An Exact Plan of the Harbour of Providence

Pen and ink 41.5 x 57.5 cm Circa 1722-3

The first map of Nassau, the "Privateers Republic".

Original manuscript chart, pen and ink and colour wash, penciled gridlines, watermarked Strassburg lily within a crowned shield with ‘WR’ terminal, old folds.

415 by 575mm. (16.25 by 22.75 inches).

The earliest known map of present day Nassau, New Providence, in the Bahamas, and the origin for the engraved maps of Herman Moll, 1729, and William Henry Toms, for Henry Popple, of 1733. The map depicts Nassau at a time when the British Crown was struggling to wrest it from the control of the many notorious pirates who had made it their haven, while plundering the Spanish Main, during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. From 1706, it was the capital of the self-proclaimed “Privateers Republic”, with Captain Edward Teach (1680-1718), perhaps better known as the pirate Blackbeard, as chief magistrate. At the height of Pirate rule, in 1713, when the Treaty of Utrecht brought an end to the War of Spanish Succession, Nassau was populated by 1000 pirates (many of whom had ‘privateered’ under the protection of the flag of the Royal Navy, and were unwilling to return to the strictures of a more formal naval life),… and 500 civilians. Their reign lasted until 1717, when the British Crown decided to take a serious interest in the government of the island, and a campaign of ousting the pirates began. Teach himself, shortly thereafter, met a suitably grisly end at the hands of Robert Maynard, having been shot at least five times, and stabbed more than twenty, after his ship the ‘Queen Anne’s Revenge’ ran aground off Beaufort, North Carolina in 1718.

The map, centered on the Fort at Nassau, extends from ‘Rush’s Bay’ (now Goodman Bay) and Rush’s Key in the west, to Long Island in the east, showing the ‘The Fort’ of Nassau protected from the Atlantic Ocean by Long Key, Silver Key (now Crystal Cay), Tony’s Rock, Hogg Island (now Paradise Island), Potters Key, Salt Key; The Narrows between Hoggs Island and Long Island is shown, as are sandbanks and soundings; on the main island, Sponsor’s Pt., ‘The Fort’, ‘The Eastern Battery’ at ‘Dowil’s Pt. (ie now Fort Montegu at Devil’s Point), and Fox’s Pt., are shown. ‘A Scale of 100 Chains 22 Yards each’ appears above an elegant sixteen-point compass rose.

Inscribed, in a secretarial hand, on the verso ‘Bahama’s Harbour of Providence’, and in the lower left-hand corner of the map “received the 10th July 1723 with a duplicate of Cap: Phenny’s Letter of 2nd March 1722/3”. It was common practice to send important state documents in duplicate under separate cover, in case one should be lost at sea. The other example of this map, and the accompanying letter from the then governor of New Providence, Captain George Phenny, reside in the National Archives at Kew, reference CO 23/13. In a later letter, the author of the map is identified by Phenny as John Barker. Dated 24th December 1723, Phenny writes to Charles Delafaye (under-secretary to Thomas Pelham-Holles, the Duke of Newcastle): ‘I have enclos'd a draft of the Fort the only one I have yet done, fearing lest Mr. [John] Barker who promised me to lay one before your Lordship has not been so good as his word. That person was brought hither and recommended as one of H.M. Engineers and a man of probity by Governor Rogers in their way as they first pretended to Sta. Lucia, and he had address enough to impose upon me so far that I believed it when I mention'd him to your Lordship, but having heard since by good hands from Bermuda and home a character quite the reverse, I am oblig'd in duty to let your Lordship know it, tho' I blush whilst I am doing it, lest he should have an opportunity thro' my means to tell your Lordship any untruths in relation to this place’.

Formerly in the library of distinguished American collector Alexander Orr Vietor (1913-1981), American authority on marine Americana and maps, and curator of maps at Yale University from 1943-1978, who, on an accompanying note, describes this map: “in all probably this is the first map of Nassau Harbor done shortly after the expulsion of the pirates by the efforts of Governor Woodes Rogers, who receded Governor Phenny. New Providence Island was the seat of pirates such as Edward Teach and others in the years just prior to when this map was drawn”.

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Daniel Crouch Rare Books

"Books, Maps and Manuscripts"

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