Rare map of the Port of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.
The plan shows the layout of the town of St. Thomas as well as soundings in the harbor. Water Island (Isla del Agua) is shown and named. One of the few obtainable 19th Century plans of St. Thomas. From the Portolano de America, published by the Spanish Hydrographical Office at the end of Spain's domination of the Caribbean. The work is considered one of the rarest compilations of harbor plans published in the 19th Century and the last great effort by the Spanish to map their then crumbling empire.
The Dirección de Hidrografía, or the Directorate of Hydrographic Works, was established in 1797. Its roots were in the Casa de Contratación, founded in 1503 in Sevilla, which housed all the charts of the Spanish Empire and oversaw the creation and maintenance of the padrón real, the official master chart. The Casa, now in Cadiz, was shuttered in 1790, but Spain still needed a hydrographic body. In response, the Dirección was created in 1797. One of its first projects was the publication of charts from the Malaspina Expedition (1789-1794). The Dirección oversaw not only publication, but also surveying. The Dirección was abolished in the early twentieth century, when their work was distributed to other organizations.