Boston Public Library
Exhibitions

View the Exhibition Part One: Atlantic Canada

The period following the French and Indian War (1754-1763) was a time of change and discovery in North America. In this display of charts, views, and maritime objects, we look at the decade following the war, when Britain set out to accurately chart the coast and survey the inland areas of their new resource-rich empire in Atlantic Canada, as well as the eastern seaboard extending from New England to the West Indies. The resulting charts were published collectively by Joseph Frederick Wallet Des Barres in The Atlantic Neptune, a maritime atlas which set the standard for nautical charting for nearly half a century.

Part one of the exhibition, showing May 1st through July 27, focuses geographically on Atlantic Canada. In this section we examine the surveys of engineers Samuel Holland and J.F.W. Des Barres, which were then published as charts in The Atlantic Neptune. Canada’s economic importance to Britain is explained, as is the need for accurate charts of the region. These charts were produced just in time for use by the British Navy, as the American Revolutionary War was beginning.

The development of nautical chart making is described throughout the exhibition, and is illustrated in a number of examples. We will also consider the artistic marvel that is The Atlantic Neptune, and discuss the processes involved in the production of such an atlas, from surveying to engraving.

Printable gallery guide

Click on the thumbnails below to view the maps.

The Beagle Tony Mallia
HM Survey Ship Beagle (1831), 2009
A Chart of the Sea Coast of New Foundland John Thornton
A Chart of the Sea Coast of New Foundland…, [1748]
A General Map of the Northern British Colonies Robert Sayer and John Bennett
A General Map of the Northern British Colonies in America…, 1776
Staple Regions in North America and the Caribbean Stephen Hornsby
Staple Regions in North America and the Caribbean, 1764-1775, 2005
The Coast of Nova Scotia, New England J.F.W. Des Barres
The Coast of Nova Scotia, New England…, 1780
A Plan of the Island of St. John Samuel Holland
A Plan of the Island of St. John…, 1775
A plan of Quebec and Environs J.F.W. Des Barres
A plan of Quebec and Environs…, 1777
Plan du Port et de la Ville de Louisbourg Plan du Port et de la Ville de Louisbourg…, 1758
A Chart of the Island of Cape Breton J.F.W. Des Barres
A Chart of the Island of Cape Breton, 1781
Egmont Harbor J.F.W. Des Barres
Egmont Harbor, 1777
Views in the Vicinity of Halifax J.F.W. Des Barres
[Views in the Vicinity of Halifax], 1777
Coastal View of Chebucto Head J.F.W. Des Barres
[Coastal View of Chebucto Head], 1777
Eight Views of the East of Nova Scotia J.F.W. Des Barres
[Eight Views of the East of Nova Scotia], 1777
Detail from Utility of The Atlantic Neptune J.F.W. Des Barres
[Detail from “Utility of The Atlantic Neptune”], 1777
Title page for volume one J.F.W. Des Barres
[Title page for volume one, The Atlantic Neptune], 1777
References J.F.W. Des Barres
“References” from The Atlantic Neptune, 1777
Mechios River Near the Mills; A Sketch of Mechios Mills J.F.W. Des Barres
Mechios River Near the Mills; A Sketch of Mechios Mills, 1777
Gulf of Maine Canadian Hydrographic Service
Gulf of Maine to Strait of Belle Isle…, 1995
octant Octant, 19th century A Chart of the Sea Coast of New Foundland Common Log reproduction, 1997
Parallel Rule Parallel Rule, 19th century Telescope Telescope, 19th century
Sand glass 30 Minute Glass, ca. 1900