A New Map of ye Isthmus of Darien in America, The Bay of Panama, The Gulph of Vallona or St. Michael, with its Islands and Countries Adjacent. [and] A Draft of the Golden and Adjacent Islands with part of ye Isthmus of Darien …

£2,500

London (1699 ). 1721 (605 x 490 mm.), two sheets joined,very fine Contemporary Colour.

London( 1699 ). 1721 (605 x 490 mm.), two sheets joined,very fine Contemporary Colour.

The later issue by John Senex(1721) of very rare map recording a critical phase in the history of Scotland and the United Kingdom. Of the two maps on the sheet the upper one records in great scale the site of the ill-fated Scottish colony of New Edinburgh., the lower one shows more of the region in relation to the Isthmus of Darien or Panama. In 1698 the then Scottish Governor and founder of the Bank of England, William Paterson, proposed to the Scottish a plan to colonise the strategic location of Panama. It was hoped that it would help the economic troubles of Scotland. The Company of Scotland was formed modelled on the English equivalents south of the border. Such was the excitement at the project that fully a third of the Gross National Product of Scotland was raised. The strategic advantages of the region to trade were obvious for all to see; unfortunately, they underestimated how inhospitable the region was. In November 1698 three ships with 1,200 colonists arrived at Darien and started construction of New Edinburgh as it would be called. The region was re-named New Caledonia.

One of the regular features of commercial colonial projects was propaganda. This was no exception. A manuscript was prepared by William Hacke (fl.1680-1710) a Thames School chartmaker. He was perfect for the task having extensively studied the Spanish Derrotero (rutter) captured by Captain Bartholomew Sharpe in 1681. This was a remarkable collection of Spanish manuscripts of the waters of Spanish America. Hacke produced several magnificent manuscript copies which survive today. He was himself at one time a pirate. Dedicated to Lord Sommers who most probably was an investor it included a manuscript map after which the upper printed map was here drawn. It was sold as part of the Arthur A. Houghton sale at Christies 13 June 1979 lot 244. Clearly part of the propaganda for the colony was to take that manuscript map and distribute a printed version. For this the services of the successful publisher Robert Morden were employed. He sought the engraver Herman Moll to produce the plates. The map does the geography justice displaying as it seems a perfectly protected harbour by the fort and ring of islands. Providing a natural harbour in which numerous vessels could safely anchor. A legend nearby notes “Here ye English privateers landed when they marched over land to the Pacific”. Even the natives were lauded “Here ye Indians came down to us and were very kind in helping us to Provision.”

As one might expect the colony did not last long. Disease and attacks from Spanish galleons took their toll. The consequences were enormous. Within 9 months the remaining colonists returned home. Intended to galvanise a struggling economy it ended up doing the exact opposite. Not only did it bankrupt the nation but it forced Scotland to sign the Act of Union in 1707 creating the United Kingdom. This was a bitter pill to swallow. This Act was devised by no less than Paterson, the Governor of the Bank of England, who agreed that the Bank would write off the Scottish liabilities from the scheme.

‘Los Britanicos estan Ilegando: British Interlopers in the ‘Spanish Sea’ and the Cartographic Record’, in ‘The Map Forum’ no. 11 pp. 42-8; Kapp, The Early Maps of Panama, 27 illustrating as Plate V the second state. 

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