DES BARRES, J.F.W. (1721?-1824)
[A group of six views near Halifax printed on a single plate] `A View of Cape Egmont and Winter Rock from the Eastward.'; `Entrance of Egmont Harbor.'; `The Entrance of Keppel Harbor, 10 Leagues to the Eastward of Halifax.'; `Falls of Hinchinbroke River, the North East Branch of Sandwich Bay.'; `The Entrance into Chisetcook Inlet 4 Leagues Eastward of Halifax.'; `Dartmouth Shore in the Harbor of Halifax'.
London: Published by J.F.W. Des Barres in 'The Atlantic Neptune', April 1st, 1781. Etching with aquatint. Sheet size: 33 x 24 1/4 inches. A portion of the upper left platemark expertly reinforced. 3rd state of 5 (Corresponding to Stevens 51 (c)). Sheet size: 32 x 22 3/4 inches.
A set of six navigational views of Halifax Harbour and nearby coastal area, from one of the most important North American marine atlases
This group includes four views intended as aids to navigation. The profiles were intended for use by captains of vessels to identify exactly where they were in relation to distant shorelines; added to these is a charming roundel giving a picturesque view of a waterfall on the Hinchinbroke River and finally a tranquil view in Halifax harbour which is enlivened by the small scene in the lower right of the image where, amid clouds of steam, men work frantically to re-tar the hull of a man-of-war. This later state of the print incorporates all the improvements in detail and the addition of sailing ships of all kinds.
'The Atlantic Neptune' was the first great marine atlas, and one of the greatest achievements of eighteenth century cartography. Published in England in 1774, it contained over 250 charts and views of the North American and Canadian coasts. The charts were intensely detailed and contained both hydrographical and topographical details. The Neptune was compiled and published for the Royal Navy by Joseph F. W. Des Barres, a Swiss cartographer who joined the Royal American Regiment as a surveyor. Des Barres fought in the French and Indian wars and was enlisted to survey the Canadian coastline. While his fellow surveyor, Samuel Holland charted the New England coast, Des Barres mapped the shoreline of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and the St. Lawrence River regions. In 1774, Des Barres returned to England where he compiled and published his monumental atlas; his dedication to the project was so strong that he published an updated version of the work every year until 1784. Des Barres' work was so superior to any other contemporary atlas, that the maps were used as the standard charts of the East coast for over 50 years. The Neptune remains one of the most important atlases ever printed, its views and maps chart the history of North America and allow us to glimpse forgotten shores long changed with the passage of time.
Spendlove, The Face of Early Canada , Chapter 4: "J.F.W. Des Barres and The Atlantic Neptune"; pp. 18-22; Debard, "The Family Origins of Joseph Fredericks Wallet DesBarres: A Riddle Finally Solved", Nova Scotia Historical Review, Vol 14, No. 2 (1994), p.15; Catalogue of the Henry Newton Stevens Collection...51c.