A topographical description and admeasurement of the island of Barbados


Cartography, art and narrative combine in this richly illustrated King's Topographical Collection map showing Barbados. It was created by the British author Richard Ligon (?1585–1662) for his True and Exact Historie of the Island of Barbadoes, an historical account incorporating his own experiences of living there as a plantation manager between 1647 and 1650. Ligon is thought to have adapted an existing plan of Barbados by the surveyor John Swan. 

Camels, chivalric knights on horseback, and the stylised figure of an indigenous man called ‘Salymingoe’ are flourishes of fantasy and exoticism amongst the trees, mountains and settlements one would expect to see in a map. Cows, boar and sheep suggest the fertility of the island, while a scene depicted at top left speaks of the Barbadian slave trade. A white man on horseback can be seen chasing two slaves, shooting at them with a musket. They are escapees from one of the many plantations which covered the island. 

Like Britain’s other Caribbean colonies, the sugar cane industry was Barbados’ main source of wealth, run on a workforce of enslaved Africans. No plantations are actually shown on the map, despite the roster of Barbadian landowners inscribed along the bottom and the area roughly at centre demarcated as the ‘tenn Thousande Acres of Lande which Belongeth to the Merchants of London’.

Full title:
A topographicall Description and Admesurement of the YLAND of BARBADOS in the West INDYAES : With the Mrs. Names of the Severall plantacons
1657, London
Humphrey Moseley
Engraving / Map
Richard Ligon
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Maps K.Top.123.114

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