, French Coasting Pilot... London: for W. Faden, 1793.

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FADEN, William (1749-1836). Le Petit Neptune Francais: or, French Coasting Pilot, for the coast of Flanders, Channel, Bay of Biscay, and Mediterranean, to which is added the coast of Italy from the River Var To Orbitello: with the Gulf of Naples and the island of Corsica. London: for W. Faden, 1793.


4to (10 4/8 x 8 2/8 inches). Engraved frontispiece showing the Tower of Cordouan, 37 fine folding engraved charts, and 2 full-page, of the coast of France, 3 folding plates of coastal profiles (short separation at fold to map of "L'Orient to St. Gilles", occasional light spotting and offsetting). Contemporary half tan sprinkled calf, marbled paper boards, yellow edges (extremities scuffed, chipped with minor loss at the head and foot of the spine).

In anticipation of a war with revolutionary France, William Faden re-engraved charts that had appeared in Thomas Jeffery's "Le Petit Neptune Francois" of 1761.Initially Britain did not involve itself in the French Revolution, but in 1793 France declared war, and for the next 22 years the Royal Navy reigned supreme. The first major naval battle of the conflict, fought on the first of June, 1794, was the Battle of the First of June, also called the Battle of the Glorious First of June, or the Battle of Ushant. Fought between the French and the British in the Atlantic Ocean about 430 miles west of the Breton island of Ouessant, or Ushant, the battle arose out of an attempt by the British Channel fleet, under Admiral Earl Richard Howe, to intercept a grain convoy from the United States that was being escorted into Brest, France, by the French Atlantic fleet, under Rear Admiral Louis Thomas Villaret-Joyeuse. The next, Battle of the Nile, also called Battle of Aboukir Bay, was fought on August 1st, 1798). One of the greatest victories of the British Admiral Horatio Nelson, it was fought between the British and French fleets in Abū Qīr Bay, near Alexandria, Egypt. Arguably the most famous naval conflict, almost of all time, was the Battle of Trafalgar, "which established British naval supremacy for more than 100 years" (Encyclopedia Britannica). Fought west of Cape Trafalgar, Spain, between Cádiz and the Strait of Gibraltar, a fleet of 33 ships (18 French and 15 Spanish) under Admiral Pierre de Villeneuve fought, and lost, against a British fleet of 27 ships commanded by Admiral Horatio Nelson.

In 1764, Faden was apprenticed to the Fleet Street engraver James Wigley. By "1773 he was in partnership with the family of the recently deceased map maker Thomas Jefferys, at Jefferys's premises on the corner of St Martin's Lane. The partnership with the younger Jefferys was dissolved in 1776, the same year in which Faden became an active member of the Society of Civil Engineers (later the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers), the influential dining club of John Smeaton and other leading practical men of the day founded in 1771.

"In the years of the American wars Faden came to prominence with maps and atlases of considerable historical note, some of the materials for which survive in the Library of Congress. He is glimpsed at this time as the ‘very accurate, industrious young man’ commended by Thomas Pownall. In 1783 his father's will enabled him to establish full control of the business. That same year he was appointed to ‘the place and quality of Geographer in Ordinary to his Majesty’.

"Systematic in the acquisition of the best available maps, Faden developed the most competent cartographic service of the period. His was an international concern, in contact with map makers throughout Europe. He supplied government departments and commissioned fresh surveys. A gold medallist of the Society of Arts in 1796, his activities foreshadowed the emergence of national cartographic agencies. He brought out the first published Ordnance Survey map, An Entirely New & Accurate Survey of the County of Kent (1801). Some of his plates were likewise adopted as official Admiralty charts. When he moved at this time to larger premises at no. 5 Charing Cross, his maps were reputed the finest being engraved anywhere in the world.

"Of Faden's personal life little is known. His sister Hannah married the painter and astronomer John Russell, and there is an excellent Russell pastel (British Library) of Faden, in an attentive and determined pose. The brothers-in-law collaborated on the earliest extant lunar globe.

"Faden retired in 1823, the business passing to his former apprentice, James Wyld the elder" (Laurence Worms for DNB). Shirley BL M.FAD-1a. Catalogued by Kate Hunter