A South Sea Company Map
A fascinating antique map by Herman Moll of the Limits of the English South Sea Company, extending to the southern portion of North America with the island of California and Central America.
The map also prominently features twelve inset maps, including the Galapagos Islands, Isle Chiloe, Acapulco, the Isthmus of Darien, Straits of Magellan, Juan Fernando, the Gulf of Nicoya, the Gulf of Fonseca, Port Baldivia (Valdivia), the sea route from England to the Orinoco, the Bay of Guayaquil, and, interestingly, an inset of the phantom Pepys Island.
Pepys Island was named for Samuel Pepys by Ambrose Cowley, in 1684, who placed it a couple of hundred miles north of the Falkland Islands. Many expeditions attempted to locate the island, and it is assumed it was a misplaced member of the Falkland Islands. The top three insets are printed separately and joined to the main map, indicating this is the second state per McLaughlin. The map is filled with indications of currents, trade winds and compass roses. The decorative cartouche in the map of Guayaquil contains a dedication to Robert, Earl of Oxford.
At the bottom of the map, Moll also promotes his 2 sheet map of South America, which he notes as being published in response to a " very erroneous French Map done at Paris in 1703 and to deceive ye world dedicated to Dr. Halley and pretended in ye dedication to be corrected by his own Discoveries. . . "
The South Sea Company was a British joint-stock company that traded in South America during the 18th century. Founded in 1711, the company was granted a monopoly to trade in Spain's South American colonies as part of a treaty during the War of Spanish Succession. In return, the company assumed the national debt England had incurred during the war. Speculation in the company's stock led to a great economic bubble known as the South Sea Bubble in 1720, which caused financial ruin for many. In spite of its failures, it was restructured and continued to operate for more than a century after the Bubble.
Herman Moll (c. 1654-1732) was one of the most important London mapmakers in the first half of the eighteenth century. Moll was probably born in Bremen, Germany, around 1654. He moved to London to escape the Scanian Wars. His earliest work was as an engraver for Moses Pitt on the production of the English Atlas, a failed work which landed Pitt in debtor's prison. Moll also engraved for Sir Jonas Moore, Grenville Collins, John Adair, and the Seller & Price firm. He published his first original maps in the early 1680s and had set up his own shop by the 1690s.
Moll's work quickly helped him become a member of a group which congregated at Jonathan's Coffee House at Number 20 Exchange Alley, Cornhill, where speculators met to trade stock. Moll's circle included the scientist Robert Hooke, the archaeologist William Stuckley, the authors Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe, and the intellectually-gifted pirates William Dampier, Woodes Rogers and William Hacke. From these contacts, Moll gained a great deal of privileged information that was included in his maps.
Over the course of his career, he published dozens of geographies, atlases, and histories, not to mention numerous sheet maps. His most famous works are Atlas Geographus, a monthly magazine that ran from 1708 to 1717, and The World Described (1715-54). He also frequently made maps for books, including those of Dampier’s publications and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Moll died in 1732. It is likely that his plates passed to another contemporary, Thomas Bowles, after this death.