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1913 British Admiralty Blueback Chart of the West Indies and Caribbean

West India Island and Caribbean Sea Sheet II comprising the Lesser Antilles and Coasts of South and Central American from Trinidad to Yucatan. - Main View

1913 British Admiralty Blueback Chart of the West Indies and Caribbean


Working nautical chart of the Caribbean.



West India Island and Caribbean Sea Sheet II comprising the Lesser Antilles and Coasts of South and Central American from Trinidad to Yucatan.
  1913 (dated)     26 x 59.5 in (66.04 x 151.13 cm)     1 : 2179000


An impressive large scale 1913 blueback chart of the West Indies issued by the British Admiralty Hydrographic Office. The map covers from The Yucatan Peninsula to the Windward Islands (Lesser Antilles) and from Cuba to the Spanish Main, including all of Lake Maracaibo. The map identifies shoals, reefs, and other undersea dangers with note providing a wealth of practical information for the mariner. There are countless depth soundings in fathoms throughout. Light houses and light boats are highlighted in red and yellow. Inland there is limited topographical detail.
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
The map is based upon surveys completed in 1876, but has been updated and revised to 1913. Published by the Admiralty on the 22nd of July, 1913 under the superintendents of Rear Admiral H. E. Purey, Hydrographer. The map was engraved and printed by Davis and Company. Sold by J. D. Potter of 145 Minories, Agent for the sale of Admiralty Charts.


The British Admiralty Office (1795 - Present) or the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office refers to the Branch of the English government that is responsible for the command of the British Navy. In 1795 King George III created the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office, known in short as the U.K.H.O., to provide top notch nautical charts to the vast Royal Navy. Prior the founding of the Admiralty the surveying and creation of nautical charts was primarily a commercial venture wherein the cartographer himself, more of than not, actually financed the printing of his own material. The great navigator Cook himself is known to have scrambled for funds to publish his own seminal charts - the most important and advanced of the period. The system of privately funded nautical mapping and publishing left vast portions of the world uncharted and many excellent charts unpublished. King George III, responding significant loss in trade revenue related to shipwrecks and delay due to poor charts, recognized the need for an institutionalized government sponsored cartographic agency - the Admiralty. The first head of the Admiralty, a position known as Hydrographer, was the important cartographer Alexander Dalrymple. Dalrymple started by organizing and cataloging obtainable charts before initiating the laborious process of updating them and filling in the blanks. The first official Admiralty Chart appeared in 1800 and detailed Quiberon Bay in Brittany. By 1808 the position of Hydrographer fell to Captain Thomas Hurd. Hurd advocated the sale of Admiralty charts to the general public and, by the time he retired in 1829, had issued and published some 736 charts. Stewardship of the organization then passed to Rear Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort. It was under Beaufort's administration that the Admiralty truly developed as a "chart making" as opposed to a "chart cataloging" institution. Beaufort held his post from 1829 to 1854. In his 25 years at the Admiralty Beaufort created nearly 1500 new charts and sponsored countless surveying and scientific expeditions - including the 1831 to 1836 voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle. By 1855 the Admiralty's chart catalog listed some 1,981 charts. Learn More...


Good. Some creasing and toning, see image. This is a working nautical chart and shows signs of use, including pencil markings here and there. Backed on old linen.