Seven-Foot Long Blueback Chart of the Gulf of Mexico, in Contemporary Oak Case

Coast of Texas Surveyed by Commodore Moore, Founder of the Texas Navy

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393. [MAP: BLUEBACK]. BLUNT, E[dmund] & G[eorge] W[illiam]. Chart of the Gulf of Mexico, West Indies, and Spanish Main. E. & G.W. Blunt, 179 Water Street, New York. Entered According to Act of Congress, in the Year 1845, by E & G.W. Blunt in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the Southern District of New York. 1845. Note, The French, Spanish, English Admiralty, & U.S. Government Surveys, up to this date, are included in this Chart. [at far left near inset of Tampico] The Survey of the Coast of Texas is by Comr. E.W. Moore, T.N. [insets, from upper right and clockwise] [1] A Geometrical Plan of the Principal Harbour [i.e. San Juan] in the Island of Porto Rico Surveyed in 1794 by Don Cosme de Churruca, Captain in the Spanish Navy. W. Hooker, Sc. [2] Harbour of Matanzas [Cuba]. W. Hooker Sc. [3] Ragged Island by Mr. Anthy. Demayne R.N. W. Hooker Sc [4] Entrance to the Harbour of Havanna. W. Hooker Sc. [5] Rum Key Surveyed in H.M.S. Blossom. W. Hooker Sc. [6] Harbour of St. Thomas, [i.e. Charlotte Amalie, V.I.] by Captain L.I. Rhode, Harbour Master. 1822. [7] The Harbour of Tampico from Actual Survey. 1833. New York, 1845. Engraved blueback chart on three sheets joined, mounted on customary blue paper, overall sheet size: 67 x 216.5 cm. Rolled, as used (with light creasing and a few slight tears, but no losses), one modern reinforcement closing a tear, overall fine, a few red ink markings (probably for lighthouses). On verso is original printed pictorial label (22 x 14 cm) of Hagger & Brothers of Baltimore, purveyors of navigational and surveying equipment. Label moderately insect damaged with some loss. Housed in contemporary oak box with original brass hinges and hook and eye, stenciled in ink on lid “N. Young.” Box lightly worn. Likely the blueback chart is better than usually found, due to having been stored in the oak box over a long period of time.

     The present map is an example of a very interesting, colorful, and rare type of sailing chart that was in use for decades. The name comes from the sturdy blue paper backing to make sailing charts more durable during voyages. The buyer could buy the sheets of the map needed for a voyage; thus the present blueback’s area is the northern sheet of the next map (see below). There are two reasons the blueback charts are ephemeral. These charts received hard use at sea, and as soon as new discoveries were made, the old charts were dangerous to keep on hand, which probably accounts for their rarity. The present chart shows the entirety of the Texas coast and the Gulf Mexico from Florida to the tip of Yucatán and northern Cuba. This blueback sailing chart has two interesting Texas connections. As noted, at upper left is the reference to Commodore E.W. Moore of the Texas Navy, and some of the insets are the work of W. Hooker, who engraved the Texas maps that accompany the two editions of Mary Austin Holley’s famous book on Texas, and Fiske’s A Visit to Texas. Streeter in his entry (1408) for William Blunt’s North Coast of the Gulf of Mexico, from St. Marks to Galveston (1842) mentions the present chart and describes it as “a huge affair.”

     Commodore Edwin Ward Moore (1810-1865), the Father of the Texas Navy, sailed off the Mexican coast in 1840-1841 to hasten peace negotiations between Texas and Mexico. On collapse of the negotiations, he swept the Mexican ships off the Gulf of Mexico, made a de facto alliance with the Yucatán rebels, and captured the town of Tabasco. He then surveyed the Texas coast and made a chart, which was used in the present map.

     Dennis Bryant, “Edmund M. Blunt: Forgotten Pioneer of Nautical Charting and Publishing in the United States” in Maritime Musings, January 2010:

Edmund March Blunt (1770-1862) was one of America’s first hydrographers. He published some of the first nautical books and charts in the United States. The American Coast Pilot was first printed in 1796. It went through twenty-one editions before being taken over by the federal government in 1867. The American Coast Pilot provided sailing directions from Passamaquoddy, Maine, to the Strait of Florida. It included soundings and bearings of the lighthouses and beacons (such as there were) from rocks, shoals, ledges, etc. The volume also had courses and distances between numerous locations, settings of the currents, and tide tables. The book was extremely popular with ship owners and masters and lives on today as the Coast Pilot published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In 1799, he retained Nathaniel Bowditch to update the British publication The New Practical Navigator and adapt it to American needs. The third edition, published in 1802, had been significantly altered from the original and was renamed as the American Practical Navigator. We know it now simply as Bowditch. Few people today are aware that the originator of both publications—the Coast Pilot and Bowditch—was Edmund Blunt. He also compiled some of the first detailed surveys of major US east coast ports, from Boston to Charleston. The standards he established in 1796 for accuracy and thoroughness continue today as a worthy legacy to a major, but largely forgotten, figure in American nautical history.


Sold. Hammer: $3,000.00; Price Realized: $3,675.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts


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