Eighteenth-Century British Map of the World
Detailed map of the world, illustrating the tracks of the latest explorers. Befitting the 1790s, particular emphasis is placed on the exploration of the Pacific, Indian Ocean, and southern latitudes.
New Holland is well-delineated, although it is still connected to Van Diemen’s Land in the south. This would be corrected by Matthew Flinders and George Bass in 1798-9. The west coast is riddled with the encounters of Dutch navigators in the early seventeenth century. The east coast is covered in British toponyms thanks to the first voyage of James Cook.
Antarctica is left open, although the track of Cook’s second voyage shows ever more exploration in the area. In the far North, Baffin’s Bay is connected to Greenland, a common cartographic depiction of the time.
A “Northern Icy Ocean” runs across the northern latitudes, punctuated by Spitsbergen. A track runs around western Spitsbergen labeled Phipps 1773. Commander Constantine Phipps, the second Baron Mulgrave, took the Racehorse and the Carcass north on the British Naval North Polar Expedition in 1773. They were thwarted by impenetrable ice just north of 80°N, as noted on this map.
Various dotted lines mark the routes of voyages, and these tracks also reference other expeditions. For example, the dotted line marking Cook’s passage across the Indian Ocean on his third voyage visits an island labeled, “Kerguelin’s Land 1772 or Is of Desolation.” Yves-Joseph de Kerguelen-Trémarec, on a voyage in search of Terra Australis, encountered the islands in 1772 and landed on them, in the name of France, in 1773.
Other tracks include those of John Byron, Louis Antoine de Bougainville, and Lozier Bouvet. The latter was the earliest to sail. Bouvet was an employee of the French East India Company who was convinced that, given a chance, he could make discoveries around the South Pole, or near the much-vaunted Terra Australis Incognita. In 1739, the Company gave him a chance. Bouvet meticulously searched the South Atlantic, but he had to return to France earlier than expected because his crew became too ill to continue.
After the close of the Seven Years’ War, Britain found itself with an expanded empire gained at the expense of France. They pushed this advantage into the Pacific, sending a series of voyages to probe the South Seas. First out was Byron, who completed the fastest circumnavigation to date in 1764-6. Bougainville led a French expedition in 1764 to claim the disputed Malvinas/Falklands for France. From 1766-9, Bougainville led the first French circumnavigation; his was the second ship to land in Tahiti.
The most famous expeditions of the time were those of James Cook, the latter two of which are included here.
Details of the map’s construction are also of note. The projection has doubled areas; New Zealand is shown twice, as are the antipodes of London. In addition to the longitude and latitude scales, there are also hours shown as they change over longitude and a scale of “Sea Leagues in a Degree.”
Cook’s first voyage was considered a success. The Admiralty chose to send him to the Pacific again, this time to focus on finding and charting Terra Australia incognita, if it existed. This time, Cook was in command of the Resolution and accompanied by the Adventure, captained by Tobias Furneaux.
The ships departed Plymouth on July 13, 1772. They made for the Cape of Good Hope and then sailed south, in search of land. They reached an ice sheet and could not find a break to sail through. The crew melted ice for fresh water and the expedition artist, William Hodges, drew eerie pictures of looming icebergs. On January 17, 1773, the ships crossed the Antarctic Circle, the first ships known to have done so.
Separated in fog, the ships headed toward New Zealand. They rendezvoused in Queen Charlotte Sound, where they traded with the Māori. The Māori inquired as to location of Tupaia and were sad to hear that he had died.
The ships returned to Tahiti, where they found the politics of the island had shifted and there was a new leader, Tu, to consult. Mai, a Rai’atean man, joined the Adventure, while Hitihiti joined the Resolution. The former became the first Polynesian to visit Britain, while Hitihiti returned home after sailing to Tonga, the Antarctic, New Zealand, and Easter Island.
Cook and his men next sailed to Tonga and then back to New Zealand. En route, the ships were separated again. Resolution left for southern waters without Adventure; Furneaux decided to return to Britain, leaving Cook in the Antarctic.
In December 1773 and January 1774, Resolution crossed the Antarctic Circle for the second and third times. They reached 71°10’ South, the farthest south any ships had sailed; the record would stand until 1823. He had decidedly proven that the great southern continent was nothing more than a myth.
Returning north, Cook called at Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, and his men marveled at the Moai, large statues that stand guard on the island. The Resolution returned to Tahiti, and then called at Niue, Nomuka, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and Norfolk Island. After another visit to New Zealand, they sailed east to Tierra del Fuego. In the Atlantic, Cook named South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. On the homeward stretch, Resolution visited St. Helena and then anchored in Portsmouth on July 30, 1775.
After two Pacific cruises that observed the Transit of Venus, charted New Zealand, the eastern coast of Australia, and many islands; and disproved the existence of a vast southern continent, Cook’s third voyage focused on searching for the Northwest Passage. It was also tasked with the return of Mai, a Ra’iatean man and the first Polynesian visitor to Britain, who had joined Cook’s second voyage.
Cook in the Resolution was joined by Charles Clerke in the Discovery. Resolution sailed in July from Plymouth, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, visited the Kerguelen group in the Southern Indian Ocean, then called at Tasmania before heading to New Zealand.
In the spring of 1777, the ships sailed north, first to Tonga, and then to Tahiti. They left Mai on Huahine in a wooden house built for him by the crew. Cook continued north and became the first European to encounter the Hawaiian Islands, in January 1778.
During the warm months (in the northern hemisphere) of 1778, Cook and his crew charted the northwestern coast of North America, calling at Nootka Sound and Prince William Sound. They went up the Cook Inlet, which they thought could be a Northwest Passage, but it proved to be a false start. Heading west, they skirted the Aleutians and sighted the Asian coast. In January 1779, they returned to Hawai’i to resupply and rest.
In Kealakekua Bay, Cook was greeted warmly by the Hawaiians. They stayed for three weeks, enjoying the considerable hospitality of the people. In early February, the ships set out for another northern tour, but only a few days from Hawai’i the Resolution’s mast was damaged, forcing their return.
This time, they were not welcomed by crowds. During a dispute over a stolen boat, a scuffle broke out. When it was over, sixteen Hawaiians, four marines, and Cook were dead.
Clerke took command. He forced the Hawaiians to give him Cook’s remains, which were buried at sea. He then led the ships north, passing through the Bering Strait before turning back due to ice. In August of 1779, Clerke too died, of consumption, while near Kamchatka. A third commander, John Gore, then had to lead the ships home.
The ships sighted Japan on their southward journey before calling at Macao. There, they made sizeable profits by selling sea otter pelts, kickstarting a new industry. By April 1780, the Resolution and Discovery were back at the Cape of Good Hope. They returned to Britain via the Orkneys, anchoring in the Thames on October 7, 1780.
Robert Laurie (ca. 1755-1836) and James Whittle (1757-1818) formed their Fleet Street, London-based firm upon the 1794 death of their employer Robert Sayer, himself one of the dominant print and mapmakers of the last half of the 18th century.
Laurie & Whittle started managing Sayer's business as early as 1787. They took over all managerial duties when Sayer's health flagged in 1792, and they changed the imprint in 1794 upon his death. Sayer left the two a 21-year lease on the shop (at £100 a year) and on Sayer's Bolt Court premises, as well as an option to acquire stock and equipment at a preferential price of £5,000 payable over three years.
Robert Laurie retired from the firm in 1812, and his role was assumed by his son, Richard Holmes Laurie (1777-1858). The younger Laurie worked with James Whittle until the latter died in 1818. After R. H. Laurie died in 1858, Alexander George Findlay, FRGS (1812-1875) purchased the firm from his daughters. The firm continues today under another name, specializing in yachting charts.
Laurie & Whittle were prolific print and map publishers, and throughout their careers, they produced numerous very important and rare works. They carried on Robert Sayer's atlas business and were responsible for editions of The Complete East-India Pilot and The American Atlas.
Samuel Dunn (bap. 1723-1794) was a teacher of mathematics and navigation who published, among other things, maps and charts. Although information about his early education is lacking, by age nineteen he was leading his own school and teaching writing, accounting, navigation, and mathematics in Devon. In 1751, he moved to London, where he taught in several schools and tutored privately.
By the 1760s, Dunn was known as a respected astronomer and had published a range of textbooks on math, navigation, and astronomy. After the publication of the Nautical Almanac, Dunn acted as a certifier of ships’ masters under the new system, on behalf of the Board of Longitude. He performed similar work for the East India Company, as well as made charts of the East Indies. In 1776 he published A New Variation Atlas and, in 1777, A New Epitome of Practical Navigation, or, Guide to the Indian Seas. By 1780, he was named editor of the New Directory for the East Indies, which included his own charts. In 1786, he released a pioneering study, Theory and Practice of Longitude at Sea. He also designed several instruments for navigation.
Dunn died at his home in Fleet Street in January 1794. His books and maps were auctioned at Sothebys in a sale of over 1,000 lots. Many of these were bought by Alexander Dalrymple, hydrographer of the East India Company and soon-to-be-named first head of the Hydrography Office.