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Hurd's monumental survey of Bermuda, nine years in the making

The Bermuda Islands, reduced from a Survey Made between the years 1783 & 97.
HURD, Thomas Hannaford 
Hydrographical Office at the Admiralty,
Publication place
Publication date
1827 [but c1850].
655 by 855mm. (25.75 by 33.75 inches).


Engraved map (600 by 760 mm to the neatline, full margins showing the plate mark), margins strengthened on verso.


Thomas Hurd's (1747-1823) monumental survey of Bermuda, begun in 1783, took him nine years to complete, and then another three to compile. The resulting charts contained vital navigational information, extending to beyond the treacherous and protective reef surrounding the islands, with soundings, and information on tides throughout. In fact, it was deemed "too meticulous, and could therefore be an advantageous tool for anyone interested in attacking the island. For this reason, copies of the published chart [as here] had ambiguous markings and false channels drawn in, and the full, original survey remained in the UK Hydrographer's Office until 2009" (Jessie Hallett, 'Lieutenant Thomas Hurd's survey of Bermuda, 1789-97', 2017).

After the Revolutionary War, the character of Bermuda changed completely, with an influx of tens of thousands of displaced loyalists and their slaves from Savannah, Charlestown and East Florida. That, and with the recent loss of the American colonies in mind, the position of Bermuda as a British outpost, between Britain, Halifax and the Caribbean colonies, took on more significance. Hurd's survey had more than underscored the strategic importance of Bermuda to the British, and led directly to the founding of a British Naval base there, on Ireland Island from 1809. Ultimately the largest British overseas naval base until after the Second World War.

Bermuda was discovered by Juan Bermudez in 1505, and named for him. It appeared for the first time on a map in 1511, in Peter Martyr d'Anghiera's map, 'P. Martyris angli mediolanensis opera Legatio babylonica Oceani decas Poemata Epigrammata'. The first thorough survey of Bermuda was made by Richard Norwood for the Somers Isles Company in 1616, compiled in 1622 and then published by John Speed in 1626.

In November 1807, "Hurd was appointed to a committee to advise Alexander Dalrymple, hydrographer to the Admiralty, on the selection of charts for issue to the navy. In May 1808 Hurd was appointed to the post of hydrographer in succession to Dalrymple. During his appointment, there was a significant increase in the number of charts engraved and issued to the navy. He was also able to organize a regular system of surveys under his control by specialist naval officers in command of ships specially allocated for their use. In 1821, he persuaded the Admiralty to place Admiralty charts on sale to the public so that they could be used by ships of the mercantile marine. At the time of his death, probably in London, on 29 April 1823 Hurd was also superintendent of chronometers and a commissioner for the discovery of longitude" (Andrew C.F. David for DNB).

The present chart is an example of the second state (circa 1850): the chart now includes the Gibbs Hill lighthouse; priced at 3 shillings; and with the addition of a central compass-rose, meridian line, and chart number 360.


Land Evans, A Carto-bibliography for Bermuda, 1511-1948, Hurd, state 2.