A research collection of historical maps and prints of the Caribbean Islands. Part 1: photographic prints, photocopies and facsimiles




Part 1 of the collection of historical Caribbean maps and prints is composed of facsimiles, photographic copies, and photocopies of originals, acquired over a period of approximately 30 years (beginning in 1980). All of the copies were selected for research purposes, primarily for my research on the “Making of the Caribbean Landscape”. The bulk of the copies were purchased from libraries, with the legal understanding that the maps/prints were to be used for personal research – and that duplication or publishing of the items could occur only with the full, written agreement of the library in question. Consequently, the maps/prints in this collection may not be copied. In this report, however, I provide full information regarding each item (if available) so that anyone who wants to obtain a personal copy may do so by contacting a relevant library or map/print dealer. If available, I provide information from the British Library since the on-line ordering of copies from that library is particularly expeditious. The copies in this collection will be available for study in the York University Archives.

Items in the Collection
Most of the items in the collection are maps of individual Caribbean islands, dating from the late 16th to the early 19th centuries. The bulk of the maps are from the 1700s. Seventeen maps cover groups of Caribbean islands, focusing on islands in different parts of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. The collection also includes a number of prints of engravings, often based on drawings by military artists, depicting a variety of Caribbean locales.

All of the documents were selected and purchased during personal research visits to libraries and other outlets. The copies of maps (printed and manuscript) and prints were obtained from the following libraries: Bibliotèque Nationale de France, British Library, Harvard University, McGill University, National Archives and National Library of The Netherlands, National Library of Jamaica, National Maritime Museum (Greenwich), Royal Geographical Society (London), Royal Tropical Institute (Amsterdam), Uppsalla University, University of Amsterdam, University of Florida, University of Leiden, and the University of Utrecht. The facsimile copies of maps and engravings were all purchased in the Caribbean islands at a variety of outlets in several Caribbean countries. A number of items were acquired at the shops of the Brimstone Hill Fortress Museum (St. Kitts), the National Museum of Barbados, and the St. Eustatius Historical Society Museum. The largest single source within libraries is the King’s Topographic Collection at the British Library, a magnificent collection of maps and engravings collected by King George III. This collection, eventually donated to the British Museum by King George IV, forms an important core of the British Library’s map section.

The maps and engravings can serve a number of research purposes, although they have been relatively unused by scholars to date. My primary interest has been in information related to the development of Caribbean natural and cultural landscapes, and the items in the collection have proven to be indispensible sources. Particularly noteworthy are the many maps that depict “natural” features (shoreline conditions, ocean depths, coral reefs, topographic features, natural vegetation, comments about climatic conditions): property boundaries; military installations; roads; buildings (housing, mills, factories, churches, etc.); land surveys; agricultural land uses; and urban design. Several maps provide information relating to the pre-Colombian population (e.g.“Indian” villages, trails). Others provide a wealth of information regarding the development of cartographic techniques (e.g. scales, projections, fanciful drawings, depiction of slope and elevation, island profiles as seen from the sea, and various other features related to navigation). In many cases maps of the smaller islands include the names of property owners, information that is crucial for the study of economic and social development, in tracing family relationships among different islands, and in general genealogical research. The maps are interesting for what they do not display (e.g. much information related to slavery), and the few maps that do depict this rare information (e.g. slave housing) represent an important untapped resource for future research. The maps should interest researchers with a general concern for the processes and perceptions reflected in the content and the style of illustration in the maps and engravings.






Found, William C., “A research collection of historical maps and prints of the Caribbean Islands. Part 1: photographic prints, photocopies and facsimiles,” The Harriet Tubman Resource Centre Digital Archive, accessed March 25, 2019, http://digital.tubmaninstitute.ca/items/show/480.