James Imray Chart, Coast of Guiana.

James Imray Chart, Coast of Guiana.



Published 1875, London

Size: 42" X 54"

Condition: Good. Some creasing and a few verso repairs. Backed on blue paper.


This rare nautical chart by the esteemed firm of James Imray and Sons depicts British Guiana, Surinam, and the French Guiana coast in South America.  The chart has insets of the different river systems as well as many annotations to offer greater detail and information for those navigating near these shores.
It should be noted that nautical charts, and blue black in general, are rare because of the wear and tear associated with working nautical documents.  However, when they do survive the vagaries of time, they often offer an interesting view into the past where nautical information was still a work in progress. 

Although admiralty charts, began to be sold to the public in 1821by the Hydrographic Office of the Admiralty, which had a reputation for greater accuracy, the privately sold bluebacks, were the preferred choice of the important and growing merchant fleet. It has been argued that the continued demand for the bluebacks resulted in large part because of their focus on specific and important trade routes, as opposed to the Navy’s need for greater accuracy in more distant and obscure shores.  Furthermore, the heavier inks applied, and the use of the Mercator’s projection with the occasional rhumb line, made for an easier reading by a less demanding merchant fleet for accuracy, but well entrenched in their historical ways and preferences.  
As such, bluebacks continue to be sought after by collectors because of their ability to convey a past where a sailors experience was as important as the chart itself. Trade routes were often well trotted such that charts could forgo a certain amount of accuracy, in exchange for the familiar components with charts of the past such as the ornate script used for cartouches, and the overall look and feel of the chart itself. 

(Sources: Fisher, S., The Makers of the Blueback Charts.)