Very rare double-sided map sheet featuring a trio of plans of important Spanish American ports: Havana (Cuba), Portobello (Panama) and Cartagena (Colombia), published by Pierre Mortier in 1702, during the War of Spanish Succession.
This rare map sheet features three maps, printed on both sides of the sheet, with two maps (Havana and Portobello) printed on the obverse side, and the map of Cartagena printed on the reverse side. These three harbors were amongst the most important locations in the Spanish Empire, as they were each major transhipment points for the Spanish treasure galleons, before they made the journey from the New World to Spain. These maps were also published at a key time, during the War of Spanish Succession (1701-13), which essentially pitted the Spanish Bourbons and their French familial allies against Great Britain. The war in the West Indian theater produced a tense atmosphere where English pirates sparred with the Spanish guarda costas, and where Spain's major New World ports remained in a constant state of alert against attack from the British Royal Navy. While none of these three ports was ever attacked during this war, the possibility of conflict ensured that they were at the top of the news and that these maps would have been of great interest to observers throughout Europe.
The first map, Baye et Ville de Havana, ou S. Cristova l, features the city and harbor of Havana, Cuba. Founded in 1513, Havana had become a sizeable city that was considered the be the most 'European' and sophisticated city in the Americas. The large natural harbor is shown to be guarded by the Velha Fort and the Moro Fort (the latter a great stone edifice built in 1589). During the time that this map was made, the city's distinctive city walls were in the process of being built. Havana was critically important, as it was the final terminus for the Spanish galleons before they transited the Atlantic for Spain. Always a key target for the British, it was not successfully besieged until 1762.
The second map, Bay et Chateau de Porto Bello, depicts the key harbor of Portobello, Panama. Located on the Caribbean side of the Panamanian isthmus, since 1597, it had been the most important loading point on the Atlantic side for Peruvian silver and gold on its way to Spain. Ships transported the silver up the Pacific coast from Callao to Panama City, and then overland to Portobello by horse and mule train. While a small town, it hosted a very important annual market and, as shown, it was guarded by two large forts. 'The Kings Stabels' marks the point where the treasure was unloaded. English pirates had long preyed upon Portobello. Captain Willam Parker successfully sacked the town in 1601, followed three generations later by the legendary pirate Sir Henry Morgan, in 1668. The town remained safely in Spanish hands during the War of Spanish Succession, but would be successfully taken by Admiral Edward Vernon in 1739.
The third map, Cartagene avec ses Ports, et Fortresses, depicts the important city of Cartagena, on the Caribbean coast of Nueva Granada (Colombia). Founded in 1533, it was by far the most important Spanish center on the Atlantic side of South America. Most of the gold, silver and emeralds from Nueva Granada flowed through its harbor on its way to Spain. As shown, the city was guarded by an extensive series of forts, including Fort San Lazaro and Fort Boccachica. But this was not always enough to protect it from attack. Most recently, in 1697, the French pirate and admiral, Jean-Baptiste du Casse had taken the city, although it was soon returned. Famously, in 1586, Sir Francis Drake seized Cartagena and ransomed it for an enormous sum.
The present map sheet appeared in Pierre Mortier's Les forces de 'Europe, Asie, Afrique et Amerique ou description des principales villes, avec leurs fortifications... (Amsterdam in 1702). Pierre Mortier (1661-1711) was a successful Dutch publisher of Huguenot extraction, who specialized in introducing the finest contemporary French cartography to the Netherlands, and the broader European market at large. Editions of these maps were first issued by Nicolas De Fer (Paris, 1694-1697), as 3 of the 4 American plans in his work (the fourth being Quebec City).
Pierre, or Pieter, Mortier (1661-1711) was a Dutch engraver, son of a French refugee. He was born in Leiden. In 1690 he was granted a privilege to publish French maps in Dutch lands. In 1693 he released the first and accompanying volume of the Neptune Francois. The third followed in 1700. His son, Cornelis (1699-1783), would partner with Johannes Covens I, creating one of the most important map publishing companies of the eighteenth century.