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18th century views of Madeira from the sea

Borda, Jean-Charles. “CARTE DES ILES CANARIES et d’une Partie DES COTES OCCIDENTALES D’AFRIQUE : ” 1780. [1]

The island of Madeira is accompanied by that of Porto Santo to the north-east and the Desertas to the south-east.  A few days sailing to the south are the seven main islands of the Canaries.  A number of 18th charts include views of the various islands, noting the heading and distance from which they were taken.  I am no cartographer but with the inaccuracies of calculating longitude, published views of the islands no doubt helped ensure you were sailing towards the correct island.

Borda, Jean-Charles. “CARTE DES ILES CANARIES et d’une Partie DES COTES OCCIDENTALES D’AFRIQUE : ” 1780. [1]

For views of Madeira, it is often the island of Porto Santo that is featured.  I assume the more northern position and route followed, meant it was sighted first.  In Borda’s CARTE DES ILES CANARIES et d’une Partie DES COTES OCCIDENTALES D’AFRIQUE (1780) the island of Madeira or “Grande Isle” appears towering behind Porto Santo.

Fleurieu, Charles-Pierre Claret de. “A CHART of the COAST of AFRICA From the STREIGHTS of GIBRALTAR to CAPE BLANCO, with MADERA & the CANARY ISLANDS” 1781. [2]

The view in Charles-Pierre Claret de Fleurieu’s A CHART of the COAST of AFRICA From the STREIGHTS of GIBRALTAR to CAPE BLANCO, with MADERA & the CANARY ISLANDS (1781) includes two views of Madeira along with one of Porto Santo.  The details are rounded compared to the jagged, rocky nature of Borda’s view.

Porquet.  “Côtes des isles de Porto Santo et Madère”. 18th century. [3]

My favorite view is the undated 18th century piece by J. Porquet Côtes des isles de Porto Santo et Madère. I do not see a large corpus of work for Porquet, just a few pieces.  This view was made for Le service hydrographique et océanographique de la Marine so I can only imagine there are other maps or views.  I particularly like it because Porquet includes the brumes or mist that can cling to the peaks of Madeira.  It is these heavy clouds which early explorers mistook for “vapours rising from the mouth of hell”.

Porquet.  “Côtes des isles de Porto Santo et Madère”. 18th century. [3]


[1] Borda, Jean-Charles. “CARTE DES ILES CANARIES et d’une Partie DES COTES OCCIDENTALES D’AFRIQUE : ” 1780. Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans, CPL GE SH 18 PF110 DIV 2 P 15. URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb410597102

[2] Fleurieu, Charles-Pierre Claret de. “A CHART of the COAST of AFRICA From the STREIGHTS of GIBRALTAR to CAPE BLANCO, with MADERA & the CANARY ISLANDS” 1781. Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans, CPL GE SH 18 PF110 DIV 2 P 16. URL: https://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb41060200d

[3] Porquet.  “Côtes des isles de Porto Santo et Madère”. 18th century.  Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans, GE SH 18 PF 120 DIV 1 P 16. URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb43602214n

“wee…put to sea, setting our course for the Ilands of Madera”: A few charts of Madeira

Heather, William. A New Chart of the Madeira and Canary Islands. 1801. Norman B. Leventhal Map Center.  The Boston Public Library. [1]

The exact latitude of Madeira was not settled until 1822 with early accounts reflecting the uncertainty of even reaching it. John Huyghen van Linshoten, the Dutch merchant who published detailed nautical maps which opened up trade to the East Indies, departed Lisbon on April 8, 1583, writing that they “put to sea, setting our course for the Ilands of Madera, and so putting our trust in God, without whose favour and help we can doe nothing, and all our actions are but vaine, we sayled forwards.”[2]  Seven days later he sighted land.

Over the next few centuries ships were still able to reach Madeira in approximately the same time.  Vice Admiral William Fitzwilliam Owen made the same journey in the admittedly quick period of six days.[3]  Despite the ability to find Madeira by ship, the uncertainty of its longitude is exhibited in maps of the period.  This, of course, was caused by the limitations of chronometers. While the rates of the chronometers were measured in order to improve latitude calculations, the changing behavior of the rates, though often recognized, could not be.

Bellin, Jacques-Nicolas. 1753. CARTE REDUITE DES COSTES OCCIDENTALES D’AFRIQUE. Bibliothèque nationale de France. [4]

In maps of the period, the island of Madeira appears at slightly different locations.  Two maps that highlight this issue include Jacque-Nicolas Bellin’s Carte Reduite des Costes Occidentales d’Afrique (1753) which puts Funchal east of 17° London meridian and William Heather’s A New Chart of the Madeira and Canary Islands (1801) which puts it just west.

Heather, William. A New Chart of the Madeira and Canary Islands. 1801. Norman B. Leventhal Map Center.  The Boston Public Library. [1]

These limitations in calculating longitude were known so chronometers and sightings were taken at reference locations.  In Europe, the arsenal in Lisbon might be the first reference point in calculating the location of Madeira.  The consul’s garden in Funchal would be a reference in Madeira.  Just a few days sail away, the various islands and peaks of the Canary islands were used.  As a result, longitudinal reference lines often appear running through Madeira down to El  Hierro and Teneriffe.

Plusieurs routes d’Ouessant a Madere. 18th century. Bibliothèque nationale de France. [5]

Depending upon the mapmaker, maps of the period might reference the meridian to Rome, Paris, or London.  I have included a final, unattributed French map from the 18th century.  This detail shows numerous routes taken from the French island of Ushant in the English Channel down to Madeira.  There appear to be slightly different locations for Funchal between the pencil and pen versions.


[1] Heather, William. A New Chart of the Madeira and Canary Islands. 1801. Norman B. Leventhal Map Center.  The Boston Public Library.  Call #:
G9150 1801 .H43 URL: https://collections.leventhalmap.org/search/commonwealth:kk91fr30b

[2] Burnell, Arthur Coke.  “The Voyage of John Huygen Van Linschoten to the East Indies. Vol 1”.  The Hakluyt Society.1885. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=R2c_AAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

[3] Owen, William Fitzwilliam. “Table of latitudes and longitudes by chronometer of places in the Atlantic”. 1827. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=R2c_AAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

[4] Bellin, Jacques-Nicolas. 1753. CARTE REDUITE DES COSTES OCCIDENTALES D’AFRIQUE. Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans, CPL GE SH 18 PF110 DIV 2 P13/1. URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb41059484s

[5] Plusieurs routes d’Ouessant a Madere. 18th century. Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans, GE SH 18 PF 118 P 54 D. URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb43600492h

“Madeira, the town of Funchal, and the eastern end of the island” 1842

“Madeira, the town of Funchal, and the eastern end of the island”. Porcher, Edwin Augustus. April 1842. National Library of Australia. [1]

Commander Edwin Augustus Porcher (1824-1878) was a naval officer and draughtsmen.[2]  He was a member of the four year voyage of the H.M.S. Fly (1842-1846), commanded by Captain F. P. Blackwood, which made a hydrographic survey of the north-east coast of Australia and other islands.  Throughout this survey, Porcher made a number of watercolor views of places they visited, including the picture of Madeira featured in this post.

The H.M.S. Fly was to make a specific survey of the Great Barrier Reef to discover gaps through which ships could pass.  Without accurate charts, ships would continue to be lost.  Before the survey could begin, the H.M.S Fly was to visit Madeira to verify the rates of her chronometers.[3]

Chronometers were required to calculate longitude.  Chronometers did not keep perfect time so it was important to measure how much time they lost or gained per day.  This rate would then be used for a more accurate calculation.  Madeira was the island of choice for the British Board of Longitude determined the longitude of Madeira in 1822.  Thus the H.M.S. Fly with her tender the Bramble schooner, arrived at Madeira on April 18, 1842 where they spent the next few days calibrating their chronometers.  We do not know of Porcher drank any Madeira, presumably he did.  His journals survive in the National Library of Australia so perhaps someone can take a look!


[1] Porcher, Edwin Augustus. “Madeira, the town of Funchal, and the eastern end of the island”. Porcher, Edwin Augustus. April 1842. PIC Drawer 3531 #R5723. National Library of Australia. URL: https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-135137487/view

[2] Porcher, Edwin Augustus (-1878). Biographies.  Trove, National Library of Australia. URL: https://trove.nla.gov.au/people/565304?c=people

[3] Jukes, Joseph Beete. “Narrative of the Surveying Voyage of H. M. S. Fly, Commanded by Captain F. P. Blackwood in Torres Strait, New Guinea, and Other Islands of the Eastern Archipelago, During the Years 1842 – 46”.   1847. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=IEdCAAAAcAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s

“How to Dispense With Servants in the Dining Room” yet still drink wine c. 1921

William Heath Robinson’s “How to Dispense With Servants in the Dining Room” is one of four drawings which appeared in “The Sketch” during 1921.  This is the only image of the four that contains bottles of wine.  It appears that the bottles arrive from the cellar via a circular contraption under the dining room table.  A wine bottle, fastened tight to a stand, is opened by pulling on the chain connected to a corkscrew.  Finally, the thirsty man pours his glass of wine by tilting a lever connected to a wine bottle balanced on a stand.  As for everyone else, the woman, boy, and even the cat all have their own contraptions to aide with dinner.

“How to dispense with servants in the dining room” by William Heath Robinson. [1]


[1] Robinson, William Heath. “How to Dispense With Servants in the Dining Room”. 1874-1944. The British Museum.  Number 1967,1014.140. Image License CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. URL: https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=737407&partId=1

An Afternoon with Mature Wine – Old Cali Back Labels

November 20, 2018 Leave a comment

An Afternoon with Mature Wine – Old Nebbiolo Back Labels

November 17, 2018 Leave a comment

An 18th century Portrait of Two Men Holding Wine Glasses

November 14, 2018 Leave a comment

Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne; Henry Clinton, 7th Earl of Lincoln by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt. c. 1721. [1]

While I think about the history of wine during the day and dream about it at night, glass is on my mind as of late.  The two men in this portrait were members of the 18th century Kit Kat club of London.  Apparently, the heavy baluster wine glasses they are holding are thought to have been designed specifically for club meetings.


[1] Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne; Henry Clinton, 7th Earl of Lincoln by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt oil on canvas, circa 1721 NPG 3215 © National Portrait Gallery, London. URL: https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw03915/Thomas-Pelham-Holles-1st-Duke-of-Newcastle-under-Lyne-Henry-Clinton-7th-Earl-of-Lincoln?