A most important map, hurried into print in the Summer of 1783 to capitalize on the signing of the Treaty of Paris, in which Great Britain formally recognized American independence. Very rare: one of only thirteen or fourteen known examples, of which only one or at most two are recorded in private hands.
The Treaty of Paris ended the war between Britain and the United States, with the preliminary treaty signed on January 20, 1783 and then ratified with the formal signing on September 3 of that year. London mapmakers rushed to capitalize on these momentous events, and Cary’s Accurate Map of the United States of America map is one of the very first maps published to illustrate the new nation.
Despite the rush to publication, the map has much to recommend it. It displays prominently the Treaty articles pertaining to the newly-recognized international borders and renders these on the map itself. Accordingly, it is far more closely related to the Treaty of Paris than its better-known predecessor, John Wallis’s map of April 1783, the gap in publication between the two having allowed Cary to update the proposed boundaries as negotiations progressed. With its sharply-engraved boundary lines, here highlighted with red outline color, the map makes clear that a massive new nation had come into being, with vast amounts of territory available for settlement and exploitation.
The influence of Jonathan Carver on Cary’s map and the Paris negotiations
Cary’s is also the first general map of North America to integrate the important discoveries made in the explorations of Captain Jonathan Carver in the “Old Northwest” in 1766 and 1767. The map marks “Capt. Carvers Rout 1766-7:” he set out southwards from Fort Michilimackinac to Green Bay and then inland to the Mississippi, from which he travelled upriver before roaming through the interior to Lake Superior, around the Lake, and back to Fort Michilimackinac. With the limitations of space, the region is liberally sprinkled with observations made by Carver, notably “The Mississippi is known no higher that Sr. Francis River” and the comment “The [fur] traders go no further than the falls,” numerous names, villages, river courses and so on.
Benjamin Franklin, a key American negotiator on the peace talks, was acquainted with Carver: They had met in London in 1769, and he owned a copy of Carver’s Travels through the Interior Parts of North-America in the Years 1766, 1767 and 1768, with its highly important “Plan of Captain Travels in the interior Parts of North America in 1766 and 1767.” Franklin also had access to Carver’s Carver’s manuscripts. Thus, Franklin’s knowledge was superior to that of the British, reliant as they were on John Mitchell’s outdated A map of the British and French Dominions in North America (1755), which had been prepared prior to the French and Indian War.
The British believed that the upper Mississippi extended to the latitude of the Lake of the Woods, and on this assumption agreed in the Treaty of Paris that the northern boundary of the United States would run from the Lake “on a due west course to the River Mississippi.” With the benefit of Carver’s findings, however, Franklin knew that the River curved to the West, and that its headwaters were far south of the Lake of the Woods. Thus, a line drawn “on a due west course” from the Lake does not intersect the Mississippi, but extends all the way to the Pacific. This gave the United States a significant advantage in future territorial negotiations, disproving any notion that the United States might be confined by the Mississippi on its western extremity. Whereas Wallis’s map reflects the outdated and incorrect British assumption, Cary’s shows the boundary extending through the Lake of the Woods and indefinitely westward.
John Cary, Sr. (1755-1835)
John Cary, Sr. was described by his biographer, George Fordham, as “the most prominent and successful exponent of his time… the founder of what we may call the modern English school [of mapmaking].” He was remarkably prolific, producing upwards of 1000 plates by one estimate, and supplied England’s growing and increasingly better-educated middle class. This is one of the very first maps engraved and published under Cary’s own imprint and helped launch his cartographic career.
Cary advertised the map thus, “Price two shillings and six-pence, a new and accurate map of the United States of America, with part of the surrounding Provinces, agreeable to the treaty of Peace of 1783, in which their limits are ascertained, and their town laid down by astronomical observations, and other authorities.” (Morning Herald, August 23 1783).
Cary’s map is very rare. We are aware of but two examples having changed hands in the past half century (1969 Streeter Sale and Daniel Crouch Rare Books, Catalogue XV, item 43), to which can be added the following institutional locations: US: Library of Congress; Harvard; Yale; John Carter Brown Library; Clements Library; Boston Public Library; Ohio History Center; Yale Center for British Art and Huntington Library. UK: British Library and Cambridge University Library; Spain: Biblioteca Nacional de España. The location of the Streeter copy is not certain, and it may now be at one of the aforementioned institutions.
Baynton-Williams, “Early Maps of the United States,” MapForum no. 1, item 28. Fordham, p. 11. McCorkle, Mapping of New England, 783.5. Schwartz & Ehrenberg, Mapping of America, p. 205. Streeter Sale, VI, lot 3779 (1969). Background on Cary from Herbert George Fordham, John Cary Engraver, Map, Chart And Print Seller And Globe Maker 1754-1835.
Owned in partnership with Robert Augustyn Antique Maps and Prints.