A Map of the West-Indies 

A Map of the West-Indies 
or the islands of America in the North Sea
Herman Moll, 1715 
Reproduced from an engraving in the collection of Historic Urban Plans, Ithaca, New York

Hi everyone,

I hope everyone had a great January! This week, I would like to feature this historical map of Caribbean islands entitled “A Map of the West-Indies or the islands of America in the North Sea.” The map was originally produced by the famous British cartographer Herman Moll in the early 18th century; what we have in our collection is a reproduction by the Historic Urban Plans.

As a cartographer active in London, Herman Moll produced numerous regional and world maps that present the expanding British power around the world. Some of his most famed maps include the “Codfish Map” and the “Beaver Map” which were both made to support and publicize the British sovereignty over their colonial lands on the North American continent.

This informative map engraving of the “West-Indies”  too reflects the British perspective of early 18th century colonial politics and commercial activities in today’s Caribbean, Florida, the Gulf Coast, Texas, and Central America. In addition to detailed labels of ports and cities, the West-Indies map also included multiple annotations and comments on places and voyage routes. Moreover, in the upper right corner, there are small sectional maps of the harbors at St. Augustine, Vera Cruz, Havana, Porto Bella, and Cartagena. 

On the lower left of the map, Moll incorporated a cityscape painting of Mexico City to help the British readers contextualize the “new world.” The map is thought to be dedicated to a noble or an aristocrat who Moll addressed as Wil. Peterson. The coat of arms above the title is also likely to belong to this person. 

Have a great week!

Yidan Xu ’24