Riding the wave


The Pilot for the West Indies by Robert Laurie

Robert Laurie, editor of " "bluebacks", proclaimed to be a descendant of John Seller - author of theEnglish Pilot in 1671 and of the Atlas maritimus in 1675 - and of Robert Sayer, editor of the North American Pilot, in 1775, and of the chart-maker Thomas Jefferys.

The latter (1695-1771) was a popular and versatile author, whose production varied from local maps to large scale charts of North America - in collaboration with James Cook around 1760 - and of the West Indies, which won him the appointment as a "geographer and hydrographer of the King."

Azores (detail)
engraving, mm. 610 x 465, graphic scale in miles, longitude from the meridian of London. In the cartouche Chart / of the / Açores (Hawks) Islands / Also Called / Flemish and Western Islands / London / Published May 12th 1794 by Laurie and Whittle. No. 53 Fleet Street. "
The Azores - already present in charts of the Italian and Catalan production of the fourteenth century, though not well positioned, and then forgotten by those early explorers - were "rediscovered" between 1430 and 1450 by the pilots in the service of Portugal, who called them the Açores, i.e. "vultures", for the large number of birds of prey - hawks in fact - that were sighted there, and were quickly colonized by the Portuguese. They were later joined by a Flemish Community because, in 1466, Alfonso V ceded the island of Fayal to his aunt Isabella, sister of Henry the Navigator, who got married in 1430 to Philip Duke of Burgundy and Lord of Flanders. The islands thus became known as Ilhas Flamengas, so that, for a time, the belief spread in Europe that they had been discovered by the Dutch. The views are taken at distances varying from 3 to 25 miles and cover all the islands, from Corvo to the Formigas.

In 1794 Robert Laurie published a review of the work of Jefferys, called A / Complete Pilot / for the / West Indies / Including / the British Channel, Bay of Biscay, / and at tea Atlantic Islands: / done from / actual surveys / and / Observations of the Most Experienced Navigators / to / His Majesty's and the Merchants' Service. / By the late / Thomas Jefferys, Geographer to the king. / A New Edition, corrected to the Present Time. / Neatly engraved on twenty-nine plates. London: printed and published by Robert Laurie and James Whittle, No. 35, Fleet Street / (successor to the late Mr. Robert Sayer).

The date of publication - 1794 - is shown on some charts included in the atlas, often illustrated with views of the coast. (Genoa, Italian Hydrographic Institute of Navy)

The chart consists of three parts: in the insets above, plans of the islands of St. Jago and Mayo; at the center, the representation of the archipelago, with geographic, meteorological and nautical "observations"; below, views of St. Jago and Mayo.

In the cartouche "The / Cape Verde Islands, / laid down from the Observations and Remarks of / Experienced Navigators, / by Bishop d'Apres de Mannevillete, / with Several additions / London, Printed for Rob.t Sayer, Map & Printseller, N° 53 in Fleet Street, / as the Act directs 20th April 1788.

The chart of of Madeira Islands and of the Canary Islands shows two graduated meridians: of the Island of Ferro "... First Meridian the Ancients Adopted by the French by an Edict of Louis XIII, and of the island of Tenerife "... First Meridian of the Spaniards and Dutch.
Top right, view of Porto Santo and Madeira.
Above, "A chart of the Maderas and Canary Islands / According To the surveys published at Madrid in 1780, by Don Thomas Lopes Geographer of His Catholic Majesty / and ascertained by the astronomic observations of the Chevalier de Fleurieu made by order of the French Government in 1769. / London / Published May 12th, 1794 by Laurie & Whittle. No. 53 Fleet Street."

Madeira Islands and Canary Islands (detail), engraving, mm. 474 x 565, graphic scale in leagues, longitudes from the meridian of London and Ferro.