William Chewitt map of Upper Canada … the best of the region to date

William Chewitt, Senior Surveyor & Draughtsman, A MAP of the LOCATED DISTRICTS in the PROVINCE OF UPPER CANADA, Describing all the New Settlements, Townships, &c. with the adjacent Frontiers, Compiled and Corrected From the latest Surveys in the Surveyor General’s Office. London: William Faden, Jan. 1, 1813.
Engraving on wove paper, 32 ¾”h x 45 ¼”w at neat line plus margins, outline color. Segmented and mounted on linen, housed in original cardboard slipcase with printed label bearing ink ownership inscription of Charles Broke. Minor foxing, the map segments lifting off backing in places.

The first edition of this rare and important case map of the Province of Upper Canada, drawn by surveyor William Chewitt and published while region was the primary theatre of war on land between the United States and Great Britain.

This map depicts Upper Canada and adjacent parts of Lower Canada and the United States, the information limited to county and township boundaries, major roads and waterways. It clearly demonstrates how settlement in Lower Canada followed the major bodies of water—the River St. Lawrence, Lake Chaudiere and the northern shores of Lakes Erie and Ontario, with much of the interior devoid of settlement or other cartographic data. Though surely published to respond to demand during the War of 1812, the relatively sparse data would have rendered the map of limited use to war planners, though it would have been of use to those following the action back in London.

The map was compiled from original and mostly unpublished materials by William Chewitt (1753-1849). Chewett was born in England, trained as a hydrographic engineer at East India College in London, and emigrated to Canada in 1771. There he held a series of posts as a surveyor, working first for John Collins, Deputy Surveyor General of Quebec, and was then present as a surveyor-engineer at the American siege of Quebec in 1775-76. He re-joined the Surveyor General’s Office in 1785 and remained there for the rest of his career. During the War of 1812 he commanded the 3rd York Militia and—despite his relatively high rank–served as a draftsman for Major-General Isaac Brock.

Chewitt was active and highly competent: “As a surveyor he compiled, copied, and submitted more maps than any of his contemporaries (and probably more than anyone in the history of the surveyor general’s office), making in the process an extensive contribution to the settlement of Upper Canada and the permanent cartographic record of the province’s development.” (Dictionary of Canadian Biography) Yet, despite these talents, he was repeatedly unsuccessful in his applications for promotion and passed over for the post of Surveyor General. Indeed, his retirement in 1832 came after learning that he had been passed over for the position yet again.

The map of Upper Canada was the only printed map by Chewitt, although he probably contributed to David William Smyth’s A map of the province of Upper Canada, describing all the new settlements, townships, etc. with the countries adjacent, from Quebec to Lake Huron (1800), also published by Faden.

I locate 16 institutional holdings of this first edition of Chewitt’s map, primarily here in the United States and Canada, but it is rare on the market, with RareBookHub recording but a single example at auction in the past 30 years (Swann Galleries, 2004). Another was sold by Skinner Auctions that same year.

Chewitt’s map was revised and reissued by Faden in 1821, 1823, and 1825, and again by Faden’s successor James Wyld in 1836 (NB: the 1821 is self-styled the “Third Edition”, but as of yet I have been unable to locate a second edition.) In or around 1825 Chewitt’s son, James Grant Chewitt (1793-1862), who worked with him in the Surveyor General’s department as a deputy surveyor, published a new and much improved map of Upper Canada, which was issued in both London and New York.

In all, a scarce and important map of the Upper Canada, produced at a time when the survival of the province was very much in question.

Phillips, Maps of America, p. 195. As of August 2020 OCLC records American holdings of this 1813 edition at Brown University, Clements Library, Massachusetts Historical Society, the Newberry Library and Yale; with Canadian holdings at Brock University, McGill, Oxford, Queens University, University of Guelph, University of Toronto and York University; plus  the British Library and the Wurttemburgische Landesbibliothek. Also held by the Huntington Library, the Library of Congress and Trent University (Ontario).