An atlas for the Sugar Trade
By SAYER, Robert and Thomas JEFFERYS , 1816

A Collection of Accurate Hydrogaphic [sic] Plans, on a large scale, of the Principal Ports, Bays, Roads, and Harbours, in the West-Indies namely, those of the Spanish Main and Florida, of the Islands of Jamaica, Hayti or St. Domingo, Cuba, and Porto Rico: wherein are minutely represented, the Anchoring and Watering Places, Soundings, Rocks, Shoal, &c. Accompanied with a General Chart of the West-Indies

  • Author: SAYER, Robert and Thomas JEFFERYS
  • Publication place: London
  • Publisher: Printed and Published by Robert Laurie and James Whittle, Map, Chart, and Print, [sic] Sellers, No. 53, Fleet Street, 1810 [but James Whittle & Richard Holmes Laurie
  • Publication date: 1816]
  • Physical description: Large folio (530 by 365mm), printed white paper front wrapper, blue paper lower wrapper, 40 numbered engraved charts on 20 leaves, disbound.
  • Inventory reference: 15138


Laurie and Whittle’s abridged edition of Robert Sayer’s ‘West India Atlas’ published in 1794. The atlas, the brain-child of Thomas Jefferys, was first published in 1778, and designed to aid the highly lucrative sugar trade, which by this point accounted for around one-fifth of all imports to Europe, eighty percent of which was supplied by French and British colonies in the West Indies. Unfortunately, Europe’s insatiable desire for sugar drove a viler – although no less lucrative – trade: that of the trafficking of slaves from the west coast of Africa to the Caribbean plantations. It is estimated that by the time the atlas was published, some 400,000 enslaved people were at work in the British Caribbean colonies.

Unfortunately, Thomas Jefferys would not live to see the publication of his ‘West Indian Atlas’, and it was left to Robert Sayer who, in partnership with John Bennett, acquired his materials and published the atlas posthumously under Jefferys’ name. The work was evidently a commercial success as there were five subsequent editions under the Sayer and Bennett imprint. In 1794 an expanded and modified version with 61 plates was published under Sayer’s sole imprint. In the same year Laurie & Whittle acquired Sayer’s plates, and they published a further version with the same title-page, but with their imprint. Charts 29 and 30 of Guantanamo and St. Yago, bear the imprint of James Whittle and Richard Holmes Laurie, Robert Laurie’s son, who succeed his father towards the end of his life.

1. ‘Plan of the Road and Town of La Guayra on the Coast of Caraccas’
2. ‘Plan of Puerto Cavello, on the Coast of the Caracas’; 12th May, 1794
3. ‘Plan of the Bay and Town of St. Martha on the Coast of Terra Firma’
4. ‘Plan of the Harbour of Carthagena’
5. ‘The Gulf of Morosquillo’,
6. ‘A Plan of Portobello Harbour’
7. ‘Plan of the Road and Harbour of Chagre with the Town and Castle’
8. ‘A Draught of the Bahias del Almirante named the Buccaniers Bocatoro’
9. ‘A Draught of Blewfields lagoon on the Moskito Shore’
10. ‘A Plan of Truxillo Bay, called also St. Giles’s Bay’
11. ‘A Draught of the Harbour of San Fernando de Omoa’
12. ‘Plan of the Road and Port of La Vera Cruz’
13. ‘The Entrance of the River Missisipi at Fort Balise’
14. ‘A Draught of the Entrance of Mobile’
15. ‘A Plan of Mobile Bar’
16. ‘Plan of the Harbour of Pensacola’
17. ‘A Plan of the Entrances of Tampa bay, on the West Coast of Florida’
18. ‘Plan of Lucia Harbour and Mantega Bay’
19. ‘The Harbours of Port Antonio, in Jamaica’
20. ‘Plan of Bahia Honda, on the North Side of Cuba’
21. ‘Plan of Port Cavanas, on the North Side of Cuba’
22. ‘Plan of Port Mariel on the North Side of Cuba’
23. ‘Plan of the City and Harbour of Havanna’
24. ‘Plan of the Bay of Matanzas, on the North Side of Cuba’
25. ‘Plan of the Nuevitas Harbour in the Island of Cuba’
26. ‘Plan of Great Bay of Nipe on the North side of Cuba’
27. ‘Plan of Barracoa in the Island of Cuba’
28. ‘Plan of Bahia Xagua on the Sout Side of Cuba’
29. ‘Plan of Guantanamo on the South Side of Cuba called by the English Waltenham Bay and Cumberland Harbour’; 12th August 1816
30. ‘The Harbour of St. Yago in the Island of Cuba’; 12th August 1816
31. ‘A Plan of Fort St. Louis Harbour on the South Side of Hispaniola’
32. ‘Petit Guave in the Island of Hispaniola’
33. ‘Leogane and Port au Prince in the Island of Hispaniola’
34. ‘A Plan of Cape Nicola Mole, on the West End of Hispaniola’
35. ‘A Plan of the Road of Port Paix in the Island of Hispaniola’
36. ‘A Plan of the Town and Harbour of Cap Francois in the Island of St. Domingo’
37. ‘Plan of the Bay and Town of Bayaha or Port Dauphin in the Island of Hispaniola’
38. ‘A Plan of Monte-Christe Bay with the Seven Brothers on the North Coast of St. Domingo’
39. ‘A Survey of the West Road of Portico, named by the Spaniards Aguada Nueva or New Watering Place’
40. ‘A Plan of the Forts and Harbour of San Juan de Portico’

The Laurie and Whittle partnership was formed in the late eighteenth century by Robert Laurie (1755-1836) and James Whittle (1757-1818). Laurie was apprenticed to Robert Sayer in 1770 and made free in 1777. He was a skilled artist, who exhibited at the Society of Artists from 1770, winning a silver palette for a drawing in 1770, and he was also an accomplished engraver of mezzotint portraits and produced views and other decorative items. In about 1792 he returned to the Sayer business and took it over from the ailing Sayer in 1794.

Whittle was apprenticed into the Needlemakers’ Company, evidently made free by 1792, and joined with Laurie to take over the Sayer business in 1794.

The foundation of their business was the existing Sayer stock of printing plates, both for maps and atlases and also decorative prints, but they continued to add new material to freshen up the atlases, as well as separately-published maps on topical issues, notably events during the Napoleonic Wars.

Laurie retired in 1812. His son Richard Holmes Laurie replaced him in the partnership and, eventually, took over the firm after Whittle’s death in 1818. Presumably under the influence of Richard Holmes Laurie, the partnership became noted as chartmakers and publishers, with the business existing to the current day as Imray, Laurie, Norie and Wilson.

Rare: no examples have appeared at auction in current records; only two institutional examples are known, one in the BL, and another at the Huntington, which is bound with a two-page chart of the West Indies.


  1. Sabin 14369

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