Archive for the ‘Cartographers’ Category

Anyone for some very rare Lt. (Capt) James Cook charts of NZ?

May 31, 2014

Heritage Charts are currently researching, and about to publish, some quite unique and extremely rare Cook material from his first voyage to New Zealand in 1769..  These charts form the basis for every ‘published’ Cook chart.  These two (North and South) are themselves copied directly from Cook’s own chart.  Many of the features and land-falls differ from the later published material.



And South…


The British Hydrographic Office under it’s 2nd director (Hydrographer to the Admiralty), Capt. Thomas Hurd, published a derrivative of this chart as one of the first ever ‘official’ publications by that office in 1816.

Have you ever wondered what Cook’s own work looked like:  well this is an example… and yes, Heritage Charts will be releasing this amazing chart (or is it a ‘survey’?) very soon…. complete with blotches and dodgy Cook handwriting and spelling!  Yes the real thing does actually look as though it went down with the ship and was dried out over the barbecue!


Anyway, that’s about it for now but there will be more soon.  Keep in touch and watch this space.

Is this Bernard Ratzer’s original drawing for the ‘Ratzer Plan’ of New York?

September 5, 2012

This section is the centre piece of a larger plan dating from 1776 which may be viewed at:

This section was added to at the time to become the centre piece of a battle plan for the skirmish up at Harlem heights.

If you would like to know more about this document please contact us at:

An Artist’s View of Charleston

May 29, 2012

A recent stay in Charleston, working with the Charleston Library Society to catalogue their beautiful Atlantic Nelpune volumes prompted me to see for myself what the reality of the view which appears at the top of the Chart ‘A Chart of the Western Passage into the Long Island Sound from New York up the East River’.

[Heritage Charts A303, HNS p.154, NMM image HNS154a & CLS p.101 & picture 108a]

November 1st 1777

The Heritage Charts edition of the same chart dates from sometime after the 1st November 1777 as the view has been updated.


The views depicted on both of the editions although they differ in foreground content are both of the city from the same place on James Island.  Most interesting is the view of the city which gives a line of sight up the Cooper River, past the Customs House, toward Mount Pleasant.  The question I asked myself was fromwhere exactly on the James Island shore was such a view achieved…

The most obvious starting point is of course the angles and views of the Major landmarks of the time which are of course the church spires.

(click on the image for an expanded view)

A view of Charleston from the South shore of the Ashley River in 1777

The slightly later edition of the same chart looks like this…

(click on image for expanded view)

A view of Charleston from the South shore of the Ashley river. 1777-78

Notice that the couple lounging in the foreground have been replaced by two people wotking the fields.  The cattle have gone and the port itself appears more industrious with extra ships in the river.

When one considers the angle of the view the artist must have taken a position South East of the city and all things considered including the accssibility of the river shore at that time (and today come to that) the most likely vantage point would seem to be along the coast-line marked yellow on the map, or indeed from by Fort Johnson itself.

Taken from Heritage Charts A308. A sketch of the operations before Charlestown, South Carolina. 1780.

(click on the image for an expanded view)

Now, for all of the detail which went into the creation of these magnificent charts, plans and maps the most important thing to remember is that the men who produced them were as much artists as they were draftsmen.  They had an eye for what would look good to their Lords and Masters, what would sell their work to those who could afford it and no less importantly, what would give the best view (excuse the pun!) of British control and posperity.

Look again at the pictures above and compare them with the reality of distance.

(click on the picture for an expanded view)

Remembering that in 1780 the Battery at the Southern end of the city, closest to the near shore-line stopped some several hundred metres short of where the battery wall is today, even a talented artist such as JFW Des Barres cannot have seen the city with such clarity and detail as his artwork would have us believe!

Heritage Charts and the Charleston Library Society have just finished cataloguing the Society’s four Volume collection of J. F. W. Des Barres’s ‘Atlantic Neptune’.

April 26, 2012

To view the catalogue results go to the bottom of this post

The collection has been in the Society’s possession for over 200 years but has rarely been seen.  The Volumes date from 1777 and are early editions of  J.F.W. Des Barres historic publication, with several of the charts, maps and plans contained within dating from as early as 1775 when Des Barres started compiling the surveys of Samuel Holland and his team of surveyors.  Many of Des Barres maps were issued as single sheets to British naval officers at the time with bound volumes being reserved for Senior Commanders, and other nobility.

Like so many books of this age the bindings of the first three volumes are in need of conservation but on the whole the pages are in good reasonably good condition.

As part of the cataloguing we took the opportunity to cross reference the pages with the Henry Newton Stevens Collection of the Atlantic Neptune held at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

  • Quite typically in Atlantic Neptune volumes some of the contents pages do not accurately reflect the order, or even the content of the volumes.  This is especially true of the Charleston Library Society (CLS) Volume I. 
  • Not all of the charts listed under the Henry Newton Stevens (HNS) collection are present in the CLS volumes.  The HNS listing is effectively the ‘dream team’ of Neptune charts and those not present in the CLS volumes have been highlighted.

Two pictoral references have been included in the catalogue;

  • Firstly the National Maritme Museum (NMM) document reference ID in column 3.  If this ID is typed into the NMM web-site search engine ( the HNS version of the CLS chart will be found.
  • Secondly, every page of the CLS volumes (see column 7 ‘Disc folder..’) have been photographed and are stored on disc and are available for viewing from the Archivist at the Charleston Library Society.

For those not familiar with the Atlantic Neptune please visit for more information.  Beautiful giclée reproductions of many of the charts contained within the Atlantic Neptiune series are available direct from the Heritage Charts web-site:

A futher, excellent, source of information on the Atlantic Neptune is Stephen J. Hornsby’s book; ‘Surveyors of Empire.  Samuel Holland, J.W.F. Des Barres, and the Making of The Atlantic Neptune’  Carleton Library Series 221, McGill-Queen’s Press. ISBN 978-0-7753-3815-3

CLS Catalogue Results

Click here – CLS Atlantic Neptune & HNS Comparative Listing

Previously unpublished Plan of New York Harbour and part of North River showing events between August and November 1776

January 30, 2012

There are some times in this business when you see something which rings a bell.  Nothing wrong with hearing bells, whistles or hooters come to that, provided that you can remember where and when, when it matters.  In a recent search I came accross this rather battered and lonely manuscript.  In fact I’d been looking at it on and off for a number of years, deciding if it would or indeed should be incorporated into the Heritage Charts collection.

Having finally made the move the next stage was, as always, to decide its relevance.  It told a fairly well-known story and the world is not short of maps, plans, charts, and other doodles which all do the same and are of a lot more interest… Or are there?

3 Questions:

What is it?

What was it a ‘rough’/draft/survey for?… These guys didn’t waste a thing.

Who did it?

Answers as follows:

1.  A manuscript  ‘rough’ of one of the most important events in American history.  Simples!  Not too hard a task inasmuch as it was clearly New York in 1776.

2.  It ended up as a Joseph Frederick Des Barres Map.  (A good copy of which may well set you back a mere $25,000, by the way).  Specifically it ended-up as ‘A Sketch of the Operations of His Majesty’s Fleet and Army Under the Command of Vice Admiral the Rt. Hble. Lord Viscount Howe and Gen./Sr.Wm. Howe, K.B. in 1776.’  Published in London Jan 17, 1777.

How do I know this?

Well, the References give it away.  This charming little unattributed ‘rough’ offers the following…


… Which are labelled A – I.

When put up against the Des Barres References they correspond as follows:

The Letters in bold type on the Heritage Charts (A212) plan corresponds to the reference letter directly below on the Des Barres ‘Sketch:

A. ‘The place where the Troops landed on the 22nd Aug’t 1776′
F. ‘Landing of the Kings Troops on the 22nd August’

B. ‘Where the Action happened on the 27th of Aug’
G. ‘Field of Action on the 27th’

C. ‘Where the Troops landed on the 15th Sept’
H. ‘Landing of the Troops on the 15th September’

D. ‘Where the Rebels retired to’
I. ‘Where the Enemy retired to’

E. ‘A Rebel Post which the Troops took possession of the 23rd Sept’
K. ‘The Enemy post at Paulus Hook taken on the 23rd September’

F. ‘Where the Rebels endeavouryr’d to stop the passage of the River’s by sinking Vessels and Frames of Timber’
E. ‘Where the Enemy endeavourd to stop the passage of the River by sinking Vessels & Frames of Timber thro which the Phoenix, the Roebuck & the Tartar forced their way

up the River on the 9th Oct’r’

G. ‘The place where the Rebels attack’d the Phoenix & Rose on the 4th August 1776′
C. ‘Where the Enemy attacked His Majesty’s Ships, the Phoenix and the Rose, on the 4 August 1776′

H. ‘The place where the above Ships was attacked by the Fire Ships’
D. ‘Where the Enemys Fire Ships engaged the Phoenix and the Rose on the 16th August’

K. ‘The Encampment of the Kings Troops’
M. ‘Encampment of the Kings Troops’

L. ‘The Line of Encampmant of the Kings Troops after the leaving Dobb’s Ferry untill the reduction of Fort washington marked by the letter D.’
N. ‘The Line of Encampmant of the Kings Troops after the leaving Dobb’s Ferry untill the reduction of Fort washington.’

M. ‘The Rebels Fort call’d Fort Constitution, or Fort Lee’
B. ‘Fort Constitution’

N. ‘Place where the Troops Embarked to attack Fort Constitution three days after the Reduction of Fort Washington & landed at H’
O. ‘Where the Kings Troops embarked on the November for the Attack of Fort Constitution and landed at D’

O. ‘The Detachment of the Troops Occupied the 28th Nov’r’
P. ‘A Detachment of the Kings Troops in possession of this Post on the 28th November’

I. ‘The Place where the Troops landed the 12th Oct’r 1776′
L. ‘Landings of the Troopson the 12th October’

No reference on the ‘rough’ to Des Barres reference ‘A’ – Fort Washington – becuse he sneaked it in later!

The J.F.W. Des Barres A Sketch of the Operations of His Majesty’s Fleet and Army under the Command of Vice Admiral the Rt. Hble. Lord Viscount Howe and Genl. Sr. Wm. Howe, K.B., in 1776 ( London: Des Barres, 1777) may be viewed (amongst other places) at

So, that just leaves the all-important question of who did it?  Well, my preference is Col. Mustard in the Kitchen with a lead pipe but somehow I think it has more to do with who was in NY at the time, who had the skills, who wrote like this:


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