An attractive example of a landmark map first compiled by Emanuel Bowen and issued by Robert Sayer early in the French and Indian War, here updated to show the outcome of the American Revolution. Thus interesting in its own right, but also a fine example of the long, complicated publication histories of some of the great maps of the 18th century.
The map covers the region from James Bay south to the northern littoral of South America and from the Atlantic to Baja California. At the time it was unusual for such a large-scale map to depict almost the full east-west extent of North America; most contemporary maps, notably those by Popple and Mitchell, extend only to the Mississippi River or just beyond. Insets at upper and lower left depict in detail Baffin and Hudson’s Bay and the head of Gulf of California, the latter explored by Father Eusebio Kino between 1698 and 1701, a journey which finally disproved the long-standing myth of “California as an island”.
The first edition of the map was published in 1755 and presented an assertive cartographic statement of British territorial claims in North America at the expense of France. But the map proved to be a popular, flexible and extremely long lived. Sayer retained the plates and reused them as required, republishing them in 1763 to show Great Britain’s conquests at the end of the French and Indian War, and in 1775 for the outbreak of the Revolutionary War.
Offered here is the tenth of 12 known states, issued in 1786 and interesting primarily for reflecting the terms of the Treaty of Paris, which concluded the American Revolution, recognized American independence and attempted to define the boundaries of the young United States. Along these lines, outline and wash color delineate the territories of the United States (green), Great Britain (red), Spain (yellow) and France (blue, at St. Pierre and Miquelon). In places the new boundaries are relatively precise, for instance that along the Mississippi separating the United States from Spanish Louisiana, and that bisecting the Great Lakes to separate the United States and British Canada. On the other hand, the border of the northwest United States is left vague, as it depended on the then-uncertain locations of the head of the Mississippi and the Lake of the Woods. And that between Maine and New Brunswick gives only an impression of clarity, though in fact it would be litigated (and nearly fought over) between the United States and Great Britain until 1842.
While the early issues of the map were sold separately and are some rarity, many of the later issues were incorporated into Thomas Kitchin’s General Atlas, bound on four sheets joined as two horizontal sections, as here, and are more readily founded by the collector.
Phillips, Maps of America, p. 574 (1st ed. of 1755). Rumsey #0411.02. Sellers & Van Ee, Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies, #27 (incorrectly describing our state as 8th of 8). Stevens & Tree, “Comparative Cartography”, #49j.