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The Mapping of North America

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CHURRUCA, Don Cosmo Damien

Plano Geometrico del Puerto Capital de la Isla de Puerto Rico Levantado en 1794

Madrid, 1794
470 x 610 mm., in modern wash colour, printed on thick paper with uncut deckled edges, good condition.
A fine detailed plan of the town and harbour of SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO, complete with soundings and sailing directions. Don Cosmo Damien Churruca (1761–1805) was a Spanish Officer who was well known as a scientific navigator. After completing the ‘Atlas Maritimo de España’ in 1788, Spain expanded the project to include her colonial possessions. Churruca was sent by the Spanish Navy on many scientific expeditions to chart the waters of Spanish America. In 1792 he was appointed to head an expedition to set the longitudinal points in the New World relative to Cadiz, Spain. Arriving in Trinidad on 21 July 1792 and with the permission of the Spanish Governor Don Jose Chacon he proceeded to establish an observatory at Laventille. On 2 January 1793 Churruca observed with great precision the transition of the third satellite of Jupiter in the disc of the moon and also that of the first satellite, making geographical and astronomical history. From his observations he fixed for the first time an accurate meridian in the Americas. This detailed chart bears numerous soundings in the harbour and includes extensive notes in the upper corners describing the shoals on the map and sailing instructions for entering the harbour. A key identifies major landmarks.

San Juan, Puerto Rico, was one of Spain’s most important harbours in the New World. As was typical of most of the Spanish possessions, early maps of such detail of their holdings were intensely guarded. It would be another ten years before the island was opened to foreign trade in 1804. Direct trade with the United States of America was not permitted until 1814. Churruca’s chart was the source for that by the French Depot de la Marine in 1801 and by William Faden in England in 1805. The British Hydrographical Office produced a derivative in 1824. Churruca returned to Spain before serving as Captain of the 74-gun San Juan Nepomuceno when war broke out with the British. During the Battle of Trafalgar, he was struck by a cannon ball and died from his injuries. Olga J. Mavrogordato ‘Voices in the Street’, 1977; Phillips (1909-) 4155 (map no. 25).
Stock number: 6262

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