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1732 Herman Moll Map of the West Indies, Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean

A Map of the West-Indies or the Islands of America in the North Sea; with ye adjacent Countries; explaining what belongs to Spain, England, France, Holland &c. also ye Trade Winds, and ye several Tracts made by ye Galeons and Flota from place to place. According to ye newest and most exact observations, by Herman Moll, Geographer. - Main View

1732 Herman Moll Map of the West Indies, Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean


A c. 1720 map guide to English piracy and privateering in the West Indies.



A Map of the West-Indies or the Islands of America in the North Sea; with ye adjacent Countries; explaining what belongs to Spain, England, France, Holland &c. also ye Trade Winds, and ye several Tracts made by ye Galeons and Flota from place to place. According to ye newest and most exact observations, by Herman Moll, Geographer.
  c. 1720 (undated)     24 x 40 in (60.96 x 101.6 cm)


One of the most remarkable and intriguing maps of the West Indies to appear in the 18th century. This is Herman Moll's superb circa 1720 mapping of the West Indies, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, Mexico, and the Spanish Main. Monumental in proportion, rich in descriptive text, and exhaustive it its attention to detail, this map is best understood as a guide to English piracy and privateering in the West Indies. Moll, most likely through his acquaintance with pirates William Dampier and Woodes Rogers, offers a wealth of information on the traffic of silver bearing Spanish treasure fleets en route from the Mexican port of Veracruz, through the islands, to Spanish ports in Europe.

Following the dotted line, Moll identifies the Spanish treasure fleet's entrada into the Caribbean via the passage between Granada and Trinidad. The fleet then sailed westwards, skirting the Spanish Main until they reached Cartagena, where they rested and reprovisioned before heading northwards, rounding western Cuba and stopping in Havana. Using the strong Gulf Stream current - shown here - ships would sail northwards from Havana while being steadily forced to the southeast thus alighting at the deep water port of Veracruz. On the return, laden with silver from the mines of San Luis Potosi, the Spanish fleet took advantage of eastward blowing trade winds, which helped to overcome the strong current on the sail to Havana. From Havana they would travel northwards via the narrow passage between Florida and the Bahamas before cutting eastward and out to sea at St. Augustine. It was here, in this crucial passage between the English dominated Bahamas and Spanish Florida, that the most nefarious pirates lay in wait for their prey.

In addition to descriptions of the sailing routes and currents, Moll provides insets of five important Spanish ports, including St. Augustine, Veracruz, Havana, Porto Bella, and Cartagena. As privateer fleets grew in strength and number in the early 18th century full scale assaults on major ports became increasingly common. Moll's choice of these key treasure ports leaves little doubt regarding his intentions and sources.

Moll further fills this marvelous map with numerous notations that, while bearing no direct impact on piracy in the region, do offer considerable insight into his political persuasions. He identifies, for example the river route through Tabasco and Chiapas, via which supplies and cannons were transported to the important Pacific port of Acapulco. He also notes the Spanish fort of Pensacola where 'all their Indians have Deserted and gone to ye French at Mobile.' Just to the east of this, in northern Florida, he identifies the land of the Apalache, once a powerful Indian empire which by Moll's time had all but vanished. This area was attacked and, according to Moll, 'brought over' to English rule by the governor of South Carolina, James Moore, in 1704.

In a few areas he also comments on some of the produce and mineral richness of the land, identifying the Silver Mines of Coahuila, the American Indian horseman of the Great Plains, Cacao Plantations in Costa Rica, sources of indigo, cochineal, and 'silvester' in the mountains of Guatemala, and the great number of 'Breeves' in Cuba and Texas. Breeves, curiously, were a kind of wild Spanish bovine that later evolved into the Texas Longhorn.

Cartographically this map does offer a few interesting innovations. These include Moll's careful and accurate depiction of the Gulf Stream current as well as his orientation of Florida's St. John's River (St. Whan's R). This is the first map since the 16th century Le Moyne map to correctly plot the St. John's river running south from its entrada north of St. Augustine. Earlier maps plotted the river running northwest into the great lake of Apalache - an error dating to Mercator's faulty 1608 mapping of the region.

In the lower left quadrant there is a remarkable indexed view of Mexico City - then as now the largest city in the Americas. This view is derived from one originally composed by Juan Gomez de Trasmonte in 1628. Trasmonte's view first appeared as part of an atlas prepared, but never published, by Dutchman Johannes Vingboons. Later Montanus acquired the plates and published it in his own 1671 atlas. This is the first rendering of Mexico City to depart from the map view drawn under Cortez. An index of the view appears just above it and identifies many of the buildings still visible today in Mexico City's zocalo and vicinity, including the Cathedral, the Palacio Real, Chapultepec, the Convento de San Francisco, and many others.

This map is hard to date precisely. The British Museum dates it to 1710, and Phillip Lee Phillips dates the Library of Congress copy to 1715. We know that it was published in Herman's Moll's 1719 folio New and Complete Atlas, but it also may have been independently issued earlier and was certainly reissued in later revisions of the Atlas. Dedicated to William Patterson, the founder of the Bank of England, and like Moll, Defoe, and so many others, a figure of the 'South Seas Company' debacle. Printed by both Thomas Bowles of St. Paul's Churchyard, and John Bowles of Cornhill, London. Both Bowles brothers operated independent and competing print shops, and it speaks well of Moll's strong sense of fairness that he so distributed his business between the two brothers. Scale ca. 1:4,300,000.

In all, this is an beautiful, fascinating, and important cartographic work by one of the most prominent English cartographers of the 18th century. A must for any serious collection focusing on the Great Age of Caribbean Piracy, the West Indies, or the 18th century Spanish colonial activity in the Americas.


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. Learn More...

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 over four generations starting with Thomas Bowles who was a print engraver in the late 17th century. The first maps issued by the firm were actually produced by his son, Thomas Bowles the second, who was based at St. Paul's Churchyard, London. Thomas's brother, John Bowles (called "Old John Bowles" or "Black Horse Bowles" by those who knew his shop), was also an active publisher and was established at no. 13 Cornhill. It is said that he was one of the first publishers of William Hogarth's works. It was here that John's son, Carrington Bowles, was introduced to the trade. Carrington took over the Cornhill bookshop and eventually merged it with his uncles shop in St. Paul's Churchyard. On Carrington's death in 1793, the business was passed to his son Henry Carrington Bowles, who partnered with Samuel Carver, renaming the firm, Bowles and Carver. Under this imprint the firm continued to publish maps and atlases until the early 1830s. Learn More...


Moll, H., A New and Complete Atlas, c. 1720.    


Very good. Printed on two sheets joined by original publisher. Minor wear along original centerfold, which is common to this map due to the glues used by the original publisher to join the two sheets. Minor stain to center margin. Else clean.


Kagan, R.L., Urban Images of the Hispanic World, fig. 4.23 and fig. 6.1. Brown University, John Carter Brown Library, Z M726 1709-1 - 3-SIZE. Library of Congress, Map Division G4390 1715 .M6 Vault. Phillips (Atlases) no. 554-10, 3469-10. Manasek, F. J., Collecting Old Maps, no. 69. Marshall, D. W., Research Catalog of Maps of America to 1860 in the William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, II-95-2-2. Library of Congress, A list of Books Relating to Cuba..., no. 1715. Phillips (America), v.1, no 13. Lowery, W., The Spanish Settlements Within the Present Limits of the United States, p. 392.