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Rare, Early Set of Spanish Town and Harbor Plans of Prominent Jamaican Ports

Fine example of four plans which include Kingston, Port Royal, and Bluefields. The plans were published in 1782 in Madrid by Tomas Lopez from drafts by his son, Juan Lopez. All four plans share a sheet and show continued Spanish interest in the Caribbean island.

The Spanish first came to Jamaica in 1494 as part of Christopher Columbus' voyages. They began to permanently settle the island in 1509. The island quickly became a hub for the production of sugar, an economy that thrived on indigenous and African slave labor.

Beyond being lucrative, the island was also strategic and provided Spain a central base in the Caribbean. Other powers also coveted the island. England invaded in 1655 and seized Jamaica from the Spanish, who were never able to regain their former holding.

The plans all have unadorned titles. Each has a compass rose, two of which are decorative as well as indicative of direction. North is indicated with the addition of a small tower on the corresponding rhumb line. In the lower left is a publisher's note:

Se hallará este, con él de la Jamayca, las Islas Antillas, y las demás obras, en Madrid en la Calle de las Carretas. [You will find this, with that of Jamaica, the Antilles Islands, and other works in Madrid in the Street of the Wagons].

Kingston, Jamaica

The first of the four plans, and the largest, is in the upper left corner of the sheet. The plan shows the strict grid system that made up central Kingston, Jamaica in the eighteenth century. The port is to the south. Neat blocks of buildings extend to the north with a large central square cut out.

To the east, just outside the grid, are two cemeteries, one for foreigners and the other for "Negros", revealing the segregated social geography of the city. Within the city are tiny numbers that correspond to a key on the left side of the plan. Most of the numbers refer to streets, although there are also warehouses, the central well, the main church (also marked with a cross), and a place " donde se hace Justicia [where they do justice]", perhaps a customs house.

The title discusses that this plan is based on the project undertaken by Colonel Christiano Lilly. Christian Lilly was a military engineer who served in the German principalities and Hungary before entering the army of William III, who granted Lilly status as an Englishman. During his long career he developed his skills as a siege engineer, skills he transferred to town planning when he was assigned to serve in the West Indies, arriving in 1695.

Kingston was founded as a refuge for survivors of the 1692 earthquake that levelled Port Royal. Initially, the survivors lived in a tent city and further growth was slowed until the rest of Port Royal was destroyed by fire in 1703. There is some controversy as to whether Christian Lilly or surveyor John Goffe drew the grid plan shown here, but Lopez clearly supported Lilly's claim. It is likely that John Goffe drew the initial grid plan in 1693 and Lilly improved upon them in following years.

The designers drew the new city with trade in mind, as shown by the wider thoroughfare that runs from port to interior. They also wanted to avoid the same phenomenon that had created the city, with wide streets and large plots that would prevent the spread of fire and reduce earthquake or hurricane damage.

As Lopez explains in the title, this grid was taken from Lilly's work, copied down and published in 1753 by Bontein and further copied and included on a map of the Antilles Islands by Bellin in 1758. Bontein refers to Archibald Bontein, chief engineer of Jamaica at mid-century who published several maps of the West Indies. Bellin is Jacques-Nicholas Bellin, prominent French mapmaker, Hydrographic Engineer of the French Navy and Hydrographer to the King. The plan is thus of a British city as enacted by a German and drawn by Scottish, French, and then Spanish cartographers.

Port Royal, Jamaica

In the top right corner is a plan of Puerto Real, or Port Royal. As mentioned above, Kingston developed due to damage caused to Port Royal. Prior to the devastating earthquake of 1692, Port Royal was the major English settlement in Jamaica. Located on a sand spit in the same bay as Kingston, Port Royal was originally founded by the Spanish in 1581. It was built up after the English invasion of 1655 and by 1692 had five forts protecting the hundreds of buildings that made up the densely populated city.

Port Royal was a hub for trade, but also for piracy. This was in part because English officials welcomed buccaneers who primarily preyed on Spanish shipping. Some were even legalized as privateers as part of England's continuing assault on Spanish New World possessions.

However, after the 1692 earthquake, which killed 2000 people, the city did not recover. Another disaster, a fire in 1703, signaled the inevitable eclipsing of Port Royal by nearby Kingston. The Port Royal shown here shows the fortifications at the tip of the peninsula, as well as a large protective wall on the eastern side. Landmarks like the warehouses for ships and masts, the central square with its church, and the market are marked.

In the lower right corner is a map of both Kingston and Port Royal, showing how close the two cities are. The protected bay has a long sand spit protecting it from the south; Port Royal is on this spit. Already on this map, based on a 1775 map by Thomas Jeffreys, it is evident how tiny Port Royal was compared to Kingston. Roads radiate from Kingston toward the interior and Kingston's characteristic grid is prominently featured. At sea are soundings to help navigate into the ports.

Bluefields, Jamaica

The final plan is of Bluefields, in the southwest of the island. Kingston and Port Royal are in the southeast. The settlement was originally called Oristano by the Spanish, who founded it as their second settlement on the island in 1519. The site was chosen for its protected anchorage and abundant fresh water.

Again drawn from a Jefferys map, this example shows a large portion of the interior and the large bay. Bluefields is to the right of the map, to the east, with Cavanal a Mar [Savanna la Mar] to the west. Like Port Royal, Bluefields served as a haven for pirates and privateers. Henry Morgan assembled his fleet for his 1671 assault on Panama in the bay.

Although it appears tiny on this map, Bluefields was the second city of Jamaica in the eighteenth century. It competed with Kingston for primacy due to Bluefields' important place in the sugar market. Today, Bluefields is most famous for its pristine beach.

Agustín Hernando, El geógrafo Juan López (1765-1825) y el comercio de mapas en España (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, 2008).
Tomás López Biography

Tomás López de Vargas Machuca (1730-1802) was one of Spain’s most prominent cartographers in the eighteenth century. He was born in Toledo but studied at the Colegio Imperial in Madrid, where he focused on mathematics, grammar, and rhetoric. Along with a small group of colleagues, in 1752 the Spanish government sent López for training in Paris with the renowned geographer Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville. When he returned to Spain he was named Geógrafo de los dominios de Su Magestad and put in charge of the geographic collections of Charles III. He published many maps, including his fascinating maps of the Americas, and a variety of geography manuals. Some of his most famous maps are of the Iberian Peninsula, part of his large project to create a majestic atlas of Spain. Unfinished in his lifetime, López's children published the Atlas Geográfico de España (Geographical Atlas of Spain) in 1804. It was republished in 1810 and 1830.