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The Best Early 19th-Century Map of Central America and the Caribbean.

Large hand-colored engraved antique map of Florida, the Gulf Coast, West Indies, and Central America, published by Aaron Arrowsmith in London in 1810.

The map contains a detailed treatment of the Gulf Coast and East & West Florida, based in part on the surveys conducted by De Brahm and Romans just prior to the American Revolution. Streeter notes that the coastline follows generally the Carta Esferica of 1799, but with the longitude of Sabine Pass nearly correct, unlike the Carta Esferica. The map presents a highly detailed look at the region on the eve of the War of 1812, at a time when England still had significant colonial interests in the region.

In Central America, the following regions are named: Tabasco, Chiapa, and Yucatan, Mexico; British Honduras (i.e., Belize, unnamed but with original hand-coloring separating the region from Yucatan); "Guatimala" and Vera Paz, parts of the Captaincy General of Guatemala; Honduras; Moskito Shorte; Nicaragua; Costa Rica; Veragua; and Panama.

Interestingly, the map includes a key indicating possible transcontinental canals linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans:

Canals proposed to be cut by the Spaniards in 1528.

  1. From the Lake of Nicaragua to the South Sea
  2. From the River Chagre to Panama
  3. Across the Isthmus of Tecoantepec
  4. From Nombre de Dios to Panama
    And in 1800 from Rio Grande near Panama to Rio Chagres and from Rio Caymito to the Embarcadero of Rio Trinidad.

In the Caribbean, Arrowsmith frequently names "Rochfort" as a source for his information on the islands. This refers to Charles de Rochefort's 1658 book Histoire naturelle et morale des iles Antilles de l'Amerique.

This is the third state of the map, representing the first state of the second edition, in which the copper plate has been cut down, removing the image at the west side The map now goes as far west as Matagorda Bay, Texas, and the Gulf of Tehuantepec.

Condition Description
Dissected in 24 sections and laid on original linen. Original hand-color. Foxed.
Cf. Rumsey 1586, Stevens & Tree 89(c).
Aaron Arrowsmith Biography

The Arrowsmiths were a cartographic dynasty which operated from the late-eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth. The family business was founded by Aaron Arrowsmith (1750-1823), who was renowned for carefully prepared and meticulously updated maps, globes, and charts. He created many maps that covered multiple sheets and which were massive in total size. His spare yet exacting style was recognized around the world and mapmakers from other countries, especially the young country of the United States, sought his maps and charts as exemplars for their own work.

Aaron Arrowsmith was born in County Durham in 1750. He came to London for work around 1770, where he found employment as a surveyor for the city’s mapmakers. By 1790, he had set up his own shop which specialized in general charts. Arrowsmith had five premises in his career, most of which were located on or near Soho Square, a neighborhood the led him to rub shoulders with the likes of Joseph Banks, the naturalist, and Matthew Flinders, the hydrographer.

Through his business ties and employment at the Hydrographic Office, Arrowsmith made other important relationships with Alexander Dalrymple, the Hudson’s Bay Company, and others entities. In 1810 he became Hydrographer to the Prince of Wales and, in 1820, Hydrographer to the King.

Aaron Arrowsmith died in 1823, whereby the business and title of Hydrographer to the King passed to his sons, Aaron and Samuel, and, later, his nephew, John. Aaron Jr. (1802-1854) was a founder member of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) and left the family business in 1832; instead, he enrolled at Oxford to study to become a minister. Samuel (1805-1839) joined Aaron as a partner in the business and they traded together until Aaron left for the ministry. Samuel died at age 34 in 1839; his brother presided over his funeral. The remaining stock and copper plates were bought at auction by John Arrowsmith, their cousin.

John (1790-1873) operated his own independent business after his uncle, Aaron Arrowsmith Sr., died. After 1839, John moved into the Soho premises of his uncle and cousins. John enjoyed considerable recognition in the geography and exploration community. Like Aaron Jr., John was a founder member of the RGS and would serve as its unofficial cartographer for 43 years. Several geographical features in Australia and Canada are named after him. He carried the title Hydrographer to Queen Victoria. He died in 1873 and the majority of his stock was eventually bought by Edward Stanford, who co-founded Stanford’s map shop, which is still open in Covent Garden, London today.