The first map of New Jersey to be printed in America, for the West Jersey Proprietors

THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY. [New York: Shepard Kollock, 1784 or 1785.]
Engraving, 22 ½”h x 10 ¼”w plus margins, uncolored.

“The first map of New Jersey to be printed in America” (Delaney), published in 1784-85 on behalf of the West Jersey Proprietors.

The boundaries of Great Britain’s American colonies were usually the subjects of long-running disputes, based as they were on a toxic brew of ambiguously-written charters and geographic ignorance. The case of New Jersey was no exception, as its boundary with New York was only resolved by a Royal Commission in 1769, while the disagreement over the line between the former East and West New Jersey continued even longer. Over the course of the 18th century these disputes yielded a number of interesting maps, the best known of which is The Province of New Jersey, Divided into East and West (1777), based largely on the work of military engineer Bernard Ratzer working on behalf of the 1769 Commission.

Offered here is the first map of New Jersey printed in America, derived largely from the Ratzer map and published on behalf of the West Jersey Proprietors in The Petitions and Memorials of the Proprietors of West and East-Jersey, to the Legislature of New-Jersey… (New York: Shepard Kollock, 1784). The pamphlet was compiled by New Jersey surveyor and politician John Rutherford (1760-1840) and was just one of several related to and disputes between the East and West Jersey proprietors. A second, expanded edition appeared in 1785.

The map is an outline sketch of New Jersey and parts of surrounding states, highlighting details relevant to the boundary issues but little else. Two northern boundaries with New York are shown. One is based on the original 1664 sale by the Duke of York to his associates Sir George Carteret and Lord Berkeley. This specified a boundary running from the head of the northernmost branch of the Delaware (thought to be at 41° 40’) to the intersection of the 41st parallel with the Hudson River. The other is the Ratzer line of 1769, which set the northern terminus of the boundary at the juncture of the Delaware and Mahacamack Rivers and remains in effect to this day.

The map also indicates no fewer than three alternative boundaries between East and West Jersey: the “Keith Line,” run in 1687 by surveyor George Keith; John Lawrence’s “Quintipartite Line” of 1743; and an “Ideal Line to Mahacamack claimed by the West Jersey Proprietors since the Year 1775.” The first two appeared on Ratzer’s map of 1777, but the last was introduced on this map to make the case for the West Jersey Proprietors. John Delaney ably explains this “Ideal Line:”

“Though all three division lines begin in Little Egg Harbor, halfway down the Jersey coast, they take different paths northward. Of concern to the petitioners is the pie-slice-shaped tract of land, estimated at four hundred thousand acres, created between the angle of the Quintipartite Line that runs to latitude 41° 40’ and their “ideal” line, which ends at the junction of the Delaware and Mahacamack (Neversink) Rivers. Because that point had become the official northern border of New Jersey with New York and Pennsylvania, the proprietors of West Jersey felt that their line should become the true boundary between West and East Jersey for private property rights issues. The problem lay in its retrospective application: property owners had been using the Quintipartite/Lawrence Line for more than forty years. As a result, the New Jersey Legislature was not convinced by these petitions to make any changes.” (Nova Caesarea, pp. 38-39)

As the author of the pamphlet notes, this map was produced almost as an afterthought, only after a more ambitious undertaking failed to get off the ground.

“The editor begs leave to mention that when the title page was printed it was intended that a map of the state should be affixed; giving the lines of the different counties and townships and the names of all the places of note, but the expense and delay of such undertaking, were so great, as to occasion the design to be laid aside, and the present map was substituted, which contains all those matters that relate to the subject in controversy, and is accurately extracted from Mr. Ratzer’s general map, which is compiled the most part from actual survey; the lines of division, and their descriptions, being added thereto.” (Petitions and Memorials, from the verso of the “Errata” page)

Delaney, Nova Caesarea, pp. 38-39 and illus. p. 40 (also available on line). Wheat & Brun, Maps and Charts Published in America before 1800, #400. Not in Phillips, Maps of America. For the pamphlet, see Evans #18640 (1784 edition) and #19126 (1785 ed) and Felcone, New Jersey Books 1698-1800, #22.


Chip to lower margin and a bit of lost neatline replaced in very skillful facsimile.