John Diston 1731 – 1804, born in Lowestoft.
Having done extensive (mostly online) research on John Diston who compiled and published guides for mariners of the East Coast of the UK and North Sea, I would like to understand where he belongs in the sciences of navigation and chart-making. I am insufficiently qualified in the history of English cartography to comprehend his place in, and the dimensions of, his contributions. I believe he may have copied (and published?) a chart of Paramaribo in Suriname. His “Seaman’s Guide” was reprinted and, reportedly, widely used and valued. His charts were widely collected.
He was a coastal fisher, merchant and ship dealer. He traded in the Baltic. Around 1770 he settled in Elsinore where he established a grocery, a farm and a ship salvage business, whilst continuing to trade in the Baltic and in the Mediterranean. Thirty years later he went bankrupt and returned to Lowestoft. He appears to have been enterprising, proactive, interesting, impulsive and (possibly) poorly educated. His businesses in Denmark suffered during the deterioration of relationships between the UK and Denmark in the build up to the Napoleonic Wars.
I have researched him and his extended family in Lowestoft, at the UK National Archives and in Elsinore and Copenhagen, although one needs to live near Archives in order to glean all of the details they contain. I have commissioned translations of Danish records and have recently commissioned more, as my planned trip to Denmark has had to be cancelled. While I have gathered sufficient data to create a detailed chronology and to have some understanding of the quality of life in those times, I remain insufficiently familiar with the development of English cartography and any small role he may have played in it.
I am hoping that a Forum member may be knowledgeable about his place in navigation and chart making and may be in a position to assist me.
Janice Perry (Adelaide)