Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Historic Map for a Historic Visit

In honor of President Obama’s recent and historic visit to Cuba (the first by a sitting president since Calvin Coolidge’s 1928 trip), please enjoy this beautiful map of East Florida, Cuba, and the Bahamas from the library’s world class collection of maps and atlases.

Thomas Jefferys, 1794

Dating from 1794, this map was the creation of well-known cartographer, Thomas Jefferys and was produced by the London firm of Laurie and Whittle. Occupying offices on London’s famed Fleet Street, Laurie and Whittle were in the business of publishing maps, engravings, and nautical charts from 1794 until well into the 19th century.

Under Spanish rule at the time, this map depicts Cuba’s coastline in great detail. The diagonal lines placed seemingly at random are called rhumb lines and were used to help sailors chart their course. Given these details, we can assume this map was published as a navigational tool that would have been of great use to sailors or explorers.

This is one of many fascinating maps donated to the library by Rucker Agee, a lifelong map collector and enthusiast. The library has also benefited from the donations of fellow collectors John C. Henley, III, James Woordward, and Dr. Charles Ochs. Thanks to their generosity, the Birmingham Public Library houses a truly extraordinary map collection. Please stay tuned as we post more about our maps in anticipation of our upcoming exhibit, Sweet Home: Alabama’s History in Maps. Scheduled to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Alabama’s statehood, this exhibit will tell the story of Alabama from the time of the earliest explorations to the present day.

Mary Beth Newbill
Central Branch
Southern History Department

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