The Fiery Column

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Title page

This article by Warwick Rodwell was first published in the 1997 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

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Shortly after the publication of a major piece of historical research, it almost invariably transpires that a fresh and wholly unexpected source of evidence comes to light. Such was the case with Les Ecréhous in 1996. For several years, while preparing the Société's monograph on the history and archaeology of the reef, a group of scholars trawled every likely source of information.

Lack of maps

Study of the topography of Les Ecréhous, and its physical depletion through tidal action, was greatly hampered by the lack of historic maps of the area. Apart from a wildly inaccurate medieval map, the earliest depiction of the reef in anything like its correct form or location was that accompanying Dumaresq's manuscript of 1685. It is closely similar to, and plainly derived from the same source as, Mariette's map of the Diocese of Coutances, which was published in 1689. In both cases, the depiction of the Ecréhous reef is undoubtedly schematic.

As far as Les Ecréhous are concerned, these maps inspire no confidence, but they were, it seemed, all that was available prior to the compilation of accurate sea charts in the early 19th century. While Les Ecréhous was being printed, a rare sea chart which included a depiction of the Channel Islands, complete with minor islets, came to the writer's attention. It forms the subject of this note, which may be regarded as an addendum to Les Ecréhous, although the chart has a wider interest for Channel Island studies.

Drawn no later than 1630, the chart is the earliest known map both to show and label the minor islets, and is undoubtedly the first for which reasonable accuracy may be claimed. However, the evidence is not as straightforward as it might seem, and interesting problems have been thrown up, some of which will be explored below.

Although the chart in question is part of a Dutch treatise on navigation by Jacob Colom, first published in 1632, it was overlooked by both D. A. Mills in his study of 'Cartographie Jersiaise" and C. G. Stevens in his listing of Jersey maps.' Moreover, it 'was evidently unknown to the authors of the various place-name studies of the Channel Islands.' The oversight is perhaps understandable since the book is extremely scarce, although curiously it went through a large number of editions in the seventeenth century. In view of the scarcity and obscurity of the map and its accompanying text, it is considered worthwhile to publish here in full the section relating to the Channel Islands.

First Dutch edition 1632

The original work, entitled De Vyerighe Colom (The Fiery Column), by Jacob Aertsz Colom was published by the author in Amsterdam in 1632. It is a navigational treatise for the coast of north-west Europe, comprising several separately-paginated 'books' and 'parts' bound together in a single folio volume. The text is entirely in Dutch. The work is illustrated by various text-figures and a series of 42 cadastral maps, consecutively numbered, and also labelled in Dutch. The work was evidently completed in 1631 and contains an extract of the Privilege dated 22 July 1631. It went through several editions, copies of all of which are scarce.

The title-page is elaborately engraved. The general title and lengthy publication details are contained in a centrally placed square cartouche, flanked by two men holding surveying equipment. Filling the upper part of the page is a view of several ships in full sail, at night. In the sky above is a brilliantly illuminated pillar, or Fiery Column, a pun on the author's name as well as an allusion to the biblical 'pillar of fire' which guided the Israelites out of Egypt:

'And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night. He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.' (Exodus 13,21-22)

The lower part of the title page is filled with a scene showing earnest navigators and astronomers sitting in a half-circle amidst various instruments. The men are poring over maps and globes, and in the foreground is a copy of Colom's book, open at the title page.

First English edition 1633

The first English edition was published, also by the author in Amsterdam, in 1633: it has a slightly expanded title, The Fierie Sea-Columne. There was a second edition in 1637 (with 'an hundreth new figures'), and a third in 1640. There then followed an uncertain number of reprintings and new editions down to the late 1680s. These all emanated from Amsterdam, from the hands of several publishers, but with slight variations in the title of the work. Despite there having been at least eight English editions, very few copies of the work have survived. The only known example of the first edition is in Wells Cathedral Library, and the sole survivor of the second edition is in The Admiralty Library, London. Of the third edition two copies are known, one (imperfect) at Christchurch College, Oxford, and the other in the Library of Congress, Washington, USA. The few surviving copies of later editions are mostly in America.

To add a slight element of confusion, Colom published a second work under the same general title, but this time dealing solely with the Mediterranean Sea. The volume was published in 1671 and there is a copy in Lichfield Cathedral Library. It is indeed curious that two English cathedrals should have been presented with such scarce and unlikely volumes in the 17th century.

The following description and illustrative details are taken from the 1633 edition at Wells Cathedral. By chance, the book itself has a potential Jersey connection which will be explored below. The volume consists of an introduction (general title and the 'Instruction') and two 'parts', each of three 'books'. The six books have their own letterpress sub-title pages, and separate page numberings. The text was translated in full from the Dutch, but the engraved plates prepared for the original title page and maps were all reused.

Title page

In order to adapt the title page from Dutch to English a square label was printed with the intention of its being pasted over the original cartouche. In the case of the Wells copy, however, the label was affixed to the verso of the preceding fly-leaf, and is thus now opposite the Dutch title. In translation, the English title has been slightly modified. It reads:

THE

FIERIE SEA-COLVMNE

Wherein

Are shewed the Seas and Seacoasts of the Northern, Eastern and

Western Navigation, manifestly inlightened, & [with] the failings

and mistakes of the former LIGHT

or SEA-MIRROVR amended.

Gathered from the experience of expert Sea-men, & written by

IACOB COLVMNE

Here unto is also annexed a breefe instruction in the Art of Navigation,

together with new tables of declination, and

an Almanach for 20 yeares following.

With the Privilege of the High and Mighty Lords, the

States General, for twelve yeares.

AMSTERDAM

By IACOB COLVMNE, Stationer on the Water in the

Fierie Columne Anno 1633

Maps

Most of the 42 maps are bifolia, each occupying a double-page spread. They are numbered consecutively, changing from Roman numerals to Arabic after number 11. They all incorporate descriptive titles in Dutch, each in an elaborate cartouche placed mid-field. There is also a simple panel containing three linear scales. These are labelled: (i) Dutch miles; (ii) Spanish miles; and (iii) English and French miles. Topographical labelling on the maps varies: some words are taken from the language of the country concerned, while others are overtly Dutch renderings. Innumerable coastal landmarks are shown, mainly windmills and church towers, but they are not individually labelled.

In addition, all but a handful of maps carry a simple rectangular panel with an obliquely hatched border containing the descriptive title in French. In some cases this represents an exact translation of the Dutch wording, while others are abbreviated. It is immediately obvious that these French title-panels are additions to the metal plates and were made some¬time prior to the first English printing. The panels are not only stylistically distinct but are also superimposed on the original layout, usually hard against one border of the map. An attempt was made to buff out the deeply engraved lines on the plates in order to provide a blank area for superimposing the French title. Smudges and traces of interrupted lines reveal clearly what has happened. Thus the original copper plates were modified for a French edition, which appeared in 1633, and were used again for the English edition of the same year."

The maps in the Wells volume have been subject to differential use: some are in undamaged condition, while others are torn and rubbed around the edges.

Sea chart showing the Channel Islands, surveyed in or before 1631

Channel Islands section

This is contained in 'Part II: The Second Book of the Western Navigation', pp 20-21. The text is brief, and the islands are shown on map 29.

Map 29

Inserted between pages 22 and 23, the printed area measures 21 by 15 inches. This is one of the well-used maps, and has been repaired by backing the sheet and taping the margins. Unfortunately, the tape covers the map number (bottom right-hand corner) and clips both Alderney and the Casquets. However, nothing of substance appears to have been lost.

The map is drawn inverted, so that north is towards the lower edge. The primary cartouche carries the title De Custe van Normandie van Diepe tot Porterieus. The secondary title panel, set hard against the right-hand margin, reads Les Costes Marines de Normandie et Britaigne entre Tresport et Heyssant.

The Channel Islands and adjacent coasts of France are shown on the right-hand half of the map . Working from north to south, the following Channel Islands and coastal features are recorded by name:

  • C de la Hagu (Cap de La Hague)
  • R is van Blanceertt oste Ornay (Alderney Race)
  • Ornay (Alderney)
  • Casquettes oste Kiscassen (Casquets)
  • Barothes (Burhou)
  • Garnzey, Carnxce (Guernsey)
  • C de Cruse (La Creux Mahie?)
  • Slot (= St Peter Port harbour)
  • Arem (Herm)
  • Arck (probably Jethou)
  • Sarck (Sark)
  • Rotkeduve (Les Roches Douvres)
  • C. de Vorha (Cap de Carteret)
  • Piere leck / Pater uosters (Les Pierres de Lecq or Paternosters)
  • Buf (Les Dirouilles)
  • Iarzee (Jersey)
  • S Hilarius (St Helier)
  • Trinite (Trinity)
  • Caterina (St Catherine)
  • Ekerou (Les Ecrehous)
  • Bufkin (La Chaussee des Boeufs)
  • Mortesum (rocks near Regneville)
  • Menke (Les Minquiers)
  • De Sausee (Chausey)
  • Granville (Granville)
  • Mont de S Michiel (Mont St-Michel)

Further towns, local topographical features and small islands are noted along the Breton coast.

Detai of Jersey and its associated islets. Note that north is at the bottom

Descriptive Text

Two leagues west & by north from Cape de Hague, Iyeth the Iland of Aldernay or Ornay, betwixt them goeth the Race of Blanckert through. Aldernay or Ornay is about three leagues long, & Iyeth east & west. The east end is cleane, men may saile reasonable close alongst by it, but the west end is very fowle:There lye some little Ilands close by the west end, being passed them, men may sayle sayle [sic] towards Iarsey without any feare.
To the southwards of the foresayd little Ilands at the west end Iyeth of a ledge of rockes, within it, on the south side it is cleane, except at the south poynt, that is also fowle. He that will anckor on the south side of Ornay, must be mindfull thereof, & anckor a little to the eastwards of the Tydehaven.
From the west end of Ornay Iyeth a great multitude of rockes west & by north, & west northwest off three leagues into the sea.
Upon the outermost & westermost end, Iyeth a great high rock with many other smaller rockes about it. Halfe wayes betwixt this great rocke & Ornay Iyeth another great rock, but not so high as the foresayd westermost, from it lye off a multitude of rockes towards the outermost, which fall dry at low water, but at high water many lye under water. These two great rockes are called by the French Les Casquettes, & by the Dutch the Kiskassen, & by the English the Caskets. Close by the west end of Ornay, towards the Caskets, lye other two great ranes of rockes, called the Barroches [Burhou and Ortach].
From the east poynt of Ornay to the east end of Girnesay (about to the southwards of Ornay) the course is westsouthwest, seven leagues, but from the Caskets to the west end of Garnsey southwest and by south seven leagues.
If you will anckor under Garnsey (coming from the Caskets) then runne up to the northeast poynt of Garnsey, & so far to the eastwards of it, until you get sight of the castle that standeth upon the rock upon the east side of Garnsey. Or if you will come about to the westwards of the Caskets, then goe on southeast, or some what more southerly, untill the northeast poynt of Garnsey be south and by west from you, saile then towards it, you shall come in sight of that foresayd castle upon the rocke. Bring that over the south poynt of Garnsey, and saile in upon that marke, betwixt the Iland Arem, or Harm, and Garnsey, untill you come by the foresayd castle; betwixt these Ilands it is on both sides full of rockes, whereof you must take good heed, especially on the larbord side towards Arem, when you are come by the castle, you may ankor within or without it, where you please, without the castle in twelve or thirteen fathom; or within the castle, (that is betwixt the castle and Garnsey) in sixe or seven fathom at low water, it doth flow there sixe or seven fathom, up and downe, which men must reckon upon.
Under the south side of Garnsey men may ride for northwest, north, and northeast windes.
If you come from the west, or from the Caskets, you must runne close about by the southwest poynt, called C. de Gruse, and alongst by the south side of the Iland, well halfe wayes the Iland, and anckor there where you think good, in eighteen or nineteen fathom. If the wind shift to the southwest, or to the westsouthwest, then you may runne about by the south poynt unto the foresayd castle, and anckor there either with out or within it, as here before is sayd. From the aforesayd south poyntl,yeth [sic] aff a litle ledge of rockes, whereof some rocks lye above, and some under water, that you must avoyd when you sail about by it.
South and by west, and southsouthwest about eight leagues from Garnsey Iyeth a great ledge of rockes, more then a league great, called Rockeduves [Roches Douvres].
About two leagues east from Garnsey lyeth the Iland Sarck, there men may anckor round about it in five and twenty, sixe and twenty, and seven and twenty fathom. From the north end lye off some Rocks whene [sic: where] of some lye above, and some under water. At the south end lye also some rockes, but all abovewater.
Betwixt Garnsey and Sark lye twoe other !itle Ilands, Arck [jethour] and Arem, or Harm [Herm], there men may saile through betwixt them.
The Iland Iarsey lyeth from Garnsey southeast distant seven leagues, round about this !land are good roades at divers places. All alongst the north side men may anckor in ten and eleven fathom. At the same north side, somewhat within the west poynt, lye some great rockes, a good wayes off from the shore, called the Pater nosters, or Pierrelegh. At the southwest poynt lye many rockes which lye off a great wayes into the sea, to the northwards of them, to wit, betwixt them and the westermost poynt, at the west side of larsey men may anckor at divers places in ten, eleven and twelve fathom. At the south side of larsey is also a good road for a northwest & westnorthwest windes. At the east side lyeth S. Catherines baye, there is also a very good roade for westerly windes.
The west end of larsey and S. Malloes, or the Iland Sisember before S. Malloes, lye southsoutheast, and northnorthwest, eight or nine leagues a sunder. About halfe wayes betwixt both right in the fareway, lye a great number of high rocks together, which containe in circuit in sai!ing about, seven or eight leagues, called the Mankiers, they lye farre towards larsey, some above and many under water, so that is not without great danger to runne through betwixt larsey and the Mankiers.
When men will saile through the Race of Blanckert bound for S. Malloes, they run commonly through betwixt Sarck and larsey: men may also saile to the eastwards of all the Ilands & showlds alongst the coast of Normandy, toward S. Malloes, in manner as followeth.
When men come a litle past the C Voorha [Cap de Carteret], they shall meet (thwart the Iland of larsey) with three or foure high rockes called Le Beuf [Dirouilles], men may runne to the westwards of them, and so through betwixt them and the !land larsey, or els to the eastwards of them alongst by the main land, even as they wil, towards the riffe of Mortefaim, that lyeth upon the coast of Normandy southsoutheast eight leagues from Cape de Voorha.
Over against, or thwart of the Riffe of Mortefaim, lyeth a rane of rockes lying east and west more then a league in length called Bufkin [Chaussee des Boeufs], at the east end many of them lye above, and at the west end most of them lye under water. Men must saile through betwixt them & the riffe of Mortefaim that are bound for Granville.
Betwixt the foresayd rockes Beuf and Bufkin, lyeth another great rane of rockes called Eckerou, which lye off from the southeast poynt of larsey towards Granville; you must leave all these rockes on the starbord side, and run alongst to the eastwards of them.
From the riffe of Mortefairn to Granville, the course is southsoutheast, and from Bufkin southeast foure leagues.
Cape de Voorha and Granville are two point that lye without the other land. About the south point of Granville lye two or three !itle rockes; along by them men must run in within a Pier or head, where the ships lye dry at low water. Betwixt C de Hague, and Granville, men may see upon the land many little houses, mills, and trees, as they saile alongst by it. A litle to the southwards off the riffe Mortefaim standes a church with two steeples called Quotanse [Coutances], all alongst this whole coast is every good anckering in sixe of seven fathom, especially a litle to the southwards of Cape de Hague.
About two leagues west from the point of Granville lyeth another great rane of rockes two great leagues long, lying east and west called La Shausee [Chausey], betwixt them and the poynt of Granville men must saile through that are bound for Concalle or S. Malloes.
About five leagues to the southwards of Granville, in a great baye,lyeth an nand before the river of Avrantie, about a league without the land, called Mount de S. Michiel, upon it lieth a Castle, or litle towne called S. Michiel, with a high Tower which men may see at sea. This Bay is to the southwards of Granville, within the rocks of Concalle, very flat & rising ground, from thirteene, tenne, eight, sixe, and foure fathom to one fathom, so that at low water the Bay falleth so farre drye, that from the strand men see no sea nor water.
From Granville to the point of Concalle the course is southwest five leagues, from that eastwards lye three rockes, under which men may anckor in ten fathom. For to saile to the towne men must runne in betwixt the poynt and the foresayd rockes. It is betwixt them both eight and nine fathom deepe. Before the Towne it is showlder water. To the Northwards of the towne lye other two rockes, there men may also anckor under in five and sixe fathom water.
From the outermost rockes by the point of Concalle untill you come before S. Malloes, the course is west, and west by south five leagues.
Before the haven of S Malloes,lyeth an Iland called Sisember [Cezembre], upon the west end thereof standeth a mill, and upon the east end a church with some litle houses being a Friery, comming out of the sea, you can but even scarce see the Church, but being within the nand, you may see it better, because it standeth on the south side of the nand. A great shot of a cast peece to the eastwards of Sisember, lyeth a great high rock called the Meuwestone: betwixt that and Sisember it is all full of rockes and stones, which at high water lye most under water: there is a litle channel betwixt them both, which the French men use with their small shipping through betwixt the rockes, but is not to be used with great shipping, neither by them that are not very well acquainted with it.

Tydes and courses

The text continues with a description of the coast of Brittany and the offshore rocks, and an attractive plan of the harbour and town of St Malo is included as a text-figure. In a section entitled 'Of the tydes and courses of the streames' are the following:

At Cape de Hague by the shore, a south and by east moone maketh high water.
In the Race of Blankert a north and by east, and south and by west moone. The flood falleth through the Race northeast, and the ebbe southwest.
In the Ilands also a north and by east, & south and by west moone maketh a full sea. Men cannot weI reckon the tydes there, because they have divers courses about the IIands, but for the most part northeast and by north. A quarter of the tyde the flood falleth thwart into the Caskets.
In Garnsey a north and by east, and south and by west moon maketh full sea.
At Concalle and Granville a westnorthwest moone.
At S Malloes an east and west moon maketh high water.
The flood falleth in there at the wester channell, and goeth againe at the easter channell, men must reckon therupon when they will saile into these channels.
From the iland Briack in the bay of Benit the floor falleth southeast, but in the fareway eastsoutheast, and westnorthwest.
At the east side of the IIand Briack in the road southsoutheast. An east and west moon rnaketh there the highest water.
Betwixt the Ilands of Briack and Garnesey, a westsouthwest moone maketh full sea, the flood runneth there eastsoutheast, and the ebbe westnorthwest.
On that coast, and within the Caskets the tyde turneth continually against the Sunne, so that it is there never still water.

Depths

The next section, which is headed 'Of the Depths' , includes the following:

Upon Cape de Hague standeth a Castle, with a little turret; a little to the eastwards of it in the land standeth a sharp tower. Two leagues to the eastwards of it lyeth Sherborough with a flat steeple.
The Iland Ornay is upon the west end high with a steep going down poynt: the east end is hilly, or with homocks, but lower then the west end, in sayling by it, men may see upon it a tower or two with some milles. Upon the north side of the Iland lyeth a white hill like a sandhill.
To the northwards of the Caskets and Garnesey it is 35 and 40 fathom deep, most all stony ground.
Northwest about foure leagues from Garnesey is a pit where it is 80 or 90 fathom deepe, els it is thereabouts 40 fathom deep.
Betwixt Ornay and Iarsey it is deep 20 and 25 fathom.
In the fareway of Iarsey, Rockduve and the Iland Briack, it is deep 20, and 25, and 30 fathom.

Courses and Distances

There then follows a list of 'Courses and Distances', from which the following are abstracted:

  • From C. de Hague to the outermost of the Caskets west & by north. 8 leagues
  • From the Caskets to [Isle of) wight northeast and by north. 20 leagues
  • From the Caskets to Portland north and by west. 13 leagues
  • From the Caskets to Silly west somewhat northerly 56 leagues
  • From C. de Hague to the west end of Iarsey betwixt Sarck & Iarsey through SSW 9 leagues
  • From the Caskets to the west end of Garnesey southwest and by south 5 or 6 leagues
  • From Garnsey to Iarsey SE and bye. 7 leagues
  • From Garnsey to S. Malioes SSE 16 leagues
  • From the south end of Iarsey to S Malloes, southsoutheast. 9 or 10 leagues
  • From Garnsey to the rockes Rockduves, southsouthwest. 8 or 9 leagues
  • From Rockduves to Mankiers east and by south. 9 or 10 leagues
  • From Rockduves to C Farella se 10 leagues
  • From Rockeduves to the rock Carnine south and by west 5 leagues.
  • From Rockeduves to the Iland Briack south and by west 5 leagues.
  • From Garnesey to the seven Ilands southwest and by south 15 or 16 leagues.

Land profiles

Finally, a series of land profiles is given to assist with the recognition of both the French coast and the islands from specified approaches. These profiles include Alderney, the Casquets and Guernsey, but not Jersey.

While the main components of the Channel Islands are plainly recognizable, and most are more or less correctly juxtaposed, there are obvious errors. Jersey is shown with a double line of hachuring along the north coast, representing its precipitous form. Anchorages are indicated in Saint Catherine's Bay, Bouley Bay and, curiously, somewhere in the northern part of Saint Ouen's Bay. Trinity church is plainly marked near the north coast, and further west is another church and building group, presumably Saint Mary. Saint Helier is denoted by a group of buildings, but the name (S Hilarius) and a spired church are located in the area of Saint Aubin. Two settlements are indicated by small circles: one is labelled Saint Catherine (S Caterina), while the other is evidently Saint Brelade. Finally, the sites of five windmills are marked, but only the mill near Grouville church is now identifiable with certainty."

It is most remarkable that Mont Orgueil Castle is not shown, being so prominently visible at sea.

Offshore rocks

Offshore rocks are indicated at L'Etacq, La Corbiere and La Rocque (although the south-eastern extremity of Jersey is mis-orientated and points south). Les Pierres de Lecq are accurately located, and named, but Les Dirouilles (labelled Buj) and Les Ecrehous (Ekerau) are both well south of their true positions. They have been rotated around the coast of Jersey in a clockwise direction. By the same token, La Chaussee des Boeufs (Bufkin) have been pushed too far from Jersey. Les Minquiers (Manke) are however well placed. The plan of Les Ecrehous is most interesting and calls for comment.

The axis of the reef is clearly shown as east-west and takes the form of a long, narrow, and slightly sinuous island amidst skerries and sands. The main island is much larger than any of the others in the locality: it is on a scale comparable with Herm. This is far removed from the present-day situation, and can hardly be dismissed as fortuitous. Celom's depiction of Les Ecrehous is also dramatically more robust than on Dumaresq's map of c1685. Hitherto, the latter was the earliest known map of Jersey with the outlying islets shown in anything like their correct topographical positions. The Dumaresq map depicts Les Ecrehous as a long line of rocks, with a single islet at the eastern end, which may be interpreted as the fragmentation of what was formerly an attenuated island. It may also be recalled that the Ecrehous reef was consistently referred to in the singular until c1754; thereafter the plural became the norm.

In conclusion, Celom's map appears to provide serious corroboration for the argument advanced in Les Ecrehous that in the Middle Ages the reef was a substantial island, albeit constantly diminishing in size. If we accept Colom at face value, the final fragmentation of the reef must have taken place after the 1620s, but before the 1680s.

Provenance of Wells Cathedral copy

The Fierie Sea-Columne is an unlikely work to find in a cathedral library, especially given its rarity. Furthermore, it is a strange coincidence that there is not only a copy at Wells Cathedral, but that the companion volume dealing with the Mediterranean (1671) is present at Lichfield Cathedral. The origin of the Wells volume can be traced with some confidence, and its connection with a Jersey-related family adds to the interest.

There is no doubting that the volume has been in the cathedral library since the later 17th century. To assess its pedigree, several pieces of evidence need to be considered.

In the first place, the book bears two ink inscriptions, both in 17th-century hand.

  • On the title-page: Liber Ecclesiae Wellensis.
  • On the fly-leaf: Ex Dono Francisci Poulet e Civitate Wellen. Arm.

The medieval cathedral library at Wells had been ransacked during the Commonwealth, and its entire contents dispersed. Following the Restoration of the Monarchy, Dean Creyghtone made strenuous efforts to rebuild the library, and some 200 of the original books were recovered in 1661. Creyghtone also donated various books himself and persuaded others to do likewise. One of those who heeded his call was his son-in-law, the Hon Francis Poulet. He gave books personally and so did his widow after his death in 1688. Poulet's donation of The Fierie Sea-Columne clearly occurred sometime before 1687 but probably after c1670.

Francis Poulet was second son of John, 1st Baron Poulet, and grandson of Sir Anthony Poulet, Governor of Jersey and builder of Elizabeth Castle. Anthony and John were born in Jersey. John Poulet (1586-1649) was married in c1614 and had three sons (as well as seven daughters): John , Francis and Amias. John was born in c1615 and died in 1665. Francis's date of birth is not known, but it must have been c1616. He is likely to have been born in Somerset. Amias lived from 1622 to 1667.

Francis was educated at Oxford, matriculating at Exeter College in 1632, along with his older brother John. Both boys evidently completed their education in 1634 and in March of that year their father applied for licence to send them 'beyond the seas' for a few years. Presumably this was connected with the service of the king and, although we do not know where they went, the Channel fleet remains a distinct possibility. Baron Poulet was appointed on 30 May 1635, to the command of the Constant Reformation which formed part of that fleet.

Unfortunately, details of Francis's career are elusive. His father and older brother were earnest Royalists, had distinguished naval careers, and were both knighted at sea in 1635 by the Earl of Lindsey, aboard the Mary Honour. Although unproven, it seems likely that John and his two elder sons were at sea together, and that would mean they were all with the Channel fleet. A few years later, in 1639, the three are recorded as serving together in the king's army in the north of England.

Whatever the precise details of his career, Francis must have had a serious interest in navigation, or he would not have been in possession of The Fierie Sea-Columne. Moreover, the book bears the initials 'F P' on the spine, indicating that the volume was personally owned and used by him. The most likely explanation is that the newly published book was given to Francis, by his father, when he went to sea in 1634.

It is further worth noting that the condition of the Wells volume indicates considerable use in parts, and that can only have been during Francis's lifetime. Moreover, it must have been during his naval career, since the wear is hardly likely to have occurred while the book reposed in his library at Wells. There is no reason to doubt that the present leather binding is original. It was presumably Francis or his father who caused it to be bound and initialled. The covers show signs of rough handling and both the brass clasps are broken (with parts missing); and it has already been observed that some of the pages and maps (including that of the Channel Islands) display evidence of frequent use.

The most likely scenario is that when Francis left Oxford in 1634 he acquired a copy of Jacob Celom's recently published manual and took it to sea with him. Almost inevitably, the book must have travelled to Jersey, where his family was still much involved in defence and politics.

Although several generations of the Poulets were heavily committed to the service of the king, and thereby to the Channel Islands, Francis evidently decided not to join them, but to return to Somerset, from whence the family hailed. The ancestral seat was at Hinton St George, which descended to his brother John. Francis married Catherine Creyghtone, daughter of Doctor Robert Creyghtone, who was initially Dean of Wells and later Bishop of Bath and Wells. Francis and Catherine Poulet lived in the shadow of the cathedral, in a former canonical house at 19 The Liberty. They took up residence in or shortly before 1670. The Poulets were buried together in the cathedral, beneath a Purbeck marble slab in Corpus Christi Chapel. Francis died on 26 January 1688, and Catherine on 17 October 1694.

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