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1849 Imray Map or Nautical Chart of the North Pacific (w/ East Asia and West America)

Chart of the North Pacific Ocean, Exhibiting the Eastern Shores of Asia and the Western Coast of North America from the Equator to Behring's Strait with plan, on an enlarge scale, of the Principal Island and Harbours. - Main View

1849 Imray Map or Nautical Chart of the North Pacific (w/ East Asia and West America)


Awe inspiring nautical chart of th north Pacific Ocean.


Chart of the North Pacific Ocean, Exhibiting the Eastern Shores of Asia and the Western Coast of North America from the Equator to Behring's Strait with plan, on an enlarge scale, of the Principal Island and Harbours.
  1849 (dated)     38.5 x 75 in (97.79 x 190.5 cm)     1 : 11500000


A spectacular and massive 1849 James Imray nautical chart or maritime map of the northern Pacific. Roughly centered on Hawaii, this sprawling chart covers from Hainan and Borneo eastwards to Columbia and Panama, and from the Behring Strait to the Moluccas and the Galapagos Islands (the Equator). The chart is rendered on a Mercator Projection with latitude measured from Greenwich, England. Like most nautical charts, the cartographer offers very little inland detail, but a wealth of maritime data. This includes the identification of various ports and harbors, coastal topography, shoals and other undersea dangers, and countless depth soundings in fathoms. Additionally, the cartographer has noted aspects of various islands that may have been of importance to the mariner, for example Christmas Island has 'Plenty of Turtle, no fresh Water.'

This map is decorated with ten inset maps, from top center, Victoria Harbor (British Columbia), Awatska Bay on the east coast of Kamtschatka, the Mariana or Ladrones Islands (including Guam), the Hawaiian or Sandwich Islands (with four sub-insets: Waiakea or Byron Bay, Hanalei Bay (Kauai), Honolulu Harbor, and Kailua Bay), San Francisco Bay, the Mouth of the Columbia River (including the Fort Astoria settlement), and the Philippine Islands.
Interesting Provenance
Manuscript sailing markers added in pencil indicate that the last known use of this chart was in 1852 by Captain Honsbury of the Louisiana. We have found little information on the Louisiana. Apparently, she was a wooden barque of 1,344 tons that regularly sailed between Oregon Territory and San Francisco. Based upon what little evidence we have found, and of course the chart itself, it seems likely that the Louisiana was engaged in the fur trade associated with the John Jacob Astor's Fort Astoria trading post on the Columbia River. The routes traced on this map suggest multiple voyages between fur centers in the Pacific Northwest and the regional hub of San Francisco. With China being the largest market for North American furs, the trip to Hong Kong marked here seems a natural extension of this trade.
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 chart is extremely scarce. We have been able to identify only a few examples in institutional collections and minimal sale records. This present example, 1849, seems to be the first and only edition, although John Norie, another British chart publisher, did publish a similar chart in 1825.


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...


Very good. Professionally cleaned and re-backed on fresh linen. Some repaired damage to Korea - China zone, see image. Some discoloration on title area. Some pencil marks indicative of nautical use - seem description.


Westward by Sea: A Maritime Perspective on American Expansion, 1820-1890. Brown University, John Carter Brown Library, ROLL G9236.P5 1855 .J36x.