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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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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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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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Chart of Boston Bay from the Atlantic Neptune

A lovely example of what was for its time the finest chart of Boston Harbor and its approaches. The chart was issued in 1776 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 […]

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The Barre Publishing edition of The Atlantic Neptune

The two New England volumes of the Barre Publishing Company’s wonderful full-scale reproduction of The Atlantic Neptune. Produced at great (actually unsustainable) expense, this work is printed on luxurious rag paper from photogravures of Augustus Loring’s copy of the Neptune, with each image colored by hand. The project was so expensive that it was abandoned […]

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Chart of Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound, from The Atlantic Neptune

This chart from Des Barres’ Atlantic Neptune was the most accurate contemporary chart of the region and remained so for the better part of 50 years. For their blend of accuracy and visual appeal, the charts of the Neptune have probably never been surpassed. Description The chart depicts the Buzzards Bay, Vineyard Sound and the surrounding […]

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From the Atlantic Neptune: The first chart of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard

A superb example of the first and most sought-after map of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. The chart centers on Nantucket, eastern Martha’s Vineyard and the surrounding waters, with particular attention given to the Sound separating the islands from Cape Cod. The complex region is depicted with immense care, including both the surrounding waters as well as the […]

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Chart of Piscataqua Harbour (Portsmouth, NH) 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 decades, often […]

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The finest 18th-century chart of Boston Harbor in a desirable later state, with the addition of the extensive American fortifications erected during the 1775 siege.

Boston Harbor, from “The Atlantic Neptune”

The finest 18th-century chart of Boston Harbor in a desirable later state, with the addition of the extensive American fortifications erected during the 1775 siege. For its combination of accuracy and visual appeal this chart has never been surpassed. The chart depicts the environs of Boston, Boston Harbor and much of the coastline between Nahant […]

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