Unrecorded two-sheet map of the Americas, issued by Robert Sayer after the French and Indian War

[Anonymous], A New and Exact MAP of AMERICA And the WEST INDIA ISLANDS, According to the Definitive Treaty Concluded at Paris. London: Robert Sayer, [ca. 1767-1770.]
Engraving on two sheets joined, 22”h x 37”w at neat line plus margins, outline color. Some soiling and spotting, fading to outline color, and a tiny patch to an area of loss at the central fold intersection. About very good.

An exciting discovery, being an entirely unrecorded, highly-decorative, two-sheet map of the Americas, published by Robert Sayer after the end of the French and Indian War.

For the most part, the geography of Sayer’s is clearly derived from the work of Herman Moll, and is very much of the period of the 1720s (Note, for example, the treatment of the Pacific Northwest and the island California, both cribbed from Moll’s Map of North America.) However, Sayer updates eastern North America by the addition of the colony of Georgia (est. 1733), the revision of the course of the Mississippi and a shifting to the east of its outlet in the Gulf of Mexico, and the changing of boundaries to reflect the outcome of the French and Indian War. In this regard, the colonies of the eastern seaboard now extend west to the Mississippi, and to the north one finds the province of Quebec, and in the south the provinces of East Florida and West Florida, all established in 1763.

Within the blank areas of the map are a large inset of the North Pole, versions of the famous “Beaver” scene of Niagara falls and the “Cod-fishery” scene of Newfoundland found on earlier maps by Herman Moll, and small insets of ports along the East Coast and in the Caribbean. The map gains further visual impact from the two side panels, the left-hand border depicting native American scenes in North America, the right-hand border scenes in Florida, the Caribbean, and South America. These images can be traced all the way back to the engravings in Theodore de Bry’s Les Grands Voyages.

Publication history
The cartouche lists publisher Robert Sayer’s address as 53 Fleet Street, where he operated from 1767 until his death in 1794 (Worms & Baynton-Williams, British Map Engravers, p. 587) This, coupled with the title’s reference to the 1763 Treaty of Paris, suggests the map should be dated to the early end of this range, say 1767-1770.

With important exceptions, the map closely follows one published by John Bowles and advertised in his 1728 catalogue of maps.[1] While no example of a first printing of Bowles’ map is known, later printings from the 1730s and 1770s survive for comparison. There is no question that the map by Sayer offered here is from a different plate, the most obvious “tells” being the updated treatment of eastern North America and the fact that the images in the side panels are each engraved in reverse.

It is worth noting that in the early part of his career Sayer is known for reusing existing plates, acquiring them from, among others, Philip & Mary Overton as well as George Foster. It is possible that Sayer first obtained this plate from Foster, as the latter specialised in decorative maps of this type more so than the Overtons.  It is also possible that Sayer first issued the map at the outset of the French and Indian War and then recycled it after the war, amending the title to reflect British victory. Supporting this latter speculation is the fact that, to the west of the Mississippi River the “France” in “New France” has been burnished out, presumably an imperfect attempt to indicate France’s loss of its North American territory in 1763 (There is also evidence of re-engraving off the East Coast near Charleston and Savannah.)

For now at least, all of this is pure speculation, as the map offered here is the only known surviving impression from the plate.

There is also a possible reference to a later printing, in Sayer and Bennett’s extensive catalogue from 1775. This description matches our map quite exactly, except for the addition of “a detached Plan of the Colony of Georgia”:

9. America, from the latest Observations and Improvements, containing that vast Continent, with the several Islands, &c. that border on or are near its Shores. In this Map is a detached Plan of the Colony of Georgia, which is not extant in any other Work of this Sort; also the Harbours of Boston, and Port-Royal: embellished with a View of the great Temple at Mexico, the God of the Mexicans, their Marriages, &c. also a Representation of the Method of fishing, curing, and drying Cod by the Newfoundland People; the great fall of Water at Niagara, in which View is exhibited the Manner of the Beavers building their Houses and damming up Currents of Water; also the Customs of the Virginians, Peruvians, and other American Nations.”

Robert Sayer
Sayer was born in about 1725, and may be the Robert Sayer recorded in 1743 as a clerk in the Bank of England. In January 1747, his elder brother James married Mary Overton, widow and successor of Philip Overton, he in turn the son of John Overton and brother of Henry Overton (I). Sayer decided on a career change; after a period working with Mary Overton, Sayer took over he business, with records showing that he was in control no later than December 1748.

Philip Overton’s business was principally as a print-maker, -publisher and seller, with a relatively small side-line in maps, many of them old plates owned in loose partnerships, such as maps from William Berry’s world atlas (1680s) and Herman Moll’s The world described (1714-1717), to which he quickly added a share in the maps in John Senex’s English Atlas. As with the print business, the early emphasis was on the visual—“eye candy”—rather than cutting-edge cartography.

It was really only with the bankruptcy of Thomas Jefferys in 1766 that Sayer migrated more towards higher-quality maps. He formed a short-lived partnership with Jefferys in a failed attempt to rescue the Jefferys business. With the bankruptcy of Jefferys, Sayer emerged with ownership of many valuable manuscript materials that in the second part of his career, along with the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, helped launch him as one of London’s leading map publishers in London.

Not in Seller, Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies; OCLC; or Library Hub Discover; a Google search comes up empty; and RareBookHub lists no examples having appeared on the antiquarian market.

[1] “5. A new and correct Map of America, done from the latest Observations and Discoveries. This Map is perfectly new, and on one Side of it are engraved the Representations of the Manners, Customs and Habits of the Natives of Virginia, and on the other Side the Representations of the Customs and Manners of the Natives of divers other Parts of America.”