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1729 Map of New Caledonia, a Scottish Colony in Panama

The Scots settlement in America called New Caledonia, A.D. 1699. Lat. 8°-30ʹ north. - Main View

1729 Map of New Caledonia, a Scottish Colony in Panama


Map of a short-lived Scottish colony in Panama whose failure led to the creation of the United Kingdom.


The Scots settlement in America called New Caledonia, A.D. 1699. Lat. 8°-30ʹ north.
  1729 (undated)     10 x 8.5 in (25.4 x 21.59 cm)     1 : 90000


A fascinating map with huge political ramifications, this is Herman Moll's 1729 map of the short-lived Scottish colony in Panama, New Caledonia. New Caledonia was situated on the south eastern coast of modern day Panama in the Gulf of Darien, near what is today Puerto Escoces. The colony, known as the Darien Scheme, was a colossal failure, bankrupting Scotland, and forcing the Scottish government to sign the Act of Union in 1707, thus creating the modern day United Kingdom.

The Darien Scheme: A Daring Bid for Global Trade

The Darien Scheme was the brain child of Scottish businessman, politician, and founder of the Bank of England, William Patterson. The late 17th century was a difficult period for Scotland, whose interests lagged behind those of its more powerful neighbor, England. In a bid to break the British East India Company's near monopoly on global trade, Patterson conceived a scheme to create a Scottish settlement on the Darian Isthmus (Panama) and thus control an overland passage to the Pacific. Patterson attempted to raise money for the Company of Scotland, as it was called, both at home and abroad, but under pressure from the British East India Company and the English government, most foreign investment pulled out. Instead, the venture was funded almost entirely out of Scotland and, at its height, controlled almost 20% of all circulating currency in Scotland.

The Darien scheme, finally well financed, sent out its first expedition in 1698. Consisting of some 1200 settlers, mostly former officers and soldiers, the five ships set sail from Leith in July of 1698, making landfall on the coast of Darian on November 2, 1698. They set up their village, called New Edinburgh, on the inland side of what appeared to be a natural harbor, but which was in fact a bay plagued by violent tides. Within the first six months attempts at agriculture failed and under pressure from both the Spanish and the English, most trade vessels bypassed the colony. By the time that malaria set in, the colony was already in dire straits and the decision was made to abandon it on board the Caledonia When the Caledonia limped into New York harbor only about 250 of the original 1200 settlers remained alive. Two more attempts were made to revive the colony, both of which similar ended in disaster.

1707 Acts of Union and the birth of the United Kingdom

Back in Scotland, the failure of the Company of Scotland's attempt to settle the Darien Peninsula pushed the already beleaguered and heavily invested Scottish economy into bankruptcy. The Scottish nobility realized that the only hope of reviving the economy lie in linking Scotland's fate to that of a more powerful nation, and so signed the 1707 Acts of Union, formally creating the United Kingdom. As part of negotiations, they asked that the Scottish national debt be wiped out and that the currency be stabilized. Although English refused to eliminate Scottish debt, the Scottish Shilling was pegged to the English Penny and remains so to this day.

Cartographically this map is derived from manuscript maps drawn by William Hacke, an English Thames School cartographer. Some of these maps survive today national archives. It was engraved by Herman Moll and published posthumously by John and Thomas Bowen in 1736.


Herman Moll (1654 - 1732) was an important 18th century map publisher and engraver based in London and Holland. Moll's origins are disputed with some suggesting he was born in the Netherlands and others Germany - the Moll name was common in both countries during this period. Most likely Moll was a German from Bremen, as his will, friends, and contemporaries suggest. What is known for certain is that he moved to London in 1678, possibly fleeing the Scanian War, where he worked as an engraver for Moses Pitt and other London map publishers. Around the turn of the century, Moll set up his own shop where he produced a large corpus of work known for its high quality and decorative flair. As a new émigré to England, Moll made himself more English than the English, and through his cartography proved a fierce advocate for his adopted nation. Most of Moll's early maps were issued as loose sheets that would be bound to order, however, he did publish several important atlases late in his career. Moll is said to have made the bold claim that without a doubt "California is an Island" and that he "had in [his] office mariners who have sailed round it." While California may not be an island (yet), it is true that moll had talent for attracting interesting friends and acquaintances. He frequented London's first stock exchange, Jonathan's Coffeehouse at Number 20 Exchange Alley, Cornhill. At the time Jonathan's was known as "a place of very considerable concourse for Merchants, sea faring Men and other traders" (Erleigh, The Viscount, The South Sea Bubble, Manchester: Peter Davies, Ltd., 1933, 21). Eventually this activity attracted the interest of stock brokers, who inspired by sailor's tales, sponsored the ill-fated South Sea Company, the world's first stock bubble. Moll's close circle, mostly from the Coffee House, included scientist Robert Hooke, the writers Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe) and Jonathan Swift (Gulliver's Travels), the pirates William Dampier, William Hacke and Woodes Rogers, and the archeologist William Stukeley. Herman Moll's work was highly regarded for its decorative beauty and was pirated, most notably by the Irish publisher George Grierson, both in his lifetime and after his 1732 death at St. Clement Danes, London. More by this mapmaker...

The Bowles Family (fl. c. 1714 - 1832) were publishers and map sellers active in London from c. 1714 to c. 1832. The firm, under Thomas Bowles (fl. 1714 - 1763), John Bowles (1701 - 1779), Carrington Bowles (1724 - 1793), and as Bowles and Carver (fl. 1794 - 1832), produced a massive corpus of work that included numerous atlases, pocket maps, and wall maps. The Bowles publishing tradition was kept alive for four generations, starting with Thomas Bowles, a print engraver active in the late 17th century. His son, Thomas Bowles II, produced the firm's first maps at St. Paul's Churchyard, London. Thomas's brother, John Bowles (a.k.a. 'Old John Bowles' or 'Black Horse Bowles'), was also an active publisher established at no. 13 Cornhill. He is credited as one of the first publishers of William Hogarth's works. There, John's son, Carrington Bowles, was introduced to the trade. Carrington took over the Cornhill bookshop and eventually merged it with his uncle's shop in St. Paul's Churchyard. On Carrington's 1793 death, the business was passed to his son Henry Carrington Bowles (1763 - 1830), who partnered with his father's former apprentice Samuel Carver (1756 - 1841), renaming the firm 'Bowles and Carver'. Under this imprint, the firm continued to publish maps and atlases until 1832. Henry Carrington Bowles died in 1830, but Samuel Carver, himself in advanced years and poor health, kept it going for another 2 years before closing the business. Learn More...


Moll, H., Atlas minor: or a new and curious set of sixty-two maps…, (London: John Bowles and Thomas Bowles), 1736.    


Very good. Minor wear on original centerfold. Else clean.


OCLC 12304498. Baynton-Williams, A., 'Los Britanicos estan Ilegando: British Interlopers in the 'Spanish Sea' and the Cartographic Record', in 'The Map Forumno. 11 pp. 42-8. Kapp, K., The Early Maps of Panama, 44. Phillips (Atlases) 574-53.