The manuscript charts in this atlas were made in 1620 or 1621, probably by Gabriel Tatton, an English chartmaker, and probably on board the ship Elizabeth during a voyage to the East Indies. According to an article by Sarah Tyacke ("Gabriel Tatton's Maritime Atlas of the East Indies, 1620-1621: Portsmouth Royal Naval Museum, Admiralty Library Manuscript, MSS 352," Imago Mundi, vol. 60, Part I: 39-62) it is likely "the sole surviving example of an original English marine surveying in the East Indies in the first half of the seventeenth century." I'll leave it to her article to tell the history of its making and influence. What I can tell you is it's a good case of "don't judge a book by its cover."
Sometime between 1779 and 1800 the unbound charts were acquired by Alexander Dalrymple's Hydrographic Office The charts were bound in the late 18th century, at which point the Hydgrophic Office added a paper title page and index to the front, both of which survive (the title page is shown above right), along with a single white folio at the back of the binding; presumably these were part of the end sections in that binding. At this point someone also numbered the charts 1 to 17 on the verso (head fore-edge corner) in carbon black ink.The leaves are parchment, with the charts in black, warm red, cool red, green, blue, and yellow inks. In the 18th century binding it was guarded on parchment (two small scraps remained) with animal glue that remained in thick stripes along the spine edges of the bifolia. I could find no evidence, however, of the original endleaf construction nor binding style: sewing stations would be in the now-lost parchment guards, and the paper flyleaves no longer had spine folds. Contemporary atlases tend to have suffered rebinding, whether out of necessity or aesthetics (why have a tatty 18th century binding when you can have a nice new 20th century one?), so searches for something similar in its original condition turned up nothing. I would guess it might have been full leather or full parchment with little or no decoration.A binding ticket on the rear pastedown for "Eyre & Spottiswode, Bookbinders, East Harding St. London" indicates to me that the rebinding that you see here was done between 1832 and 1875, when the firm was at that address, probably to the later end of that range given the binding style. It's a half leather tightback binding with brown calf and a textured purple paper on the sides, with the leaves guarded on paper and sewn on 8 raised double cords. Minimal tooling on the spine (single palettes on either side of the bands, titled in the third panel on a black label and stamped with the Admiralty mark in the tail panel). The endbands were originally sewn in pink and white silk, but after these presumably failed they were replaced with red and yellow machine-made bands over cane cores. Probably at this time the spine lining was also reinforced with a starched white fabric in several of the panels, which didn't keep the binding from falling apart for long:
In the image above you can see that the cords have almost completely disintegrated: when I touched them with a spatula, they crumbled under its tip. The leather here is about pH 4. Although the attachment guards were reasonably flexible, they'd lost almost all of their spine folds, meaning extensive repair. The compensation guards were quite wide, which meant the leaves did not open as well as they could have and that the movement of the attachment guards was restricted, having less space to move.