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Extremely Rare Map of Fort St. Philip in Minorca

Rare, fine map of Fort St. Philip (Castle of St. Philip) and the surrounding area in Port Mahón, Minorca, by Peter Schenk.

The sharply-geometric star fort sits at the center of the map and is accentuated by delicate coloring and shading. The fields surrounding the fort are segmented into squares, creating a patchwork effect. Across from the fort, hachure shading accentuates the height of the pastel-colored hills.

The cartouche in the upper left-hand corner is artistically rendered as a wrinkled scroll. The scroll appears pinned to the map behind it, an illusory effect called trompe-l’oeil. The title cartouche explains that this fort was built by the English and also contains a scale bar.

Fort St. Philip

Fort St. Philip, or the Castle of St. Philip, was designed and built by Italian engineer Giovanni Battista Calvi (Juan Bautista Calvi) in the mid-sixteenth century. Star forts like this first appeared in Italy in the fifteenth century in response to the rise of warfare conducted with gunpowder and firearms. They were perfected in design in the seventeenth century by Sebastian Le Prestre de Vauban, the Marquis of Vauban.

Port Mahón, where the fort is situated, is a sheltered deep-water harbor whose safety, capacity, and security made it highly desirable. Its strategic position in the western Mediterranean gave the port both commercial and military significance.

English ships used Port Mahón as a base from 1663 to 1679 with the permission of the Spanish government. During this time, and in successive occupations, England strengthened and expanded Fort St. Philip to be one of the main fortresses in the western Mediterranean, and it is these improvements to which the title refers. After the War of Spanish Succession, the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) formally transferred control of Minorca and Gibraltar to Britain.

The Treaty, signed just after this map was published, also made Port Mahón a base for the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean fleet, building infrastructure such as shipyards, hospitals, warehouses, and docks. In 1756, Port Mahón and the fort were attacked by the French in the Siege of Fort St. Philip. Led by the Duke of Richelieu, the attack was part of the Seven Years’ War.

In 1782, the Spanish lay siege to the fort, forcing the British to surrender it as part of the Treaty of Amiens. King Charles III then ordered the fortifications demolished. Today, only the underground passages are left, marking this map as an important glimpse of a lost structure.


This is the first of two states of the map, both of which are extremely rare. We located only the example of the first state in the Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris.

Jeremy Black, An Illustrated History of Building for Defence (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018); Miquel Ángel Casasnovas Camps, “Minorca: The First United States Naval Base in the Mediterranean and the American Consulate at Port Mahon,” in Rough Waters: American Involvement with the Mediterranean in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, eds. Silvia Marzagalli, James R. Sofka, and John McCusker (2010, Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2019) DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780986497346.003.0009; “Checklist of Charts of Mahon Harbour,” accessed February 10, 2020, AH
Peter Schenk Biography

Peter Schenk the Elder (1660-1711) moved to Amsterdam in 1675 and began to learn the art of mezzotint. In 1694 he bought some of the copperplate stock of the mapmaker Johannes Janssonius, which allowed him to specialize in the engraving and printing of maps and prints. He split his time between his Amsterdam shop and Leipzig and also sold a considerable volume of materials to London.

Peter Schenk the Elder had three sons. Peter the Younger carried on his father’s business in Leipzig while the other two, Leonard and Jan, worked in Amsterdam. Leonard engraved several maps and also carried on his father’s relationship with engraving plates for the Amsterdam edition of the Histoire de l'Académie Royale des Sciences.