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1873 Imray Blueback Chart or Map of the Lesser Antilles (West Indies)

Caribbee Islands.

1873 Imray Blueback Chart or Map of the Lesser Antilles (West Indies)


Working Nauical Chart encompassing all of the Lesser Antilles, including the Virgin Island and St. Lucia.



Caribbee Islands.
  1873 (dated)    40.25 x 26 in (102.235 x 66.04 cm)     1 : 1250000


This is an 1873 James Imray blueback nautical chart or maritime map of the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies. The map depicts the region from the eastern portion of Puerto Rico to Barbados and from Puerto Rico to South America, including the Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago. Highly detailed, coastal locations are labeled on each of the islands and topography is illustrated on those islands that had been surveyed. Each island also bears the label of which colonial power controlled the island, whether it was France, Spain, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, or Sweden. Depth soundings are included around the Virgin Islands, Anguilla, St. Martin, St. Bartholomew, Montserrat, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Eustatius, St. Christopher, Nevis, the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago, as well as along the South American coast. Numerous locations along the coast of South America are also labeled, including the Orinoco River Delta and its mouth. Ten profile views of the islands are included along both the top and bottom border, including Guadeloupe, Martinique, Barbados, and St. Eustatius. Notes on the soundings and lines of longitude are situated along the right border, along with a note from the publishers stating that they 'request communications that may tend to the improvement of this, or any of their works'.

This map was compiled by James F. Imray and published by James Imray and Son in 1873. This map is owned jointly by Geographicus and Vetus Carta Maps.


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".


Good. Full professional restoration. Portions of top and bottom border reinstated in manuscript. Light soiling and toning. Blank on verso.
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