These are two highly detailed maps of portions of the island of Cuba, emphasizing the geographical and topographical nature in each section. The mountains, and of course there are very significant mountains throughout Cuba, the mountains are rendered and made quite graphic with a technique known at the time as hachure, which with very fine strokes of the engraving pen create a sense of what is up and what is down and the result is quite powerful in showing the elevations – at least relative elevations- of the mountains of the island. All of that has been replaced in modern times by topographic lines, lines of equal height above sea level, but there is a compellingness about this particular technique. One of the maps reflects the Bay of Havana and both the maps are about as complete as could be done by the producing authority here, which was the Office of the Chief of Engineers in the United States of America. So, this was the best depiction that the United States had, and I imagine anybody of the world had of the interior of Cuba as of 1873, the date that the maps were prepared.
This map is entitled a new chart of the Bahama Islands and the Windward Passage. Well, this “new” chart, it was actually done in 1749, but at the time it was a contribution to one’s understanding of that portion of the Caribbean, lower Florida, and the Bahamas themselves. One of the distinctive features of the map is its depiction of two areas that are not in fact above water. One being the Bahama Bank and the other being the Grand Bahama Bank and, as the map shows, those relatively shallow areas surround the Bahamas. The shallowness of those banks provide for lots of good fishing, they also over time provided lots of ways in which ships could and did run aground. Cuba is at the very center of the map, Jamaica below it and off to the right a portion of Hispaniola. The entire map is full of rhumb lines, which were very useful to navigators and helped them lay out courses using one portion of a rhumb line and then another in order to get from A to B. There’s a beautiful compass rose and lots of color in what is I think a most soft and attractive map of that part of the world.
This map is a map of the island of Cuba. It was done by a mapmaker by the name of Ruscelli in the middle of the 16th century – roughly 1565 – and it includes, in addition to Cuba, if you look down below, you will see of the island of Jamaica rendered as well and then in the lower right-hand corner, the very westernmost tip of the island of Hispaniola. This island is again a 16th-century mapmaker’s best effort and one can find if you look closely, at least where the bay is, where Havana is located on the Northern side of the island. Ruscelli was famous for maps of this era and this is an excellent specimen in very good shape for a map that was made more than 400 years ago.