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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.J.F.W. des Barres (1721-1824) was a Swiss-born engineer, surveyor, chart maker, publisher and colonial administrator who served for the more than half a century in British North America. He volunteered for the British Army, trained at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich and was posted to the 60th (Royal American) Regiment, where he served with distinction in the French and Indian War, was present at the capture of Louisbourg and Quebec, and helped produce a magnificent survey of the St. Lawrence River.

At war’s end, Des Barres was appointed by the Admiralty to survey the coast of Nova Scotia, an enormously ambitious and expensive undertaking that required the better part of ten years. He returned to England in 1774 and, with financial backing from the Admiralty, began organizing the publication of his charts and those of others, most notably those supplied by Samuel Holland, Surveyor General of Quebec and of the Northern District of North America. He ultimately compiled these into The Atlantic Neptune, which in its most complete form ran to four volumes containing hundreds of navigation charts, maps, and coastal recognition profiles, topographical views and even Revolutionary War battle plans. The Atlantic Neptune is not just the finest atlas of North America from the colonial period, but one of the greatest atlases ever published.

Later in life Des Barres served as Lieutenant Governor of Cape Breton (1784-87) and Prince Edward Island (1804-1812). He died at the jaw-dropping age of 102, his long life perhaps fueled by an abundance of bile.

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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 […]

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Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres, [Letter from Des Barres as Lieutenant Governor of Cape Breton to Home Secretary Lord Sydney, transmitting minutes of a meeting of the Cape Breton Council.] Sydney, Cape Breton, Oct. 26, 1785.

Rare letter by J.F.W. Barres, as Lieutenant Governor of Cape Breton

An extremely rare 1785 letter signed by famed surveyor, mapmaker and colonial administrator Joseph Frederick Wallet Des Barres, then serving as Lieutenant Governor of Cape Breton, writing to Thomas Townsend, Lord Sydney, the Home Secretary and President of the Committee on Trade and Foreign Plantations. Manuscript material associated with Des Barres is extremely rare on […]

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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, […]

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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 […]

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Jos[eph] F[rederick] W[allet] Des Barres Esqr.,The Coast of Nova Scotia, New England, NEW-YORK, JERSEY, The GULPH and RIVER of St. LAWRENCE. The ISLANDS of Newfoundland, Cape Breton, St. John, Antecosty, Sable & c. and SOUNDINGS thereof. [London:] I.F.W. Des Barres Esqr., Nov. 1, 1780 [but probably mid-late 1784].

The capstone of the British mapping of northeastern North America

A rare, monumental and momentous general chart of northeastern North America, representing the capstone of British efforts to map the region after the end of the French and Indian War, and described as “by far the most accurate cartographic rendering of its subject made for many decades.” (Alex Johnson) This example separately published, probably in […]

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[George Callender, surveyor] [A Chart of the Harbour of Boston, Composed from Different Surveys, but Principally from that Taken in 1769, by Mr George Callender, Late Master of His Majesty’s Ship Romney.] [London]: J[oseph] F[rederick] W[allet] Des Barres, August 5, 1775.

The finest 18th-century chart of 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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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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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 […]

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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 […]

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