DES BARRES, Joseph F. Wallet (1721-1824)
A View of Quebec from the South East
London: Published by J.F.W. Des Barres in 'The Atlantic Neptune', [circa 1780]. Etching with aquatint printed in sepia. On laid paper with `J Bates' watermark and `JB' countermark. Expertly repaired 1/2 inch hole to image. Sheet size: 14 3/4 x 23 5/8 inches.
A very fine view of Quebec. This image is one of the most important of all the views included in Des Barres masterpiece: 'The Atlantic Neptune'.
'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 Canada and the United states and allow us to glimpse a forgotten land long changed by the passage of time.
Spendlove writes that the 'large prints from The Atlantic Neptune are among the finest and most beautiful pictures of Canada ever made... Des Barres was an artist of great ability... [and his] delineation of ships was particularly effective, and one could hardly find anything finer' ( The Face of Early Canada pp. 18-19). The present view is apparently taken from on board a ship on the St. Lawrence River, looking north west towards towards the citadel and burgeoning city of Quebec. In the foreground are two finely-observed merchantmen, their flags and pennants streaming out in the stiff breeze blowing up the river valley. This is an historically important image of Quebec as it looked twenty years after its capture by Wolfe, drawn by an artist of high merit who took part in the 1759 campaign.
Second state of 2
National Maritime Museum (Greenwich), Henry Newton Stevens Collection , 125a; Cf. 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; Stevens 125B.