DES BARRES, JOSEPH FREDERICK WALLET (1721-1824) and SAMUEL HOLLAND
[Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound.]
London: J. F. W. Des Barres for The Atlantic Neptune, April 25, 1776. Large engraved chart from Des Barres' Atlantic Neptune on two sheets of laid paper, joined, each bearing "J Bates" watermark. 43x31 inches sheet size, nice margins; contemporary hand-color in outline; slightest offsetting, a superior copy. State 4 of 7.
Fine chart depicting the waters between New Bedford and Martha's Vineyard.
Buzzards Bay and the Vineyard Sound including the Elizabeth Islands and the western half of Martha's Vineyard. Showing much more on-shore information than is typical for a Des Barres chart, there are details of property boundaries, structures, even a road from Menemshaw Pond to Tisbury. Native names throughout remain largely unchanged today. Joseph Des Barres was born in Switzerland in 1721 and educated in Basel before emigrating to England and entering the Royal Military College where he learned engineering and the art of surveying. In 1756, Des Barres was commissioned a Lieutenant in the Royal American Regiment and dispatched to North America. He served in America during the Seven Years War under Colonel Bouquet, Lord Howe and General Amherst, and participated in the Quebec campaign as General Wolfe's engineer. Though Des Barres was responsible for the surveys done of Nova Scotia and the Isle of Sable, the surveying of the coastline of what became the United States was undertaken by Major Samuel Holland, a Dutchman, who joined the British army during the French and Indian War as an engineer, and became ultimately Surveyor General for North America. Holland was in charge of a rather large staff, that included Charles Blaskowitz and George Gauld. They ultimately provided greatly improved charts for the entire coastline and the Gulf of Mexico. All this work was done prior to the Revolution, which necessarily brought the surveys to an end. The publishing supervised by Des Barres continued throughout the war years. Des Barres compiled and edited the atlas, maintaining a high standard throughout. His primary motive seems to have been the navigational usefulness of the charts. He clearly envisioned a navigator's needs in approaching a shoreline. The Atlantic Neptune was the first new survey of American coastlines in a century, and the need was very great. The charts were plagiarized for the next thirty or forty years. Des Barres also had a flare for making charts aesthetically appealing, so that they are invariably handsome as well as unfailingly interesting.
Stevens 88D; John Carter Brown Library Charting the East Coast of North America, The Atlantic Neptune (Providence: 1972); Robert Lingel 'The Atlantic Neptune' in the Bulletin of the New York Public Library, July 1936, pp.571-603; Augustus P. Loring 'The Atlantic Neptune' in American Maritime Prints (New Bedford: 1985).