1790 First American Chart of the Gulf of Mexico
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A New General Chart of the West Indies… [Boston, 1790]. Copper engraved chart. Sheet size: 29 x 40 ½”. Published for inclusion in Norman’s The American Pilot.
The American Revolution brought an end to Britain’s leading role in the mapping of America. The task now fell to the American publishing industry, still in its infancy, but with first-hand access to the new surveys that were documenting the rapid growth of the nation. In particular, there was a need for nautical charts for use by the expanding New England commercial fleets.
This chart advances the range of American printed coastal charts that had stopped, in Matthew Clark’s 1790 A Complete Set of Charts of the Coast of America, at Florida. Norman, who was one of Clark’s partners in the first work, continues here to include the entire Gulf of Mexico and the northern coast of South America. This is the first sea chart of the Gulf published in America. It was originally advertised for sale as a separate chart on Jan. 1, 1790, and was subsequently included in Norman’s marine atlas The American Pilot, Boston, 1791. In terms of geography, this chart precedes the famous Spanish Carta Esferica of 1799, which revolutionized the depiction of much of the Gulf Coast. Norman shows a simpler configuration for the Texas coast, for example, based on British sources. The English origin of the information in this chart is confirmed in engraved endorsement beneath the title: “I the Subscriber do Certify that I have carefully examined this Chart Copied / from a London Publication agreeable to Act of Parliament and / find it a true and Accurate Copy of the Original / Osgood Carleton / Teacher of Navigation and other Branches / of the Mathematics Boston Decr. 28, 1789.”
Editions of Norman’s Pilot appeared in 1791, 1792 and 1794, and after his death, his son, William, brought out editions in 1794, 1798, 1801, and 1803. Despite the seemingly large number of editions, The American Pilot is one of the rarest of all American atlases. Wheat and Brun (p. 198-199) locate just ten complete copies for the first five editions.
Phillips Maps p.1059 (state 1)
Wheat & Brun 683 (state 1); 688 (state 2 - 1794).