A landmark New Jersey map, engraved in Colonial Boston

James Alexander (compiler) / Engrav'd & Printed by James Turner near the Town House Boston N. England, [Northern New Jersey] MAP No. III. Protracted by Scale of 150 Chains to an Inch. [New York, 1747].
Engraving, 11"h x 24 ¼"w at plate mark on a 14"h x 25 ¼"w sheet, uncolored

A landmark map of northern New Jersey and a desirable example of early Colonial engraving and printing.

This map was one of three to appear in the 1747 Bill in the Chancery of New Jersey, a vital document reflecting long-standing land disputes of colonial New Jersey. An invaluable review of Colonial New Jersey land ownership and land disputes, the Bill is remarkable for other reasons as well: Its primary author, James Alexander, is best remembered as one of the defense lawyers in Peter Zenger’s landmark trial for libel; Benjamin Franklin was intimately involved in its production; and it contains some of the first maps engraved and printed in Boston.

The Bill was filed in 1745 by the Proprietors of East New Jersey to represent their point of view in a land dispute with settlers around Elizabeth:

“The controversy began in March 1664 when Charles II conveyed all of the land between the Connecticut colony and the Delaware River to the Duke of York…. The Duke of York sent Colonel Richard Nicolls to capture the Middle Atlantic colonies, and by May this region was under English rule and Nicolls was appointed governor.

“The Duke of York subsequently granted the New Jersey proprietary to John, Lord Berkeley, and Sir George Carteret. Before Nicolls learned [of the grant], he gave the settlers living in the area of Elizabethtown permission of purchase titles to their lands from the Delaware Indians. Nicolls’s actions led to years of litigation over who actually possessed title because the settlers claimed possession based on their Indian deeds and the colony maintained that the lands belong to the proprietorship.” (Pritchard and Taliaferro, p. 150)

In the 1740s James Alexander, a prominent New Yorker with a personal interest in the case, undertook on behalf of the proprietors of East New Jersey to assemble the evidence for a Bill in Chancery to settle the matter. Alexander consulted Benjamin Franklin concerning publication, and the letterpress printing was executed by Franklin’s New York business partner James Parker. The Bill also included as exhibits three maps, with the text making numerous references to each. These are some of the earliest maps drawn and engraved in the colonies in general and Boston in particular.

The maps were drafted by Alexander, and Lewis Evans originally received a commission to produce 40 copies of each in manuscript (This would have been less expensive than engraving a plate and running off such a small number of copies.) However, when the print run of the Bill itself increased to 250, at Franklin’s advice Alexander commissioned James Turner of Boston to render the maps as engravings. Turner was a prominent engraver who later moved to Philadelphia, where among other commissions he executed the engraving for Scull’s map of Pennsylvania and Lewis Evans’ General Map of the Middle British Colonies.

Offered here is the third of the three maps, which focuses on the contested region, comprising much of northeastern New Jersey. The map shows considerably more geographic detail than any earlier map of the area. The emphasis is however on the property boundaries established by many dozens of surveys completed between 1676 and 1743, along with numerous historical notes relevant to the dispute (The use of the map is explained on page 23 of the Bill, and the ownership history of the many plots is detailed in “Schedule III on pages 88-91.) Also of note is the north-south “Quintipartite Line,” the boundary line established after the “Quintipartite Deed” of 1676 created East and West New Jersey and provided for the sale of the latter to the Quakers.

Phillips, Maps of America, p. 481. Wheat & Brun, #398. Background from George J. Miller, “The Printing of the Elizabethtown Bill in Chancery,” Pamphlet Series No. 1: Addresses before the Board of Proprietors of the Eastern Division of New Jersey. Perth Amboy, 1942. Additional background from Pritchard and Taliaferro, Degrees of Latitude.


Some toning, else excellent