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1856 Imray Blueback Nautical Map of the Rio de la Plata (Buenos Aires)

Chart of the River Plate, with Enlarged Plans of the Principal Harbors. - Main View

1856 Imray Blueback Nautical Map of the Rio de la Plata (Buenos Aires)


Fantastic chart labeling both Montevideo and Buenos Aires - with insets details both!


Chart of the River Plate, with Enlarged Plans of the Principal Harbors.
  1856 (dated)     26 x 41.5 in (66.04 x 105.41 cm)     1 : 472000


This is an 1856 James Imray blueback nautical chart or maritime map of the Río de la Plata in South America. The map depicts the Río de la Plata from Buenos Aires (Buenos Ayres) and the Entrance of the River Parana to Palmarones Island and from the entrance of the Uruguay River to Cape Saint Antonio. A highly detailed chart, this example shows evidence of having been used on board a ship. Both Montevideo and Buenos Aires are labeled, along with numerous other points along the coastline, including several mountains and hills that would be identifiable at sea. Innumerable depth sounding populate the bulk of the chart along with several banks. Hazards to the mariner are clearly marked. Three different compass roses are included. A note along the left border that warns the viewer that the shape of the shoals and depth of water over them is very likely to have changed since the last survey. The final sentence is a cautionary one – stating that 'strangers bound up the river beyond Monte Video ought to obtain a pilot.'

Six different inset maps are included around the border of the chart. These include Colonia and the Hornosi Islands, the Bay of Barragan, Buenos Aires (Buenos Ayres), Montevideo (Monte Video), the road of Maldonado, and the Anchorage of Cape St. Mary. Each of these inset maps includes numerous depth soundings and a detailed depiction of the area in question.
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 warp 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. 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 map was drawn from the recent surveys of Commander Sulivan of the Royal Navy and of the officers under command of M. Barral of the French Navy. It was published by James Imray and Son in 1856.


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. Two patched holes and one weak point. Discoloration along left border. Blank on verso.


OCLC 557920305.