A Chart of the Windward Passage Between the Islands of Jamaica Hispaniola and Cuba with the other Passages to the Northwest of Hispaniola.
1795 (dated) 23 x 31 in (58.42 x 78.74 cm)
A mesmerizing and extremely scarce 1795 Charles Roberts nautical chart of the Windward Passage, between Cuba and Hispaniola (Santo Domingo), in the Greater Antilles, West Indies. Centered on Great Iguana Island (Le Mornet or Grand Inague) in the modern day Bahamas, this map covers from eastern Cuba to the Porto Rico Channel and from Guanahani Island (Cat Island, where Columbus supposedly landed) southwards to include all of Hispaniola and Jamaica. Cuba is overlaid with four land profiles illustrating Cape St. Nicholas, Cape Dame Marie, Cape Tiburon, and Morant Point (Jamaica). An inset in the lower left quadrant, just above Jamaica, illustrates the Morant Keys, a particularly dangerous area of sea to the southeast of Jamaica. There are numerous depth soundings and rhumb lines throughout. A chart in the upper left quadrant details Roberts' astronomical observations.
This extraordinarily detailed and masterfully engraved chart is a product of the final days of Caribbean piracy and privateering. The late 18th and early 19th century saw a resurgence of privateering as successive colonial powers jostled for supremacy in the region. Though piracy was on the rise throughout the Caribbean, nowhere was it more prevalent than in the Windward Passage, a vital maritime trade artery between Cuba and Santo Domingo. This era gave rise to the French pirates Pierre and Jean Lafitte, among the most successful pirates of all time. This map offers some indication that was in fact working sea chart in the form of a curious manuscript annotation in the lower right quadrant correcting the southern coast of Hispaniola.
Cartographically this map is based on earlier French work including Antoine-Hyacinthe de Chastenet Puysegur's 1787 Pilote de l'Isle de St. Domingue and Jacques Nicholas Bellin's 1768 Description des debouquements qui sont au nord de l'Isle de St. Domingue. These and other charts were compiled into this larger chart updated to 1795 by Charles Roberts, a Master in the Royal Navy.
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