Bowles’ New One Sheet Map of Jamaica, Divided Into Its Parishes, & c. from the Actual Surveys of Sheffield and Others.
By: C. Bowles
Date: 1792 (circa) London
Dimensions: 19 x 21.8 inches (48.3 x 55.4 cm)
This is a superb original color example of Bowles’ highly detailed Map of Jamaica, which also includes an inset map entitled ‘A General Plan of the Port of Royal…’.
Jamaica had been a colony from the mid-seventeenth century till it became an independent member of the British Commonwealth of Nations in 1962, and had been surveyed, plotted and mapped many times. This masterful rendering of the island exhibits remarkable detailing including place names, the names of ports and bays and other topographical features. The terrain of the island is precisely delineated, making it easy to imagine the lushness of its mountains, rain forests and reef-lined beaches.
By the late seventeenth century, sugar works had replaced piracy on the island. They provided the mainstay for the economy during most of the eighteenth century, and their sites are everywhere delineated. By the time this map was published toward the end of the century, however, the Jamaican sugar economy had begun to decline as famines, hurricanes, colonial wars, and wars of independence disrupted trade.
The inset map of Port Royal is of especial interest, as the port had been destroyed by an earthquake on 7 June 1692, at which time two-thirds of the city sank into the sea. The wharves sank at once and within two minutes most of the city had been covered by water to the height of the uppermost rooms of the few houses left standing. The pre-earthquake population had been 6,500 inhabitants living in bout 2,000 buildings, many of which were of brick or stone. The sand upon which the city was built liquefied during the earthquake, and virtually everything was swept into the sea. At the time, it was common to ascribe the quake to divine retribution on the ‘Pirate City’s’ inhabitants due to their ‘sinful ways’. Following the quake the city was partially rebuilt, but the government seat was moved to Spanish Town, and by the late 18th century, the formerly chaotically busy port had been abandoned.
Condition: This remarkable map on heavy paper is in A condition. Interestingly, the offsetting in this map does not detract from its appearance and in fact serves to make the map more intriguing.
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