1775 Jefferys & Sayer - The Island of Cuba with part of the Bahama Banks and the Martrys

1775 Jefferys & Sayer - The Island of Cuba with part of the Bahama Banks and the Martrys

SOLD: Scarce, authoritative 1775 British map and sea chart covering most of Cuba, the Cayman Islands, the Strait of Florida, and the Florida Keys


The Island of Cuba with part of the Bahama Banks and the Martrys

Map maker:

Thomas Jefferys / Robert Sayer, John Bennett

Place and Year:

London, 1775


53 x 73 cm (21 x 29 in)


Copperplate engraving


Hand colored

Condition Rating:


sold out
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This excellent sea chart encompasses most of Cuba, from just west of Havana down to the Sierra Maestra; the Cayman Islands (in the lower left); most of the Florida Keys (in the upper left) and the southern part of the Bahamas, including Nassau (upper right); while the vital shipping passage of the Strait of Florida runs across the upper left. The chart is the finest map of the region available during the era that extended from the American Revolution (1775-83) to the Napoleonic Wars (1798-1815), a period when the region’s waters were beset by warfare and piracy.

The chart is a radical improvement over earlier maps of the region, such Thomas Jefferys’s previous work, A map of the isle of Cuba, with the Bahama Islands, Gulf of Florida, and Windward Passage: Drawn from English and Spanish surveys (London, 1762). The coasts of Cuba are shown with a relatively high degree of accuracy due the fact that the British occupied Havana from 1762 to 1764, where upon they both had access to captured Spanish sea charts and the opportunity to conduct their own high quality surveys. The coverage is highly detailed, depicting topography, towns, roads, ranchos and hatos, a unique type of Cuban settlement that consisted of circular areas of a radius of 2 leagues that was dedicated to raising livestock.

The depiction of the Florida Keys is excellent, predicated on the scientific surveys surveys of William Gerard de Brahm, the Surveyor General of British East Florida, conducted from 1765 to 1771. The mapping of the Bahamas is likewise quite good, based on charting done by the Royal Navy.

The depiction of the hydrography on the chart is likewise interesting, with detailed bathymetric information and the labeling of hazards, such as reefs and rocks, along with notes such as ‘a Good Channel’ and ‘Very dangerous’. The map also shows the tracks of the Spanish Treasure galleons to and from Havana, with the ships themselves portrayed pictographically. The chart also labels the location of a Galleon shipwrecked off of Orange Key, Bahamas, in 1765. The ‘Florida Stream’, running just to the south of the Florida Keys denotes the Gulf Stream, one of the world’s most powerful and navigationally important Ocean currents, as identified by William Gerard De Brahm.

The present map appeared within Thomas Jefferys’s American Atlas (London, 1775), which featured several highly important maps of North America and the West Indies, predicated on recent surveys. Issued at the beginning of the American Revolution, the maps were of great interest to all sides in that conflict and, in most cases, remained the authoritative maps of the regions portrayed for many years.

Thomas Jefferys (1719 -1771) was by far the most important British mapmaker from the late 1740s until his death. He published many groundbreaking maps of various locations around the world and his work was more than that of any other mapmaker responsible for Britain’s rise to dominate the global map trade in the second half of the 18th Century.  Jefferys died suddenly on November 20, 1771 while work on his intended atlas was still underway. His business backer, the mapmaker Robert Sayer (1725-94), completed his charts and, in conjunction with John Bennett, issued the American Atlas in 1775.  Sayer & Bennett reissued the atlas and another edition was published by their successors, Robert Laurie & James Whittle, in 1794, ensuring that the maps remained highly influential.

The present map is complete in and of itself, however, it and several other of the maps within the American Atlas could conceivably be joined together to form a gigantic 16-sheet chart of the West Indies (with the present map being sheet 7). However, we are not aware of an example of the chart ever having actually been formed (it would be impractically enormous!).

The present chart, especially in the original Sayer & Bennett edition, seldom appears on the market.


Very light toning.




Cueto, Cuba in Old Maps, no. 50; Sellers & Van Ee, Maps and Charts of North America & the West Indies, no. 1784.