1889 Imray Nautical Chart or Map of the Coast of Belgium, France, and Holland

Flemish Banks etc. Western Sheet. [Sheet 1.] / Flemish Banks etc. Eastern Sheet. [Sheet 2.] - Main View

1889 Imray Nautical Chart or Map of the Coast of Belgium, France, and Holland


The Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta and the Strait of Dover.


Flemish Banks etc. Western Sheet. [Sheet 1.] / Flemish Banks etc. Eastern Sheet. [Sheet 2.]
  1890 (dated)     41 x 53 in (104.14 x 134.62 cm)


A detailed, large format 1890 blueback nautical map of the coast of Belgium, France, and Holland.
A Closer Look
The central chart depicts from Leyden to west of Calais and from Covehithe in Suffolk to Antwerp. The Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta immediately draws the eye, with its multiple waterways illustrated, labeled, and filled with depth soundings and notes on navigational hazards. Coastal lights are noted in yellow and red manuscript throughout the delta, as are cities and towns. The railway from Flushing to Rotterdam appears. Away from the delta, depth soundings fill the North Sea and the Strait of Dover. The canals in France and Belgium between Ostende and Calais are illustrated. A large inset situated in the bottom right focuses on the French coast from Dunkerque to Gravelines. A second, much smaller inset appears in the upper right detailing the entrance to the Hook of Holland Canal, opened in 1872 to ensure sea access to the port of Rotterdam as the branches of the Rhine-Meuse delta silted up.
Blueback Charts
Blueback nautical charts began appearing in London in the late 18th century. Bluebacks, as they came to be called, were privately published large-format nautical charts known for their distinctive blue paper backing. The backing, a commonly available blue manila paper traditionally used by publishers to wrap unbound pamphlets, was adopted as a practical way to reinforce the low-quality paper used by private chart publishers trying to cut costs. The earliest known blueback charts include a 1760 chart issued by Mount and Page, and a 1787 chart issued by Robert Sayer. The tradition took off in the early 19th century, when British publishers like John Hamilton Moore, Robert Blachford, James Imray, William Heather, John William Norie, Charles Wilson, David Steel, R. H. Laurie, and John Hobbs, among others, rose to dominate the chart trade. Bluebacks became so popular that the convention was embraced by chartmakers outside of England, including Americans Edmund March Blunt and George Eldridge, as well as Scandinavian, French, German, Russian, and Spanish chartmakers. Blueback charts remained popular until the late 19th century, when government-subsidized organizations like the British Admiralty Hydrographic Office and the United States Coast Survey began issuing their own superior charts on high-quality paper that did not require reinforcement.
Publication History and Census
This chart was first published by James Imray in 1883 and subsequently updated several times, with the present edition bearing updates to 1890. This is the only known cataloged example of the present edition. However, we have located a catalog record at the Osher Map Library at the University of Southern Maine for a chart by James Imray from 1879 with a similar title.


James Imray (May 16, 1803 - November 15, 1870) was a Scottish hydrographer and stationer active in London during the middle to latter part of the 19th century. Imray is best known as a the largest and most prominent producer of blue-back charts, a kind of nautical chart popular from about 1750 to 1920 and named for its distinctive blue paper backing (although not all charts that may be called "blue-backs" actually have a blue backing). Unlike government charts issued by the British Admiralty, U.S. Coast Survey, and other similar organizations, Imray's charts were a private profit based venture and not generally the result of unique survey work. Rather, Imray's charts were judicious and beautiful composites based upon pre-existing charts (some dating to the 17th century) and new information gleaned from governmental as well as commercial pilots and navigators. Imray was born in Spitalfields, England, the eldest son of a Jacobite dyer also named James. Imray did not follow his father profession, instead apprenticing to William Lukyn, a stationer. He established himself as a bookseller and bookbinder at 116 Minories Street, where he shared offices with the nautical chart publisher Robert Blanchford. In 1836 Imray signed on as a full partner in Blanchford's enterprise, christening themselves Blanchford & Imray. At this time the Blanchford firm lagged far behind competing chart publishers Norie and Laruie, nevertheless, with the injection of Imray's marketing savvy the firm began a long rise. James Imray bought out Blanchford's share in 1846, becoming the sole proprietor of the chart house, publishing under the imprint of James Imray. Relocating in 1850 to larger offices at 102 Minories, Imray was well on track to become the most prominent chart publisher in London. In 1854, when Imray's 25 year old son, James Frederick Imray, joined as a full partner, the firm again changed its imprint, this time to James Imray and Son. The elder Imray was a master of marketing and was quick to respond to trade shifts and historic events. Many of his most successful charts were targeted to specific trade routes, for example, he issued charts entitled "Cotton Ports of Georgia" and "Rice Ports of India". Other charts emerged quickly following such events as the 1849 California Gold Rush. Imray's rise also coincided with the development of governmental mapping organizations such as the Admiralty and the U.S. Coast Survey, whose work he appropriated and rebranded in practical format familiar to navigators. Imray's death in 1870 marked a major transition in the firm's output and began its decline. Though Imray's son, James Frederick, excelled at authoring pilot books he had little experience with charts and issued few new publications. Most James Frederick Imray publications issued from 1870 to 1899 were either revisions of earlier maps prepared by his father or copies of British Admiralty charts. Charts from this period are recognizable as being less decorative than the elder Imray's charts following the stylistic conventions established by the Admiralty. The Admiralty itself at the same time began to rise in prominence, issuing its own official charts that were both cheaper and more up to date than those offered by private enterprises. By the end of the century the firm was well in decline and, in 1899 "James Imray and Son" amalgamated with the similarly suffering "Norie and Wilson", which was itself acquired by Laurie in 1904. Today it continues to publish maritime charts as "Imray, Laurie, Norie and Wilson". More by this mapmaker...


Good. Blueback chart edged in cotton. Cotton edging covers titles. Some soiling. Closed edge tear professionally repaired on verso.