IMRAY, James (1803–1870). Chart of the Coast of California. London: James Imray, 1849.

$ 3,700.00

IMRAY, James (1803–1870). Chart of the Coast of California from San Blas to San Francisco Drawn Chiefly from the Spanish Surveys, the Charts of Vancouver, etc. The Whole Much Improved by Recent Observations made by English and French Naval Officers. London: Published by James Imray, Chart and Nautical Book Publisher, 102 Minories,1849. 

2 sheets joined (26 4/8 x 56 6/8 inches). Fine engraved chart of the West Coast of California from the harbour of San Blas in Mexico to north of San Francisco Bay, with the Gulf of California and the Baja peninsula, with 6 insets of bays and 8 coastal profiles, with 3 compass roses, lines of latitude and longitude, laid down on blue paper for rolling, trimmed with linen (some pale waterstaining).

Provenance: sold by Benj. Loring & Co. of Boston, with their printed label on the verso; with a few manuscript additions of a ship's course approaching San Francisco Bay with the dates 30th April 1854 and 1st of May; with Randall House, 12/80; from the important cartographical library of Warren Heckrotte, his sale, Rare Cartography, Exploration and Voyages, Part II, December 3, 2015, Lot 172

A fine and detailed and large-scale map of the West Coast of California from the harbour of San Blas in Mexico to north of San Francisco Bay, with the Gulf of California and the Baja peninsula, with insets of: "Entrance of San Francisco Harbour"; "Harbour of San Francisco By Capn. F.W. Beechey R.N. F.R.S."; and "Bay of Monterey By M. de Tessan of the French Navy", and also of Magdalen Bay, Mazatlan, and Guaymas.

Warren Heckrotte asserts that "This was probably the best chart of the West Coast available in 1849."

This is Chart No 8, "being the continuation of a series of charts for the navigation of the East and West Coast of America:

No.1 The Coast of Columbia and Caribbean Sea

No.2 The North Coast of Brazil  

No.3 The Coast of Brazil, from the Equator to Rio Janeiro

No.4 The Coast of Brazil, from Cape Frio to the River Plate

No.5 River Plate to Valparaiso

No.6 Valparaiso to Lima and Panama

No. 7 Western Coast of North America, from Nicoya to San Blas. King, Western Hist. Quarterly X, pp 283-302.

"Imray's own particular interest was in chart compilation and he expanded his list beyond home trade waters with new charts of American and eastern seas. The publication of sailing directions, the manufacture and sale of nautical instruments (with which the firm had widened its services to navigators), and the nautical academy all flourished. In 1854, when his elder son, James Frederick Imray (1829–1891), became a partner in the book and instrument sides of the business, the firm became James Imray & Son.  

"By the 1860s Imray had become the leading British commercial chart publisher and was operating from three premises: 89 Minories housed chart publication, 102 Minories chart and books sales and the nautical academy, and 1 Postern Row the instrument shop. The majority of the fast-growing British merchant fleet used his charts because, although accurate Admiralty charts were now available, merchant shipmasters still preferred the charts of commercial publishers, named ‘blue backs’ from their distinctive blue paper backing, and particularly James Imray's blue backs. They were popular because they retained the traditional format of a small-scale general chart with many large-scale insets of harbours. They were designed to answer the needs of a particular voyage conveniently and used modern survey material, now available from Admiralty and foreign government charts. They were more expensive than Admiralty charts, but fewer of them were needed because for some voyages they provided all that was required on a single chart; they were also accompanied by complementary sailing directions.  

"As official surveys of Australia, New Zealand, the north-west coast of America, and the coast of Chile became available, Imray used them to compile charts designed for wool clippers, gold rush ships, and copper and nitrate clippers. As the influence of the East India Company waned and eastern seas opened to all British ships he published new charts of the Indian and Pacific oceans, followed by popular series of larger scale charts for the intricate passages through the eastern archipelago and on to China. Charts for particular trades were promoted with labels such as ‘Rice ports of India’ [as here] and ‘Cotton ports of Georgia’. Before he died his catalogue listed over 150 charts. He also led the defence of the private publishers against increasing Admiralty competition and in 1865 acquired the Mercantile Marine Magazine, the mouthpiece of the private publishers, edited by his navigation teacher W. H. Rosser.  "Imray's success was founded on shrewd business skills and an appreciation of his customers' needs. Although he expanded the firm's other activities his heart was in chart publishing and he always kept personal control of this. He was the leading private chart publisher of the day, standing head and shoulders above his competitors. His name was virtually synonymous with the term ‘blue back’: Thomas Gray, of the marine department of the Board of Trade, wrote in 1875 that ‘I only know of Imray's charts (i.e. the blue backs) as running the Admiralty charts close’ (Memorandum relating to the Supply and Correction of Charts, Board of Trade departmental paper, no. 79, 1882)." (Susanna Fisher for DNB). This map listed by Lieut. Warren on his map as one of his authorities. UC-B has an 1851 edition. Orozco y Berra lists an 1854 edition; no. 1289.