Boston Harbor, just months before the American Revolution

[For the Gentleman’s Magazine,] A PLAN OF THE TOWN AND CHART of the HARBOUR of BOSTON. [London,] February 1st, 1775.
Engraving, 13 ¼”h x 10 ½”w plus margins, uncolored. Folds as issued, minor offsetting, lower-right margin expertly reinstated. Withal, far better than usual for this chart, with very wide margins.

An attractive little chart of Boston Harbor from the Gentleman’s Magazine issued just a couple of months before Lexington and Concord.

Designed for armchair readers rather than sailors, the chart provides some soundings around the approaches to Boston, as well as indications of shoals and other hazards around the Harbor. On the small, rather schematic plan of Boston one can make out a few features, such as Long Wharf, the Common and the Mill Pond.

The then-geography of Boston is striking. At the time, the city was essentially an island linked to the mainland via a narrow causeway. Plan of the Town of Boston thus provides a kind of “baseline” from which to examine later images of the city, as it predates the extensive filling that created South Boston, Back Bay, and much of East Boston.

The chart was issued in the February 1775 number of The Gentleman’s Magazine and was just one of three Boston-area maps to appear in the Magazine that fateful year. Hungry for news from the Colonies, readers in Great Britain would have reviewed it with considerable interest.

This chart used to be encountered quite frequently on the antiquarian market but has become increasingly scarce.

Jolly, Maps of America in Periodicals Before 1800, #257; Boston Engineering Department, A List of Maps of Boston Published between 1600 and 1903, p. 70.