The “Eliot map” of the young United States

J.B. Eliot, Aide de Camp du General Washington, Carte de Theatre de la Guerre actuel entre les Anglais et les trieze Colonies Unies de l'Amerique Septentrionale. Paris, 1778/1781 .
Engraving, 27 ½"h x 21 ½"w plus margins, original outline color
$18,500

A fine example of the very rare second state of J. B. Eliot’s map of the United States, with additional annotations in a contemporary hand. The first state of the map, issued in 1778, is believed to be the earliest printed map to name the “United States.”

Eliot’s attractive map depicts the colonies from southern Maine to Virginia, with coverage as far west as the Great Lakes. The map shows colonial boundaries highlighted in outline color; cities and towns, with a distinct symbol employed for Indian towns; major roads; and dozens of forts, military outposts, and camps (Eliot employs a variety of symbols to indicate these installations, with separate symbols apparently reserved for fortresses, smaller forts, and camps along lines of march.) The whole is adorned by a large, ornamental cartouche flanked by flags, implements of war and a generic battle scene.

Offered here is the second state of the map, issued in 1781, with significant additions and changes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania (For example, “Walay Forge” has been corrected to “Valley Forge,” and its location moved to the correct bank of the Schuykill River.) Also on this state, the locations of major Revolutionary engagements numbered on the map and explained by a legend at lower right. The final item is #10, the “Camp du General Washington” at Yorktown in 1781, with a manuscript notation below it indicating the “Surrender of L. Cornwallis 19 Oct. at York river.”

The map was originally issued on the occasion of the conclusion of the Franco-American alliance in 1778, which followed closely the capture of General Burgoyne’s army at Saratoga. Pritchard and Taliaferro’s Degrees of Latitude offers a helpful discussion of the map’s significance and its mysterious maker:

“The map is important because its title, les Trieze Colonies Unies de l’Amerique Septentrionale, may include the first reference on a map to the United States. The cartographer was identified as Ingenieurs des Etats Unis. On November 15, 1777, the Continental Congress selected “The United States of America,” as the name of the thirteen colonies that formed a government under the Articles of Confederation. One month later, French authorities learned of the victory at Saratoga and decided to recognize American independence. By January 8, French foreign minister, Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes, informed American envoys that France was ready to engage in an alliance. It is not surprising that the name United States was first mentioned on a map published in Paris in 1778.

 

“Although the second state of the map referred to Eliot as an aide-de-campe to General Washington, no references to him have been located in the Washington papers. It is also curious that he did not indicate on the map the General’s 1777 winter headquarters at Valley Forge, mispelled Walay Forge. What Eliot did illustrate were the lines of march taken by the British and American forces during the campaign in 1777, including Lieutenant Colonel Barry St. Ledger’s unsuccessful diversionary expedition down the Mohawk Valley, Burgoyne`s march from Crown Point to Albany, and Howe`s campaign to take Philadelphia.

 

“As was usually the case, Eliot appears to have borrowed from several sources in compiling the geography. Some areas were designated by French place-names while others are predominantly English, specifically in the northwestern territories that the French knew best. It is clear they were aware of the latest intelligence relating to the Revolutionary War.”

In the second state of the map offered here, Eliot’s title has been changed from “Ingenieurs des Etats Unis” to “Aide de Camp du General Washington.” While Ristow speculated that J.B. Eliot may have been a liason between General Washington and France, there is no record of any military officer of this name serving in such capacity in the Department des Cartes et Plans in the Bibliotheque Nationale de France.

Both states of Eliot’s map are very rare. The first state of the map last appeared on the open market at a Sotheby`s London auction in 1998, where it was described as one of only 6 known examples, and another example traded privately in recent years. This writer finds no record of the second state of the map appearing on the market at auction or a dealer catalogue.

References
Baynton-Williams, “Early Maps of the United States,” #2 (at MapForum.com). Phillips, Maps of America, #859. Pritchard and Taliaferro, Degrees of Latitude, #58. Ristow, American Maps and Mapmakers, pp. 61-62 (ill.) Schwartz and Ehrenberg, The Mapping of America, plate 122.

Condition

Wide margins and a fine dark impression. Repair and minor stain at fold intersection in the Atlantic Ocean and repaired tear at the left margin, extending into the printed images just above the title cartouche.