A Mercators chart

Author: Sargent, Catharine
Date: 1791
Location: Eastern Hemisphere, Western Hemisphere, World

Dimensions: 41.0 x 51.0 cm.
Scale: Scale not given
Call Number: G3200 1791 .S2


To learn how this map can be used in the classroom click here

With a floral design embellishing its title cartouche and the use of stylized lettering and boundary symbols, this manuscript map of the world, most likely represents a geography project by a late-18th-century Boston school girl.

During the latter decades of the 18th century and the early part of the 19th century, it was common practice for British and American female students to prepare maps of various parts of the world from patterned samples. School girls also made cloth samplers, embroidering the lettering and boundaries as outlined on their patterns. Such projects were designed to combine instruction in both geography and needlework.

There are several characteristics of this map which are unusual for the time period. In contrast to most 18th-century world maps which used a double hemisphere projection, this sample was based on the Mercator projection. In addition, the geographical features as outlined on the map were quite out of date - California as an island rarely appeared on maps after the first third of the 18th century.

Interestingly, this presentation was centered on the 150th degree of longitude east of the Greenwich (London) Prime Meridian, rather than the Greenwich meridian itself. Consequently, the central focus was the Pacific Ocean and the East Indies, which brings the reader's attention to a ship's track crossing the Pacific near the Equator. Although this track was not identified, it is the course of British Commodore George Anson's voyage around the world from 1741-1744. Anson's circumnavigation was the most important British voyage between Sir Francis Drake and Captain James Cook, primarily because of the extensive treasures that he captured from the Spanish galleons.

Ms. Sargent's map exercise was almost an exact copy of This chart was published in John Harris's ''Navigantium atque Itinerantium Bibliotheca, or A Complete Collection of Voyages and Travels''. Although the chart also includes the eastern coast of the Americas, its main function was to aid in the navigation through the Caribbean Sea and around the West Indian islands.

Currents were indicated by arrows and deeper waters by darker shading. The text scattered throughout the map is primarily historical in nature, mentioning, for example, Columbus' landing in San Salvador, and the British annexation of the Bahamas in 1707. Navigational advice was also provided, as well as a detailed description of how to carry cargo overland across Central America from "the South Sea" (the Pacific) to the "North Sea" (the Caribbean) and back to Europe. "Inconveniences" along the trade routes included rough trade winds and pirates. "A Chart Shewing the Track of the 'Centurion' Round the World," which accompanied the account of Anson's voyage first published in 1748.

In order to view this page you need Flash Player 9+ support!

Get Adobe Flash player

Map Viewer: Modern - [change] | [FULLSCREEN]
Norman B. Leventhal Map Center (