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One of Best Maps of the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, the Caribbean at the time of the American Revolution

Flawless example of Rigobert Bonne's scarce large format chart of Florida, the Gulf Coast, Texas, Mexico, Baja California and Central America, which is dated 1780 and reviewed and corrected to 1782. The present example is the unrecorded second state. While the chart occasionally appears on the market as a two sheet map, it is quite rare on the market with the third sheet, covering the eastern Caribbean.

The chart shows provinces, numerous harbors and bays, towns, forts, channels, and a few routes of navigation. It also shows the direction of the trade winds with hachures and arrows. A highlight of the chart is the excellent detail along the coast of Florida, one of the best contemporary mappings of its coastline. There is excellent detail in the Gulf Coast, including Texas, with a fair amount of detail in the interior.

Overall, this chart communicates the importance of the Caribbean and Gulf regions to the French, Spanish and British Empires and, by extension, how vital it was to be able to harness the prevailing winds to commercial advantage. The dangers of those winds were a prescient topic in 1782, when the chart was updated, as it followed in the aftermath of the deadly hurricane season of 1780. Three massive storms ripped through the Caribbean, including the deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record, Hurricane San Calixto.

Hurricane San Calixto slammed the Lower Antilles in mid-October 1780, then moved north up the Atlantic coast of North America. The French and British fleets engaged on opposite sides of the American Revolution were decimated; more than 4,000 French soldiers drowned off Martinique and British Admiral Rodney's fleet was wrecked. More than 25,000 people were killed across the Caribbean.

The chart is the work of Rigobert Bonne, who succeeded Jacques Nicholas Bellin as head of the Dépôt des cartes et plans de la Marine in 1773 . Born in 1727, Bonne was active from ca. 1760-88 and died in 1795. His plain style favored clarity over embellishment and was central to the transition from artistic to minimalistic cartography. His special focus was coastal regions, as exemplified in this chart. His best known works include his contributions to Raynal's Atlas de Toutes Les Parties Connues du Globe Terrestre (1780) and the Atlas Encyclop édique (1788).

A fine example of this important chart.

Condition Description
3 sheets, unjoined.
Lowery 648n. Sellers & Van Ee, Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies 1750-1789, #1703.
Rigobert Bonne Biography

Rigobert Bonne (1727-1794) was an influential French cartographer of the late-eighteenth century. Born in the Lorraine region of France, Bonne came to Paris to study and practice cartography. He was a skilled cartographer and hydrographer and succeeded Jacques Nicolas Bellin as Royal Hydrographer at the Depot de la Marine in 1773. He published many charts for the Depot, including some of those for the Atlas Maritime of 1762. In addition to his work at the Depot, he is  best known for his work on the maps of the Atlas Encyclopedique (1788) which he did with Nicholas Desmarest. He also made the maps for the Abbe Raynals’ famous Atlas de Toutes Les Parties Connues du Globe Terrestre (1780).

More than his individual works, Bonne is also important for the history of cartography because of the larger trends exemplified by his work. In Bonne’s maps, it is possible to see the decisive shift from the elaborate decorations of the seventeenth century and the less ornate, yet still prominent embellishments of the early to mid-eighteenth century. By contrast, Bonne’s work was simple, unadorned, and practical. This aesthetic shift, and the detail and precision of his geography, make Bonne an important figure in mapping history.