Janthina Images’ New Cape Florida Light Card with Bernard Romans’ Map
Janthina Images presents a second in its series of Lighthouse Cards featuring the portion of Bernard Romans’ historical 1774 Map of Florida where the lighthouse was later situated. The subject of this card is the Cape Florida Lighthouse which sits at the southernmost tip of Key Biscayne and today marks the Florida Channel which is the deepest natural channel into Biscayne Bay.
In the process of working with this particular portion of the map I’d noticed that Romans seemed to have labeled Cape Florida as “FoolsCape”. Curiosity led to a search for information…was Fools Cape indeed Cape Florida? If so, what happened to the cartographer to cause him to reference it in this way. Another early cartographer, De Brahm, placed Cape Florida at 4 ½ minutes south and 23 minutes west of its current coordinates. The same source acknowledges it as an accurate fix for the period and that Bernard Romans placed the same point calling it Fools Cape at about 25° 43’ N, 79° 36’ W. ,So, yes, Fools Cape is Cape Florida.
Bernard Romans as it happens is a wonderfully interesting historical figure of whom I knew nothing until becoming attached to his map of Florida. I would encourage anyone to read more about him. He was born around 1720 in the Netherlandsand was educated there. Arrival in the Americas was about 1757 when he was working for the British as a merchant seaman; he sailed under the British Flag as a privateer during the Seven Year’s War. Romans continued to go to sea after the war and in 1766-67 commanded the sloop Mary. On the second voyage, his ship along with much of his personal wealth was lost to the treacherous reefs near Cape Florida. I can only surmise that this episode colored his label, Fools Cape!
Romans then turned to surveying and in 1768 the British Crown appointed him the principal deputy surveyor for the British colonies (Southern District ) which included East and West Florida. The maps that he produced are considered some of the most significant works of the eighteenth century for these areas. Romans was also engaged in the exploration for new plant specimens and pursued botany with great success.
Like John James Audubon did with his Birds of America, Romans had ambitious plans for a large book about Florida with many copper engravings and large maps entitled “A Concise Natural History of East and West Florida”. And like Audubon, was heavily engaged in the effort to sign up subscribers in advance to meet publishing costs. At this point it is interesting to remember what else was happening inAmerica. Paul Revere was engaged to engrave most of the plates for the book. The book was ready for delivery in late April of 1775 and his notice to subscribers that it was ready for delivery was just eight days after the Battles of Lexington andConcord.
Besides being a seaman, privateer, surveyor, cartographer, botanist, artist, and writer, Romans was a highly regarded participant in the American Revolution and actively worked and fought for American Independence. He was in Boston when the Boston Tea Party occurred and Wikipedia quotes his description of tea as “a despicable weed, and of late attempted to be made a dirty conduit, to lead a stream of oppressions into these happy regions.”
We hope that you might enjoy the card, but even more so the historical context of these sections of Bernard Romans’ maps drawn during such exciting times in America!
For ordering the card go here: