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BRM1921 Des Barres NYC 1777The Atlantic Neptune was an atlas of charts and views of North American waters used by British navigators through much of the Revolution. The charts were generally of a very high quality, outstripping anything previously available.

The Atlantic Neptune is indelibly associated with the name of J.F.W. Des Barres.  He oversaw the publication of the charts, and indeed had supervised the surveys of Nova Scotia later published in the Neptune.  However the project had been catalyzed by Samuel Holland, a Dutch engineer in the British service. In 1764 Holland had proposed to the Board of Trade “an accurate and just Survey… upon… a general scale and uniform plan” of North America east of the Mississippi. This was to be a “geodetic” survey following the most advanced methods then in use in Europe, but applied for the first time in North America.

Holland’s proposal was approved, and in 1764 he was named Surveyor General of both the Province of Quebec and the Northern District of North America, while Gerard de Brahm was named surveyor General of the southern District. Their work, and that overseen by Des Barres in Nova Scotia, was eventually published in The Atlantic Neptune.  

The demand for charts was high in those unsettled times, and Des Barres’ operation soon occupied two townhouses and employ 20 assistants in compiling, drafting and correcting the charts. While The Atlantic Neptune was usually made up to order and had no standard collation, it ultimately extended to five sections: Nova Scotia, New England, the River and Gulf of St. Lawrence (based on the work of James Cook), the coast south of New York, and American coastal views.



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Thomas Wheeler chart of Plymouth Bay Massachusetts from The Atlantic Neptune.

Plymouth Bay, Massachusetts from the Atlantic Neptune

A landmark in the mapping of Massachusetts, being the first large-scale chart of Plymouth Bay and environs. This chart depicts the waters of Plymouth Bay, with its distinctive geography marked by two long barrier beaches. The hydrographic data includes tidal data and soundings along the channels into Plymouth and the Jones and Duxbury Rivers. The […]

$5,500
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[J.F.W. Des Barres, [A View of Portsmouth in Piscataqua River.] London: J.F.W. Des Barres, ca. 1780-81.]

Lovely aquatint view of Portsmouth New Hampshire from The Atlantic Neptune

A very rare and quite lovely aquatint view of Portsmouth Hew Hampshire, which supplanted an inferior line engraving of the same subject in The Atlantic Neptune. Background In 1764 the Lord Commissioners of Trade & Plantations appointed engineer Samuel Holland as Surveyor General of the Northern District of North America. In this capacity he was […]

$15,500
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The HARBOUR of CHARLES TOWN in South-Carolina from the Surveys of Sr. Jas. Wallace Captn. In his Majestys Navy & Others, with A VIEW of the TOWN from the SOUTH SHORE of Ashley River. London: J.F.W. Des Barres, Esqr., Nov. 1, 1777.

Chart of Charleston, South Carolina from The Atlantic Neptune

Spectacular Revolutionary-era chart of the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, likely compiled from Colonial-era surveys and British reconnaissance just before the 1776 Battle of Sullivan’s Island. Published in the Atlantic Neptune, it was for its time by far the finest printed chart of the area. Blessed by a large, sheltered harbor and proximity to the […]

$38,500
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[Samuel Holland et al.] / “Lieutenant Knight of the Navy and Pilots,” THE COAST OF NEW ENGLAND. [London:] J.F.W. Des Barres, APRIL 24, 1776.

Magnificent chart of the Coast of New England from The Atlantic Neptune

By far the finest 18th-century depiction of the Coast of New England issued in The Atlantic Neptune to meet the needs of British navigators during the American Revolution. Description This monumental chart depicts the complex coast of New England from Passamaquoddy Bay south and west to Narragansett Bay. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of depth soundings are given, […]

$27,500
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1776 J.F.W. Des Barres chart of Newburyport to Cape Elizabeth

A nice example of what was for its time the finest chart of the coasts of New Hampshire and southern Maine. It was issued in 1776 in The Atlantic Neptune, an atlas of the East Coast used by British captains during the Revolution. The charts were so respected that they remained in use for decades, often […]

$4,250
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[Charles Blaskowitz], A PLAN of the TOWN OF NEWPORT in the Province of Rhode Island. London: J.F.W. Des Barres, April 24, 1776.

Charles Blaskowitz plan of Newport, Rhode Island from The Atlantic Neptune

The earliest printed plan of Newport, Rhode Island, published for the use of British forces just months before they occupied the town in December 1776. Based on surveys by Charles Blaskowitz, one of the finest surveyors in the British military, it is also arguably the most appealing plan of Newport ever issued: The overall layout, […]

$19,500
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Samuel Holland et al., Massachusetts Bay. London: J.F.W. Des Barres, April 29, 1776.

Massachusetts Bay from The Atlantic Neptune

  A very fine chart of Massachusetts Bay from the Atlantic Neptune, issued for use of British navigators early in the Revolutionary War. The Atlantic Neptune is arguably the finest atlas of North American waters ever produced, achieving in its more complete states full coverage of the East and Gulf Coasts. The Neptune’s great strength was […]

$7,500
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Atlantic Neptune chart of Portland Maine

Portland, Maine from the Atlantic Neptune

A landmark in Maine mapping, being the first large-scale navigation chart of Portland Harbor and environs. The chart centers on the environs of Falmouth, Maine, including present-day Portland, the Cape Elizabeth peninsula, and the inner reaches of Casco Bay. Falmouth was at the time the largest town in Maine and an important center of the […]

$6,500
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Piscataqua Harbor New Hampshire from the Atlantic Neptune

A lovely example of the first chart of Piscataqua Harbor and surroundings. The chart was issued in 1779 in The Atlantic Neptune, an atlas of charts and views of the East Coast used by British captains through much of the Revolution. The charts of the Neptune were so respected that many remained the standard for […]

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BRM1921 Des Barres NYC 1777

“One of the greatest of the Atlantic Neptune charts” (Nebenzahl)

A large, superbly-executed, and very scarce map depicting the 1776 campaign for New York City and Westchester. The campaign was a disaster for General Washington and the young Continental Army, who had been ordered by the Continental Congress to defend the indefensible city. Surrounded as the city is by navigable rivers, and blessed with a […]

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