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English Edition of The First Scientific Mapping of the Rio de la Plata

Unrecorded 1824 edition of Norie's English Sea chart of the mouth of the River Plate, based upon Spanish surveys undertaken by the Malapsina expedition, under the direction of Juan de Langara.

The chart includes smaller charts of Montevideo harbor and Maldonado harbor and notes in the title that it is engraved by Stephenson.  

Norie's chart records the results of Malaspina expedition's survey of the coastline of the Rio de la Plata in 1789.  The Malaspina Expedition (1789–1794) was a five-year maritime scientific exploration commanded by Alessandro Malaspina and José de Bustamante y Guerra The expedition was funded by the Spanish government and originally pursued strictly scientific goals, in the same fashion as the voyages of James Cook and Jean-François de Galaup, comte de La Pérouse. Some of the leading scientists at the time collected an impressive amount of scientific data that even surpassed what was collected during Cook's expedition, but due to Malaspina's involvement in a conspiracy to overthrow the government, he was jailed shortly upon return. Most of the expedition's reports and collections were put away unpublished, and didn't see the light until the late 19th century.

The present chart records Malapsina's observations along both coasts of the Rio de la Plata in 1789.  Malaspina proceeded as far north as the Rio Paraña, fixing precise points based upon 150 astronomical observations.

The present chart would seem to be a re-issue of a rare William Heather chart titled Heather's Survey of the River Plate, Presented to the King of Spain By Don Juan de Langara. 1806. 

Juan Francisco de Lángara y Huarte (Juan Francisco Langara Uharte in Basque) (1736 – 1806) was a Spanish naval officer and Minister of Marine.  The work was ordered by the King of Spain in 1789 and completed in 1794.  The original map was drawn by Felipe Bauza, under the direction of Langara.  The original maps is entitled:

Carta esférica del Río de la Plata desde su desembocadura hasta Buenos Aires [Material cartográfico] / levantada de Orden del Rey en 1789 y rectificada en 1794 por varios oficiales de su R[ea]l Armada, Presentada a S.M. por mano del Excmo. Sr. D. Juan de Langara Secretario de Estado y del Despacho Universal de Marina ; Fernando Selma la grabó ; Felipe Bauzá la delineó


We note a single example of an 1818 edition of the chart in the National Library of Brazil.

OCLC locates only one institutional holding (British Library) of the 1806 Heather chart.  We note a second example in a composite atlas sold by Christies for 80,500 GBP (April 21, 2016, Lot #317).

Condition Description
Minor restoration at top left corner and bottom left corner. Several minor repaired tears.. Narrow margins.
John William Norie Biography

John William Norie (1772 – 1843) was a publisher of nautical books held in high regard by his contemporaries. He also specialized in nautical charts and was a mathematician. Norie was born in Wapping, London, the eldest of eight children. 

Norie had an apptitude for navigation and chart making. His first work was published in 1796, The Description and Use of Hadley's Quadrant, by William Heather, a chart and instrument seller. Heather then took Norie on as a chart maker and allowed him to run a nautical academy out of Heather's premises on Leadenhall Street. He continued to work for Heather, working out of his shop. 

Norie published many works, but the most famous were A Complete Set of Nautical Tables (1803) and the Epitome of Practical Navigation (1805). Both were reissued throughout the nineteenth century, usually together. The Tables are still issued today. The Epitome became the standard work on navigation; it was so famous that authors C. S. Forester and Jack London both mention the book in their fiction. In addition to the Epitome, Norie wrote the The shipwright's vade-mecum (1822), Plates Descriptive of the Maritime Flags of All Nations (1838), and The naval gazetteer, biographer, and chronologist; new and improved (1842). He also provided pilots with charts that covered practically the entire world's seas--the famous blue-back charts.  

Norie partnered with a financial backer, George Wilson, to buy Heather's business upon Heather's death in 1813. In addition to the nautical academy and the copyright to his books, Norie prospered from the growing business, which he managed. The shop, operating under the sign of the Wooden Midshipman, was called the Navigation Warehouse. It featured in Charles Dickens' Dombey and Son.

Norie retired in 1840. He sold his shares in the business and moved to Edinburgh. He died there, at the age of 71, on Christmas Eve 1843. His company was renamed Norie & Wilson after his retirement. In 1903, the firm merged with rivals and became Imray, Laurie, Norie & Wilson. It is still in business today.