Boston Public Library

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.

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