1863 Vidal / Imray Chart of Madeira and Environs

Chart of the Islands of Madeira Porto Santo and Dezerta. - Main View

1863 Vidal / Imray Chart of Madeira and Environs


Island Paradise with some of the world's greatest fortified wines.


Chart of the Islands of Madeira Porto Santo and Dezerta.
  1863 (dated)     27 x 34.5 in (68.58 x 87.63 cm)     1 : 150000


A scarce 1863 James Imray nautical map of Madeira and nearby islands, based on a survey by Royal Navy officer Alexander Vidal.
A Closer Look
Oriented towards the north-northeast, the chart displays islands of Madeira, Porto Santo, and the Dezertas in detail. Soundings, hazards, shoals, notes on bottoms and tides, and navigational warnings, such as the frequent clouds obscuring the northeast coast of Madeira and the hazards of sailing the passage between the two Desertas (Dezertas) Islands, are incorporated. Considerable detail is also marked on land, including topography, elevation, towns, and even individual buildings. An inset at top-left displays a chart focusing on Funchal Bay and a plan of the town itself, labeling buildings and noting the coordinates of the English Consul's house. Six profiles provide the navigator a view of the bay of Funchal and other important points along Madeira and Porto Santo.
Wine and Well-being
Madeira was among the earliest European colonies in the Atlantic, being explored by the Portuguese in the 14th century and settled in the 1420s. Within a few decades, sugar was planted with a labor force composed of convicts and slaves. Madeira appears to have been the first place where the Portuguese developed plantations driven by slave labor, which later became the model throughout the Atlantic world. In the 17th century, however, sugar production moved to Brazil, and Madeira shifted to cultivating grapes for wine. British commercial influence became prominent, even predominant (including brief occupations during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars), feeding demand in England for Madeira Wine. In the 19th century, Madeira also became a favored site for convalescence, including for wounded veterans, widows, and orphans of the Crimean War. With its reputation for an appealing climate and therapeutic effects, Madeira became a tourist destination in the late 19th century, again with the British forming the largest contingent.
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 in an effort to cut costs. That being said, not all blueback charts are literally backed with blue paper. 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 is based on a survey undertaken by Alexander Vidal of the Royal Navy and was published by James Imray and Son in London in 1863. It is not listed among the holdings of any institution in the OCLC, and the small number of examples that have appeared on the market in recent years are dated 1865, suggesting that this is the first edition of Imray's chart. An 1847 chart ('The Islands of Madeira Porto Santo and Dezertas') produced by the Hydrographic Office based on Vidal's survey (undertaken in 1843) looks to be the basis for the present chart. It is only known to be held by the Royal Museums Greenwich.


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...

Vice Admiral Alexander Thomas Emeric Vidal (1792- 5 February 1863) was an officer of the Royal Navy and an accomplished surveyor. Vidal, the youngest of four children, followed his father into the Navy. He began his naval career in December 1803, at the age of 11, as a 1st class volunteer. He served until 1805 when he joined the Royal Naval College at Portsmouth. He was assigned to the HMS Lavinia and spent three years aboard as a midshipman. He received his first commission in 1815 and was appointed to HMS Leven in 1818 as a first lieutenant under William Fitzwilliam Owen. Vidal accompanied Owen on his voyage to Africa to map the eastern coast. Vidal received his first command in May 1823, while one the expedition with Owen, that of HMS Barracuda.

Vidal spent most of his career as a surveyor, who was charged with several tasks, including locating Aitken’s Rock, a rock supposedly in the North Atlantic. There were at least seven different reports of the potential hazard, stating that it was small and protruded only about four feet from the surface of the ocean. In 1830, Vidal was dispatched to find the rock and accurately chart its location. After six weeks of charting supposed locations, Vidal was unable to locate it. However, during the hunt for Aitken’s Rock, Vidal successfully discovered and charted Vidal bank, and the following year was the first to accurately chart and describe Rockall, a nearly 60 foot high islet in the North Atlantic. The United Kingdom claimed the islet in his name in 1955. Learn More...

United States Hydrographic Office (1866 - 1962) was a brach of he U.S. Navy that prepared and published maps, charts, and nautical books to aid in navigation. Before the establishment of the Hydrographic Office in 1866, U.S. navigators were almost entirely dependent on British charts. There had been a few private enterprises that had prepared and published charts, but none had been able to do so profitably. The Office was established 'for the improvement of the means of navigating safely the vessels of the Navy and of the mercantile marine, by providing, under the authority of the Secretary of the Navy, accurate and cheap nautical charts, sailing directions, navigators, and manuals of instructions for the use of all vessels of the United States, and for the benefit and use of navigators generally.' This way the Navy Department could furnish navy and merchant ships with charts illustrating the results of surveys and explorations undertaken by naval officers. The charts were priced to cover the cost of paper and printing alone, not preparation. Its main objective was to survey foreign coasts, as the Coast and Geodetic Surveys were responsible for surveying domestic waters. The Hydrographic Office was transferred from the Department of the Navy to the Department of Defense in 1949 and was replaced by the Naval Oceanographic Office in 1962. Learn More...


Very good. Minor discoloration. Original nautical linen backing with original ties.


Royal Museums Greenwich G214:23/1(1) (Hydrogrpahic Office edition).