A Colonial-era chart of the North Carolina and South Carolina coast by noted marine painter Nicholas Pocock, unrecorded in the cartographic literature.
The handsome and informative chart depicts the coast from North Carolina’s Cape Fear to the outlet of the Edisto River in South Carolina. It shows the complex coastal topography of river deltas and barrier islands in some detail, with hundreds of soundings—particularly concentrated inshore in the vicinity of Charleston—notes on navigation hazards, depths, and the composition of the seabed (this last a useful clue for navigators seeking to determine their location). Charleston is shown in miniature plan view, and the chart’s utility is greatly enhanced by seven recognition views at upper left. The title appears almost as an afterthought off the North Carolina coast, but a handsome panel at left bears a dedication to Admiral Sir George Pocock (1706-1792), who in 1762 commanded the naval forces during Keppel’s 1762 capture of Havana (I have been unable to determine the relationship between the Admiral and chart maker Nicholas.)
I have compared the chart to others of the region by Thornton (1698), Wimble (1738), Collet (1770), Cook (1773), “Mouzon” (1775), and Dunbibin (Norman edition of 1791, as the original of 1761 is known from adverts only) but with one exception find no particular resemblance. This is entirely consistent with the subtitle of the chart, according to which it was “Accurately Surveyed & Carefully Sounded by N. Pocock.” The exception is the Dunbibin-Norman depiction of the coast from Cape Fear to Cape Roman, with which there is a strong though not exact resemblance. This makes intuitive sense: for points further south Pocock would have been comfortable relying on observations from his many voyages to Charleston, while for points north of Cape Roman, with which he was less familiar, he would have found it easier to rely on the recent work of Dunbibin. Whether Dunbibin and Pocock were working from a common source, or if one derived from the other, I cannot say.
The chart bears no engraver’s or printer’s imprint, nor is it dated. It is also extraordinarily rare, being entirely unrecorded in the cartographic literature, though it is mentioned in passing on page 24 of David Cordingly’s Nicholas Pocock, 1740-1821. I also find no recorded sales records or institutional holdings, though the National Maritime Museum (Greenwich) may hold an impression of a second edition. However, see “Publication of the chart” below for a further discussion of this matter.
Nicholas Pocock (1740-1821)
Pocock is best remembered today for his prolific career as a marine painter, his work particularly prized for its accurate depictions of vessels at sea. This was grounded in his own experience as a sailor; indeed, according to biographer David Cordingly, “Many of the great Dutch and English marine artists had some experience of the sea, but none had a more thorough grounding than Pocock.” (Cordingly, p. 9)
Pocock was born in Bristol, England at the time the country’s second largest port, and began his apprenticeship as a seaman at the age of 17. By the age of 26 he was master of the merchant vessel Lloyd, owned by his employer Bristol merchant Richard Champion and bound for Charleston, South Carolina. Between 1766 and 1769 Pocock and the Lloyd made a total of six Charleston voyages, carrying mostly manufactured goods on the outbound leg and returning with shipments of rice, indigo, hemp and turpentine. Pocock later made voyages to the Mediterranean and the West Indies, the latest documented in 1776. According to the National Maritime Museum (Greenwich), seven of his log books are extant, at least some of which are beautifully illustrated. For example, during his 1767 Bristol-Charleston voyage he drew a Plan of the Harbour of Charles Town and A Prospect of Charles Town from the Eastward between the entries for Sept.17-18 (both illustrated in Mintchinton, 1969, pp. 101-102 and the latter in Cordingly, pp. 24-25).
Some time in the mid-late 1770s Pocock retired from the sea, possibly because Richard Champion was rendered insolvent by the effects of the American Revolution on trade. Pocock however found great success in a second career as an artist. His works were apparently valued not so much for their technique—he was after all self-taught—but rather for their accurate depictions of vessels at sea. He left behind a large body of sketches, drawings, paintings in oil and watercolor, and engravings and aquatints; exhibited hundreds of works at the Royal Academy and elsewhere; and handled important commissions, including six paintings for the official Life of Lord Admiral Nelson (1809) and another for panoramic views of the dockyards at Plymouth and Woolwich. To my knowledge, the present chart of the coast of the Carolinas, along with a small number of manuscript charts in his log books, are his only extant cartographic works.
Publication of the chart
The imprint below the lower neatline reads “Published by N. Pocock According to Act of Parliament.” This, and the relatively high quality of the engraving, strongly suggest that Pocock had it produced in England. Nothing on it indicates a date of publication, but in 1777 George Louis le Rouge’s issued a French-language edition with the title Nouvelle carte des cotes des Carolines Septentrionales et Meridionales du Cap Fear a South Edisto levee et sondees par N. Pocock en 1770. Traduites de l’Anglois. It is not indicated whether the Pocock chart of 1770 cited by le Rouge was a manuscript or print, but the other charts and maps in his 1777 Atlas were derivative from printed English prototypes, which at least suggests that he was working from another impression of our printed chart. A publication date of early 1770s would make sense, given his Charleston voyages of the late 1760s.
The existence of a second edition of our chart is suggested by an advertisement in Bonner and Middleton’s Bristol Journal for June 17, 1780.
“In the Course of a Week will be published, Price 5s.
“A New and correct CHART of Part of the Coast of South and North Carolina; in which the Latitudes of Charles-Town, Bulls Island, Cape Romans, &c. the Course and distance from one Inlet to another, Views of each as they appear from the Offing, and the Soundings are carefully and accurately taken,
“By NICHOLAS POCOCK.”
Note the differences in the title: “New and correct CHART” rather than “new & exact CHART,” and “South and North Carolina” in place of “NORTH and South Carolina.” Further evidence for a second edition is provided by Cordingly, who mentions the chart just once and then only in passing:
“When he came to draw up his chart of the Carolina coast, he inserted a warning paragraph about this hazard: ‘Note the current along shore shifts with the wind, and you will overshoot your distance surprisingly if not allowed for’. Other hazards are pointed out on this decorative chart, particularly the curving shoal, north of the harbor entrance, which was aptly named ‘the Rattlesnake’.” (p. 24)
The “warning paragraph” about The Rattlesnake is not present on our chart. However, a photograph provided by Mr. Cordingly depicts an impression of the chart bearing both the revised title and the warning. As of 1983 this impression was held by the National Maritime Museum, but my inquiries there have not been successful in locating it.
In addition to the le Rouge chart of 1777, Pocock’s chart was borrowed at least once thereafter: in 1794 Laurie & Whittle published A New Chart of the Coast of North America, from Currituck Inlet to Savannah River, Comprehending the Coasts of North And South Carolina, by Captain N[athaniel] Holland, with six recognition views resembling those on our chart and credited to Pocock.
In all, a handsome, informative and intriguing 18th-century chart of the Carolinas, and a remarkable discovery hitherto unrecorded in the cartographic literature.
Not in Baynton-Williams, “Printed Maps of the Carolinas: 1590-1800,” in MapForum.com, vol. 4; Cumming, The Southeast in Early Maps; Phillips, Maps of America; or Sellers & Van Ee, Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies 1750-1789. Not in COPAC, OCLC, or the on-line catalogs of the Bristol Museum, British Library and National Maritime Museum. Background from Cordingly, David, Nicholas Pocock, 1740-1821 (1986); Minchinton, Walter E., “Richard Champion, Nicholas Pocock, and the Carolina Trade,” in The South Carolina Historical Magazine, vol. 65, no. 2 (April, 1964), pp. 87-97; and Minchinton, Walter E., “Richard Champion, Nicholas Pocock, and the Carolina Trade: A Note,” in The South Carolina Historical Magazine, vol. 70, no. 2 (April, 1969), pp. 97-103.
My thanks to Ashley Baynton-Williams and Jay Lester, both of whom provided invaluable assistance while I researched this chart. All errors are of course my own responsibility.
Gently toned, with light scattered soiling. 2” vertical tear from lower edge expertly mended, small areas of lower margin below imprint expertly in-filled.