Important and richly-detailed map of Essequibo and Demerara

Engraving on laid paper, 24 ½”h x 38 ¼”w at neat line plus margins, original wash and outline color very similar to that on the proof state (see below). An early strike with engraver’s guidelines still prominent. Minor soiling and staining, some edge wear including a few mends to short tears and splits, lower-left corner reinstated (not affecting image).

Highly detailed map of the Dutch colonies of Essequibo and Demerara by Friedrich von Bouchenroeder, an officer in the Dutch Army and would-be settler

Essequibo and Demerara were settled by the Dutch in about 1616 and remained in Dutch hands into the eighteenth century, when the two colonies were captured by the British in 1781. They passed into French hands the following year but were then returned to Dutch control in 1783 under the terms of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolutionary War and associated conflicts. Demerara and Essequibo were again seized by the British in 1796 and, with a short interlude in 1802-1803 remained a British possession, forming part of British Guiana, until granted full independence in 1966.

Interestingly, while this map was published in 1798 in Amsterdam and dedicated to the Dutch Republic, Essequibo and Demerara were then under British ownership.

In common with other contemporary depictions of the region, the map is oriented with north towards the lower right-hand corner, the perspective as if looking inland from the sea. The map highlights the concentration of settlement and plantations along the coast and river banks, with the inhospitable interior largely left blank. The plantations are keyed to separate letterpress sheets, not present here. There are two insets in the upper right quadrant, the first showing the continuation of the Demerara River inland, and the second a smaller-scale map showing the two colonies in geographical relation to the mouth of the Orinoco River, with the boundary between Spanish and Dutch possessions.

Clearly designed for a variety of purposes, the map marks the European plantations and settlement pattern, but also native habitations and villages. It also highlights land usage, with parcels colored to differentiate cultivated, fallow, forested and abandoned lands. Coloring is also used to differentiate uses to which cultivated land was put, including coffee, sugar, cotton, cacao, rice and sugar, but also brickworks.

Then, as befits a map drawn by a military officer, and indicative of the fraught geopolitical situation, there are important military details, depicting defensive fortifications, shore batteries and posts along the coast and rivers, manned both by European and native troops. Bouchenroeder also depicts the planned network of canals, designed both to facilitate defence and improve internal communication and trade.

This is a second state of the map. The John Carter Brown has a proof copy, labelled “Premiere Epreuve,” which bears a lengthy text in a scroll, describing the interior, removed on this second state. Other changes are more minor: this version has the erasure of some plantation numbers from “Ile de Leguwan” and “Ile de Wakenaam” and the removal of the crossed swords from a plantation on the right-hand bank of the Essequibo, near the center of the sheet.

Friedrich von Bouchenroeder (1758-1824)
Von Buchenroeder (or to give him his full name, Baron Alexander Wilhelm Ludwig Friedrich von Buchenröder von Buschenrad) was a German holding the rank of Major in the Dutch army. The map represented a considerable advance on the previous generation of maps by Alexandre de Lavaux, and Bouchenroeder’s survey work, as subsequently revised in 1802, was much copied, particularly in England, indicative of the desire for a good map of the colony recently wrested from the Dutch.

It seems likely that part of Bouchenroeder’s interest was in what personal opportunities the region might offer. He left the army in 1803 and attempted to plant a settlement under his own leadership on the fringes of the Dutch colony in South Africa. However, he seems to have been a deeply unpleasant individual, and was expelled from the colony, with his family only too happy to be separated from him. Arising from his time in Africa was his second recorded map, Algemeene kaart van de Colonie de Kaap de Goede Hoop, published by Covens and Mortier in Amsterdam ca.1806.

Although the map is to be found in most major institutional collections, the map seems to be very scarce on the market.

Koeman, Bibliography of Printed Maps of Surinam, #273.

Offered in partnership with Barry Ruderman Antique Maps.