Large-Scale Map of Jamaica by the Father of Modern Jamaican Cartography

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358. [MAP]. ROBERTSON, James. To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, this Map of the Island of Jamaica, constructed from actual surveys, under the authority of the Hon. House of Assembly; by whom it hath been examined, and unanimously approved; is, with His Gracious Permission, most humbly inscribed by His Majesty’s most dutiful, and loyal subject and servant, James Robertson, A.M. 1804. London, Published Nov. 1 1804 by James Robertson A.M. late of Jamaica. Engraved by S.J. Neele, No. 352 Strand, London. [left center] Explanation [lower left] The Latitude & Longitude of the Most Remarkable Points & Places Ascertained Accurately. [lower left] References to Some of the Most Remarkable Mountains. London, 1804. Engraved map of Jamaica on 24 sheets, sectioned and mounted on modern archival paper, original color (outline and wash) on eastern part of island; neat line to neat line: 90.1 x 188.7 cm; overall sheet size: 90.2 x 190.2 cm. (about 3 feet by 6-1/4 feet). Several vertical creases with some separation from backing and very minor losses; a few minor surface losses; overall age-toning; moderate spotting at lower center. Overall a very good copy of a rare survival. Copies located by OCLC: British Library, Clements (Michigan), National Library of Scotland.

     First edition. Cundall, “A Chronological List of the Maps of Jamaica in the Library Institute of Jamaica” #41. An exceedingly large-scale, detailed map of Jamaica showing physical features, such as mountains, streams, and bodies of water, locations of towns and settlements, roads, mills, plantations, harbors, and offshore islands. One of Robertson’s important contributions was that he delineated the new county and parish boundaries that had been established a few years earlier. This map was used to help settle land litigation. It is among the early topographic maps to show an entire country (the earliest being the French Carte géométrique de la France).

     Scotsman James Robertson of Shetland (ca. 1756-1841) was Jamaica’s first real surveyor in the sense that he worked as a cartographer rather than a land surveyor. He came to Jamaica around 1778 and persuaded the Council to give him a commission to survey the entire island for the sum of £5,000 whereupon he commenced surveys of the three counties and the entire island. In 1802 he returned to England to have his map published and subsequently returned to Jamaica. He soon left, however, to return to England where he died. All in all, the Jamaican Council paid him over £10,000 for his work, making Robertson probably the first profitable mapmaker on the island. He is considered the father of modern Jamaican cartography. This grandiose map has been praised since its publication. See B.W. Higman, Jamaica Surveyed: Plantations Maps and Plans of the Eighteenth- and Nineteenth Centuries (Kingston: Institute of Jamaica, 1988) and D. Webster, “The Ubiquitous Scot” in The Map Collector, 56 (Autumn 1991), pp. 32-33.


Sold. Hammer: $3,400.00; Price Realized: $4,165.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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