DES BARRES, J. F. W. (publisher) [and] SAMUEL HOLLAND
[Untitled chart of Boston Bay]
London: J. F. W. Des Barres, November 13, 1776. Engraved with color wash and outline color. Sheet: 31 x 42 1/4. Expert restoration, primarily at the upper margin. Two sheets joined, both watermarked "J.Bates" and countermarked "JB". Fourth state of five.
Among the earliest charts published by Des Barres were those relevant to the crisis in New England, as the War of Independence broke out.
This chart depicts the coast of Massachusetts from Salem to Scituate Harbor, and includes the complicated hydrography of Boston Harbor, and the confluent rivers. A considerable amount of coastal topography is included, obviously relevant to warships. Fundamentally, a chart for navigators, it includes soundings and shoals, with particularly strong detail along the Charles and Mystic Rivers as well as in Salem and Marblehead.
Samuel Holland was the lead surveyor. In 1764, he was named Surveyor General of both the Province of Quebec and the Northern District of North America. He had a considerable staff and the British Navy assisted in providing soundings. From 1770 to 1774, his squad worked exclusively on northeastern colonies that soon became part of the United States. The surveys that derived from the industry of their work were the most accurate ever made to that time. They were sent to London where Des Barres supervised the engraving and publication. The charts were very soon put to use.
Des Barres, of Swiss-Huguenot extraction, studied under the great mathematician Daniel Bernoulli at the University of Basel, before continuing on to the Royal Military College at Woolwich. Upon the outbreak of hostilities with France in 1756, he joined the British Royal American Regiment as a military engineer. He came to the attention of General James Wolfe, who appointed him to join his personal detail. During this period he also worked with the future legendary explorer James Cook on a monumental chart of the St. Lawrence River. From 1762, Des Barres was enlisted to survey the coastlines of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, while his colleague, Samuel Holland charted the New England coast. He also managed to gain access to some surveys of the American South, Cuba and Jamaica. In 1774, Des Barres returned to England where he began work on The Neptune. His dedication to the project was so strong, that often at his own expense, he continually updated and added new charts and views up until 1784. That year he returned to Canada, where he remained for a further forty years, becoming a senior political figure and a wealthy land owner, and living to the advanced age of 103.
Stevens Collection, 94d ; cf. Hornsby, Surveyors of Empire: Samuel Holland, J.F.W. Des Barres and the Making of the Atlantic Neptune . 2011.